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Burial of formerly Hindu wife by Christian man leads to mob attack on church in Indian Kashmir region

London: January 20, 2018. (PCP) A Hindu mob torched a church on 16th January 2017 and several shops in the ownership of Christians at Jammu Kashmir, India, after it was falsely alleged that a Christian man had murdered his wife.

Sehal Christ Church, which is affiliated to the Friends Missionary Prayer Band and located at Sehal Village, Seri Panchayat, Nowshera was torched in what was deemed a revenge attack by incensed Hindus, offended by the perceived murder of a supposedly forcibly converted Hindu woman.

Seema Devi had committed her life to Christ over two years ago and was a regular member of church along with her husband Rinku Kumar who had converted some years earlier. Only a few days after her marriage, however, Seema fell ill and though the hospital could not heal her she found healing whilst at a church service. God gave her an additional two years of life however, when she had a recurrence of her illness she was taken back to the church where she was married in Jalandhar to be prayed over by the same Pastor. They left Jammu Kashmir on 11th January 2017 and initially during the prayer sessions Seema showed some improvement. Tragically Seema passed away on the 15th of January and tearfully Rinku brought her back to Jammu Kashmir to be buried.

News of the burial reached family members of Seema who started a number of rumours that she had been murdered by her husband Rinkhu and had been forcibly been converted to Christianity, 'as she could not have willingly quit her Hindu faith' said one of her uncles to a local newspaper.

The tale that Seema's husband had caused his 'Hindu wife's' death reached a number of Hindu fanatics from extremist group Bajran Dal and they galvanized a mob of over 300 people who arrived at Sehal Christ Church and started to smash the building and then set it ablaze, intent on seeking revenge for the murder of Seema. Christians attending the church for prayers were beaten by the mob and 12 people were seriously injured of which 2 were officers of the local people who tried to intervene to stop the violence which spread from the local church to Christian run businesses, causing thousands of pounds worth of damage. During the violence the exhumed body of Seema was also set on fire before the church - a macabre act that set fear into local Christians.

It was later said that the burning of the body was a Hindu ritual for the burial of Seema that was desired by her parents but denied to them by her Christian husband Rinkhu.

Many local Christians fled to the nearby woods and hid there till the violence was over. Threats were made by the violent mob that they would burn Rinkhu in his home, but somehow he escaped after receiving a severe beating but was later arrested by local police with 7 other Christians. Rinkhu remains in prison however the other Christians have all been released. Not one of the Hindus involved in the mob attack have been arrested in a clear travesty of justice.

A local Christian named William Masih, spoke with BPCA officer Pastor Naresh, he said: "I am totally shocked by what happened I saw innocent Christians flee from the church and saw two Christian shops being looted before they were razed to the ground.

"There were many local police in the area, instead of taking action they just watched as the livelihoods of innocent Christians was taken away from them by incensed Hindus.

"The violence was unwarranted and has left much fear amongst local Christians, we already feel marginalised. Despite Police witnessing the attack we expect little justice and the perpetrators of the violence will probably escape capture by the police."

Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of the British Asian Christian Association, said: "This attack on innocent Christians highlights the increasing hatred towards non-Hindus in an India that has become increasingly polarized under the Narendra Modi regime.

"Attacks on Christians are increasing with intensity and frequency and rarely result in convictions for the perpetrators. Reports of police insouciance and worse still collusion provide a poor indictment of India's stance on fairness and justice.

"Despite having signed the UN convention for Human Rights, India does little to uphold article 18 which promotes freedom of religion and belief.

"Anti-conversion laws that are a clear breach of these conventions have been introduced in several states throughout India and are now being used to settle personal vendettas and persecute religious minorities.

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