‘I have been blessed in God’s eyes. I am blessed to have suffered for His name.’By Our India Correspondent
NEW DELHI, April 23, 2018 (Morning Star News) – In a village in northern India, pastor Rakesh Kumar Masih passed out from the pain of Hindu extremists beating his genitals, and they left him for dead.
The sun was shining bright when the Hindu nationalists stormed into the house of one of his church members, where some Christians had gathered on March 19 in Nagla Nishankh village, Firozabad District in Uttar Pradesh state, and dragged him out, he said.
“I have found favor in God’s eyes,” Pastor Masih told Morning Star News. “I am blessed to have suffered for His name.”
The attack on the 42-year-old pastor started as he was leading a Lent meeting at the house, where he and other Christians occasionally went on special occasions. While Pastor Masih and the others sang worship songs on the first upper floor of the house, 12 to 15 people barged in and began to beat him, he said.
One grabbed Masih’s bag, which was lying on a side table and contained all the money he had – 430 rupees ($US6.50) – and important bank documents, as well as another member’s 400 rupees and the member’s Bible. As they hit Pastor Masih and dragged him down the stairs, they told him they were taking him to waiting police outside.
“I kept insisting, ‘If the police have come with you, why did they not come upstairs to get me?’” he said.
Outside were no police officers but a mob of Hindu extremists waiting to pounce on him, he said.
“About 30 to 35 men were waiting outside the house, and they started to hit me while saying, ‘We will teach you how to be a Christian,’” Pastor Masih said.
His wife, Asha Masih, followed him throughout the ordeal, screaming and calling for help. The mob pushed and manhandled her whenever she tried to free him, and she insisted on going with him to the police, he said – except that the mob had no intention to taking him to the police station, only 50 meters away.
They continuously struck him as they dragged him to the marketplace, he said.
“I fell on the ground, and one of the assaulters started to hit me between my legs on my private parts,” Pastor Masih said. “From the excruciating pain and injury, I lost consciousness.”
Thinking he was dead, the assailants fled, but shopkeepers who witnessed the brutality stopped them, his wife said. They were angry that the Hindu extremists had left a dead body in front of their shops and feared police would implicate them, she noted.
The assailants called for a motorized rickshaw and put the unconscious Masih on it, and one of them was told to dump him in a remote place, she said. But she would not let them take her husband away, and the extremists, annoyed at her clamoring, let her go with them in the rickshaw.
On the way the pastor regained consciousness and asked her to take a photo of the Hindu extremist with them.
“As soon as I handed over my phone to my wife and instructed her, the extremist heard me and jumped out of the rickshaw and fled along with my bag and money, threatening to come back later sometime and kill us,” he said.
Only later did Pastor Masih discover that his cell phone had been damaged in the assault and was not working.
After being robbed of all their money, Asha Masih was left with six rupees (nine cents), and they left the rickshaw. She helped her husband get to Sarojini Naidu District Hospital in Firozabad.
The doctor on duty refused to treat Pastor Masih, telling them they had to go to the police station first as it was a legal matter, he said.
The pastor was still bleeding, and Asha Masih called a church member, a nurse who arranged for him to be admitted to a private hospital, Mittal Nursing Home.
“With my clothes in rags, bleeding from my mouth, lips and nose, I was taken to the hospital,” Pastor Masih said. “I was in severe pain all over my body.”
Dr. Jagdish Mittal, the hospital owner, told Morning Star News that he was hospitalized for the night and released the next day.
“We performed necessary scanning of his head, and a few X-rays to rule out any major internal injury,” he said. “I prescribed medication for his internal and external aches.”
Pastor Masih said passing urine was excruciatingly painful, and that only after he was back home did he notice that he was passing blood in his urine. He has returned to Mittal for this problem and is still undergoing treatment.
A month after the attack, the pastor said he still had pain in his nose and swelling in his genitals but has continued to lead services at his church, registered as Disciple Mission Sewa Trust (DMST).
“I did not stop conducting church service due to fear or my injuries but conducted the Good Friday and Easter service, and all the church members attended the service,” he said.
The assault was especially shocking, he said, because it was carried out by young men in their 20s.
“Boys who are the future of our county are used for such a heinous act,” he said.
More than 20 pastors from Agra, 29 miles (47 kilometers) from Firozabad, and other area villages visited the police station on March 20 to speak to the inspector in-charge regarding this and other assaults. They helped Asha Masih to submit a written complaint on the assault.
Pastor Masih said he was deeply moved by the visit of Christians from Agra and the surrounding areas.
“I feel so blessed that so many pastors came to visit me and stood by me at the time of my need,” he said. “They did not know me, and yet as a part of the Body of Christ they were in pain for me. I have also received phone calls from all over India inquiring about my health, and this overwhelms me.”
The pastors submitted the complaint with details of the assault to the Firozabad North Police Station.
“The police station in-charge assured us of fair investigations and said that the First Information Report would be registered thereafter,” pastor Anil B. Lal of Agra, who headed the team, told Morning Star News.
Station House Officer Pravesh Kumar Singh, however, told Morning Star News on April 13 that he was not aware of any such complaint, saying he had just taken charge of the station on April 8.
After Morning Star News forwarded a copy of the complaint to Singh at his request, he instructed Investigating Officer Kaushal Kishore to take it up, he said.
“It is a moment ago that I have been handed the complaint copy,” Kaushal Kishore told Morning Star News. “I can only get back to you after I have done my initial investigations.”
Pattern of Attacks
The assault was the fifth against pastors in Firozabad District since January, said Pastor Lal of Agra.
Members of the Hindu Yuva Vahini (Hindu youth militia), founded in 2002 by Yogi Adityanath – the present chief minister of Uttar Pradesh state – seized a Christian named Brijesh Kumar Sankwar on Jan. 14 and handed him over to police on false charges, Pastor Lal said. Sankwar was released later that day.
On Jan. 21, he said, members of the Hindu Yuva Vahini disrupted a meeting and seized Salwin Durai, Sandeep Simon and another Christian named Jaquelin, while other Christians fled. The gang brought them to police and had a false case registered against them; they were released on bail.
On Jan. 28, Hindu extremists threatened another Christian, Dev Nath of Makhanpur in Firozabad District, telling him to leave or they would make his life miserable, Pastor Lal said.
On March 6 Salwin Durai was once again ambushed in a marketplace, with Hindu extremists telling him to leave the city or be killed.
In all these cases Christians either were released on bail or no case was registered against them, and Pastor Masih speculated that’s why he was assaulted.
“I think the Hindu extremists this time thought that they should not take me to the police, or else I would be released after a warning, and thus they decided to beat me themselves and instill fear in me,” he said.
The hostile tone of the National Democratic Alliance government, led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, against non-Hindus, has emboldened Hindu extremists in several parts of the country to attack Christians since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took power in May 2014, religious rights advocates say.
India ranked 11th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2018 World Watch List of countries where Christians experience the most persecution.