Lucknow, UP: February 7, 2016. (Mercy Cinjraj) Hindu activists called Bajrang Dal dragged an young pastor named Avdhesh Savita, who became a Christian six years ago, from his home in Randar village, about 45 Kilometers away from Orai town of Jalaun District in Uttar Pradesh state in India on Friday, 29th of January, 2016. The extremists beat him, shaved half of his head, one eyebrow and one side of his moustache, and put him on a donkey as they led him in a procession through Orai town.
They and others in the frenzied crowd mocked him, falsely accusing him of forcible conversion of three Hindus to Christianity named Sangam Jadav, Sunil Jadhav and Ravi Saxena. And also they accuse Savita forced those three to eat beef of a cow.
A ban on cow slaughter is enshrined in the Constitution and is a Directive Principle of State Policy.
“The mob that was parading me was shouting, ‘Kill him, cut him in pieces,’ but I kept telling them that faith unites, it does not divide,” Avdhesh Savita said. “I told my tormentors that I believe in Christ out of my own freewill, and that I have never hurt anyone, but they just did not listen to me.”
“I kept praying throughout the ordeal, I am not afraid of dying,” Savita said. “I thought, ‘This is the day when I will stand before my Savior.’ But I also thought of my children, they are young, and that was my only concern. In the Lord I am persecuted, I am thankful for this privilege.
Avdhesh Savita is 36 years old. He is from the Dalit (untouchable) community that is lower than any of the Hindu caste levels in India. He has two daughters, 16 and 14 years old, and two sons, 11 and 8. His children have stopped going to school. “We fear that they too might be kidnapped or insulted in the same manner, Savita said.
The attack was rooted in the alleged instigator deciding to take vengeance on Savita because the pastor refused his request to give him money for alcohol and tobacco, a Christian leader said.
When Savita went to a Christian program in Varanasi from Dec. 18 to 23, Sangam Jatav was among three men from his village who had shown an interest in attending and accompanied him.
On the fourth day of the program, Sangam Jatav asked Pastor Avdhesh Savita for some money to buy alcohol and tobacco. Avdhesh refused, so he got furious. After returning from the program, Sangam Jatav went to Avdhesh’s house, threatened him and demanded money.
Jatav demanded a huge amount, aying that if Savita refused he would spread rumors that the pastor had tried to fraudulently convert him, and that he would get Bajrang Dal members to beat him, Savita said. Jatav subsequently called the Bajrang Dal, saying Savita had “converted him without his knowledge” and made him eat beef and desecrate photographs of Hindu gods by walking on them.
Jatav leveled the accusations in interviews with television stations too.
“During the interviews, he alleged that the Christians forced him to eat beef, locked him in a room with the other two who had accompanied Avdhesh and him to the program, and forced him to walk on pictures of Hindu gods, Ram and Hanuman,” he said. “He also alleged that he was given some Indian Rupees to become a Christian. But when the other two were quizzed by the police, they denied any such accusation.”
The other two men who attended the Christian program, Sunil Jatav and Ravi Saxena, said that they were never forced to eat beef, and that only vegetarian food was served, Christian leader said.
“They did say that they attended religious discourses but denounced the claim of Sangam Jatav that they were forcibly converted,” he said. “‘We went to the program and came back safe,’ they said.”
Jatav was arrested on Sunday (Jan. 31) and remains in jail, police informed to Rev. Paul Ciniraj, the President of the Christian Ministers of the Churches in India (CMCI) . Three cases are registered against him, including one of attempted murder in connection with the attack on Savita, they said.
Orai Senior Inspector told that nine Bajrang Dal members have been arrested, but he declined to give any more information, except to say that police were searching for other members.