“I fell to the ground after receiving several punches and kicks, then they dragged me out of the Church hall, tied me to a tree outside, and further released blows and punches. They tied me to an electrical pole and a pillar in the marketplace. All the time they continued their physical harassment for more than three hours.”
A pastor in India’s Karnataka state was hospitalized after a mob of over 150 Hindu extremists tied him to a tree and brutally assaulted him for over three hours, accusing him of “blasphemy.”
Pastor Manju Keralli was on March 1, leading a worship service in Bennakoop village, located in the Gadag district of Karnataka, when suddenly, a mob of radical Hindu nationalists wearing t-shirts that said “Jai Sri Ram” broke into the service, International Christian Concern reports.
According to Pastor Keralli, the radicals hurled abusive language at the Christians, physically assaulted those present, and destroyed the church’s instruments and furniture.
“I fell to the ground after receiving several punches and kicks,” Pastor Keralli told International Christian Concern (ICC). “Then, they dragged me out of the meeting hall, tied me to a tree outside, and further released blows and punches. They took me to two other places in the same village and tied me to an electrical pole and a pillar in the marketplace. All the time they continued their physical harassment for more than three hours.”
“Later, police arrived and took me to the police station,” Pastor Keralli continued. “Even the police threatened me with foul language, saying that I don’t have right to live in this country as I am practicing foreign faith.”
At the station, the police then filed a criminal case against Pastor Keralli under India’s blasphemy law (IPC Section 295). However, the police failed to file a criminal case against the radicals that broke into the church and assailed the Christians.
“I am unable to sit, as there is an injury on my back,” Pastor Keralli told ICC. “Doctors are suspecting that there could be fracture on my spine. I have severe pain in my lower abdomen and have difficulty breathing.”
“In addition to all these things, there is a legal case filed against me that I am involved in illegal conversions,” Pastor Keralli said exasperated.
“Recently, there have been five attacks on pastors in Gadag district alone,” a local Christian leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told ICC. “Across the entire state, the number of incidents have grown sharply because of the complicity of the police and the free hand given to Hindu radicals. This will make it even more difficult for Christians in the state.”
After receiving initial medical attention, Pastor Keralli fled the Gadag district fearing arrest. Currently, he remains hidden and is seeking anticipatory bail for the false blasphemy charges that have been filed against him.
Believers in India—number 10 on the 2020 World Watch List—are often shunned, unjustly arrested, attacked—even killed—because they choose to follow Jesus and not Hinduism or the local religion. Our Indian family needs the prayers of the global church to stand strong in the midst of persecution—and to remain a light for Christ in the world’s second-most populated country.