On 19 January, Hindu extremists in Malasamudra village, Karnataka state beat children during a worship gathering on the terrace of a home and warned the congregation, “If we hear that you stepped out of your homes and told anybody about this, we will set your homes on fire and will burn you alive.” The extremists then filed a police complaint against the congregation, alleging that the Christians were carrying out conversions.
The Christians had begun worship at 7 am when twenty radical Hindus, led by the village president, came up the steps to the terrace and began taking photos and video. Mary Bellary (32), a mother of three who was hosting the worship gathering with her husband Hanumanthappa Bellary, told Morning Star News, “They flashed camera lights at children, and we requested them to please go and not disturb the prayers. But they continued taking pictures, videotaping us and passed comments, saying, ‘Look! Christians gathered here on the terrace to carry out conversions.’”
Mary and other women tried to stop the intruders taking video of the twelve children present and asked them to leave, but the intruders pushed them away and tore their sarees. “They punched my 15-year-old son in his stomach, and other kids also got hurt,” she said. “They were kicked to the floor and were beaten up on their backs. My uncle and husband tried hard to protect the women and children, but those men were very aggressive and physically stronger than us. The children just kept looking at us crying for help.”
The Christians were terrified and did not leave their homes for the rest of the day. At about 7 pm, police officers arrived to say that a complaint had been filed against them. Mary Bellary explained, “The police officer told us that we had attacked some people during Christian prayers that morning, and that they were injured and hospitalised. After attacking us, the Hindu extremists got themselves admitted in a hospital and filed a false complaint against us.”
Police summoned the Christians to the police station the next morning, where a mob of Hindu extremists arrived early. The Christians were accompanied by Michael Rosario, a lawyer with legal advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom-India, who told Morning Star News, “We ensured that the injured received treatment at the nearest government hospital. Basavanappa Malingpur [Mary Bellary’s uncle] had injuries on his head and leg and had to remain hospitalised for three days. The rest, the injured children and women, received first aid.”
The police inspector told the lawyer that since police had already received a complaint from the village president and his cohorts the previous day, he had no option but to book cases against the Christians.
Michael Rosario said, “The inspector was trying to find fault with Christians for using their home as a worship place. I have reminded the officers of the various judgments delivered by the High Courts that there should be no objection against using a dwelling place as private worship place.”
The inspector acknowledged this point, but under pressure from the mob he said he must arrest the Christians, who could then be released on bail. The lawyer countered that the Christians were labourers receiving only daily wages and could not afford bail bonds.
“The Hindu extremists didn’t give up,” he said. “They insisted that police file cases against a female member of the congregation who came to Christ from Islam.”
The mob pressurised police to arrest the convert from Islam under the Prevention of Atrocities Act. A Christian volunteer named Johnson David, who had accompanied the lawyer, told Morning Star News, “This discussion with police officers and the Hindu extremist leaders went on till 11 pm. Finally, the leaders had themselves agreed that the Hindu extremist mob had attacked the Christians, and the police effected a compromise that cases will not be booked against either of the parties.”
The Bellary family previously faced local opposition in 2017, when the Malasamudra Village Council announced that family members would be ostracised as long as they followed Jesus.
Hate crimes against Christians up again in 2019
Church in Chains partner organisation Persecution Relief has published its annual report for 2019, which shows an increase in attacks on Christians in 2019, rising to a new annual high of 527 reported incidents.
(Morning Star News/Persecution Relief)