On the evening of June 22, 2020, a mob of around 500 people surrounded the homes of two Christian missionaries in Dhanbad, Jharkhand. Sanjay and Rana (not their real names), both in their mid-twenties, were falsely accused by the violent mob of carrying out religious conversions by force and hurting religious sentiments. They were dragged out of their homes and beaten brutally. The mob also vandalized their homes. It was only hours later that the local police intervened, and that too only to take the injured men to the police station for further questioning.
Sitting in the police jeep with Rana, Sanjay wondered what wrong he had committed to be treated like a criminal. He was from Odisha and Rana from Arunachal Pradesh. With a call to serve the Lord, they had moved to rural Jharkhand and been serving there for about five years. As a young boy, Sanjay had experienced persecution through the madness of the Kandhamal riots in Odisha in 2008. He had also witnessed God’s loving protection when he was healed of a life-threatening disease in 2012. These experiences had strengthened his resolve to share the Gospel.
The young men had been well received in the village where they served. However, they faced opposition from a few persons who opposed Christianity. One such person, an influential local leader, had incited the mob that attacked the Christians that fateful evening.
The Christians reached out to ADF India allied lawyers who intervened in the matter and successfully secured their bail. Upon conducting an enquiry, the police found no evidence of any wrongdoing and found all the allegations baseless. Sanjay and Rana were treated in a hospital for their wounds and sent home with police protection. They were shaken by the incident, but remain strong in their faith.
This is the fourth violent incident recorded against Christians in Jharkhand in the past one month. On May 22, in Chaibasa district, four Christian families were attacked, and the women abused, by a drunk mob of 100 people. On May 25, local authorities had banned Christians in Pundiguttu village from getting ration. On May 31, an 18-year-old Christian boy was picked up from his home in Bharkamal village and beaten.
The ADF India team also learnt that in several villages in Jharkhand, Christians were being socially ostracized. At a village council meeting at Pundiguttu village on May 27, 2020, the following decisions were taken:
- Christians should revert to their previous religion within a period of five days or else face the consequences
- Christians are not allowed to use the village watering well
- Christians are not allowed to buy from the local shops
- Christians are not allowed to talk with non-Christians
- A fine of Rs. 5000/- would be levied from anyone breaking these rules
False allegations take a toll on individuals and families. The anti-conversion laws are frequently abused to harass and target persons on the basis of their religion. ADF India allied lawyers are working to defend the religious freedom of individuals like Sanjay and Rana.