On April 22, 2021, Pastor Rohit* and his wife Sandhya* were brutally assaulted with rods and sticks by six persons in Riga village, Bihar. The Pastor’s right arm was broken and both he and his wife suffered fractures on their ribs. The couple had been invited by another Christian for a prayer at his home. They were praying together when the perpetrators entered by force and attacked them. The person who had invited them also sustained serious injuries while trying to shield the couple. The attackers then vandalised the house while a large mob gathered outside yelling for the Christians to be killed. The assailants left after threatening the Christians of more attacks if they did not denounce their faith.
The victims reached out to ADF India’s allies in the district who rushed to the spot. The Christians needed urgent medical attention and were admitted at a hospital in Sitamarhi after much difficulty. Following this, Pastor Rohit unfortunately also tested positive for COVID-19 and his oxygen levels fell dangerously low. Following this, he was rushed in an ambulance to the Duncan Hospital in Raxaul, a four-hour journey by road. He was kept in the Intensive Care Unit for over 11 days before he began showing signs of improvement. Pastor Rohit, Sandhya and the other victim, are recovering from the physical and emotional trauma.
This violent attack is the most recent in a string of incidents of discrimination that this Pastor and his congregation have faced in the last two years. The repeated attacks have caused them grave physical injuries and heavy financial loss.
Pastor Rohit and his wife had been leading a church in Riga since 2016. The trouble first started in November 2019 when some of the villagers took offence at the polite refusal of the couple to partake in their religious rituals because it violated their conscience. On 24 November 2019, a mob of 18 men physically assaulted Pastor Rohit and Sandhya in their own home. Their daughter, who was five years old at that time, was seriously injured when the attackers flung the child out of the house.
This premeditated attack was intended to intimidate all the minorities in the village and to warn them of similar consequences. The Pastor filed a complaint with the police, but the assailants were let off with a mere warning. Emboldened by this, the anti-social elements continued issuing threats to the Christians in the following months with impunity.
This violence was repeated again in March and July 2020. In the July incident, after beating up the Pastor and two other Christian men, the assailants called the police and falsely reported that the Christians were carrying out forceful conversions. The police detained Pastor Rohit, Sandhya and the two other victims for questioning.
In this instance, Pastor Rohit reached out to ADF India and it’s allied lawyers. Within a few hours, our allied lawyers secured the release of all four victims from police detention.
Following these repeated attacks, some sympathetic people helped the Pastor and his family relocate to a safer location. The couple also had to send their young daughter to live with their relatives in a neighboring district.
Last month, when invited to the prayer meeting in Riga, Pastor Rohit had hoped that things had cooled down sufficiently by then and that the religious extremists would have forgotten about him. However, they somehow learnt of his visit and executed that brutal attack on 22 April 2021.
ADF India’s allied lawyers assisted Pastor Rohit to file police complaints before the local police station, the Superintendent of Police, and also before the Bihar Human Rights Commission. When no action was taken on these complaints, ADF India’s allied lawyers filed a representation on behalf of Pastor Rohit before the National Human Rights Commission in April 2021, seeking protection and immediate action against the assailants.
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*Names changed to protect the privacy of individuals