Pastor Kailash Dudwe from Dhar District in Madhya Pradesh state, who is still recovering from injuries received when when a mob beat him unconscious in January, is facing death threats, eviction and false charges of forcible conversion. The photo is a screenshot from a video of the attack, which was carried out by a mob of over twenty Hindu extremists.
Describing the attack, local Christian leader Anar Singh Jamre said, “Kailash Dudwe was brutally assaulted to the extent of almost being killed, was stripped and paraded on the street with grievous injuries, was hospitalised for a fortnight, a warrant issued against him and sent to jail.”
Since the attack, Pastor Dudwe said the extremists have threatened to kill him twice and threatened his landlord in February and early March, telling him he will have trouble if he does not evict the pastor.
“The house owner has asked me to vacate the house and spare him the harassment,” said Pastor Dudwe, who remains in the house with his wife Jyoti and their two small children while searching for somewhere else to rent. Other property owners have refused to to rent to the pastor after threats from the attackers.
Jyoti filed a police complaint on 5 February, describing the death threats and requesting police protection, but none has been provided.
Services at Pastor Dudwe’s church have stopped since the attack and local officials have given orders for other churches in the area to stop meeting too. Anar Singh Jamre told Morning Star News, “The authorities have told us that the atmosphere is not conducive, and therefore we must shut all the churches. The majority of churches in districts Jhabua, Barwani and Khargone have been shut.”
He added that Hindu extremists are inciting tribal people against churches, targeting the tribal belt where all churches are led by pastors from a tribal background. “It is their agenda to close all the churches led by tribal pastors,” he said. “Praying with complete freedom these days has become very difficult.”
On 14 January, a mob of over twenty Hindu extremists attacked Pastor Dudwe and six other Christians –Jyoti, a 16-year-old girl and four men – who had gathered to pray at the church premises in Kukshi. The pastor’s baby son and five-year-old daughter were also present.
Later that day, Persecution Relief posted an Urgent Update on its Facebook page: “Kailash Dudwe was very badly beaten up during a house meeting in Kukshi city of Dhar District in Madhya Pradesh. He is still unconscious. Church pray for complete healing.”
During the attack, the extremists tried to hit the pastor’s daughter with an iron bar. “My wife caught the rod and stopped it from hitting our daughter,” Pastor Dudwe recalled. “I still get terrified at the thought of their brutality, that they showed no mercy towards my little girl.”
The 16-year-old girl picked up the pastor’s daughter and baby son to protect them, while the attackers struck everyone present, shouting, “Hit them, hit them, they do religious conversion.” They dragged the pastor outside, shouting: “Strip his clothes and we will parade him,” and hit him repeatedly on the back and head with an iron rod.
“While I was losing my consciousness, they made me parade for about five hundred metres before I fell on the ground bleeding with several injuries,” Pastor Dudwe said. The attackers hit his left eye, causing swelling, and he bled from his nose and mouth. He had to treat his eye for swelling and redness for 16 days, and is still receiving treatment for a damaged ear.
The pastor’s brother-in-law Aakash Joshi ran to help him but the attackers hit him on the head with an iron rod, causing blood loss and requiring stiches. Another brother-in-law, Vikas Joshi, was also attacked and sustained internal injuries, while church member Omkar Solanki needed medical treatment for injuries and Jyoti was kicked in the stomach.
One of the pastor’s brothers-in-law called the police but when they arrived they arrested the pastor, not the attackers, and took him unconscious to Kukshi police station. “The officer in charge saw me, but he did not take my statement as I was unconscious and sent me straight to the Kukshi Civil Hospital, where I was given first aid and referred to Barwani [hospital],” the pastor said.
Local Christian leaders took him to Barwani, where he was hospitalised until 25 January, when he went to Indore for hospital treatment for his ear for four days.
In a recent update on his recovery, the pastor said, “I went to the doctor on March 9. He said that my ear was fifty percent recovered, and I still need to continue the medicines for two more months and have to revisit the doctor on May 9 for re-examination.”
Pastor Dudwe’s attackers registered a First Information Report (FIR) against him with the police on the day of the attack under Madhya Pradesh’s anti-conversion laws, officially known as the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, which makes conversion by force or allurement punishable by up to five years in prison and a minimum fine of 25,000 rupees (€280).
Hearing that an arrest warrant had been issued against him, the pastor surrendered himself at Kukshi police station on 1 February, appeared before a magistrate and was jailed for three nights before being released on bail on the evening of 4 February.
Jyoti registered a FIR against the mob on 14 January under Indian Penal Code charges of rioting, rioting armed with deadly weapon, house-trespass after preparation for hurt, assault or wrongful restraint, obscene act, voluntarily causing hurt and criminal intimidation. Police arrested eight people and released them on bail.
“The police have sent a wrong signal to the assaulters, as if telling them that they are free to hit and harass a person and get away with it,” Christian leader Anar Singh Jamre commented. “Their hands have been strengthened. They are roaming about without any fear.” Meanwhile, Pastor Dudwe is required to appear before a judge once a month.
Madhya Pradesh state added harsh new legislation to strengthen its existing anti-conversion laws in March 2021, increasing fines and lengthening potential prison sentences. The Evangelical Fellowship of India documented 66 incidents of persecution of Christians in Madhya Pradesh in 2021.
(Evangelical Fellowship of India, Morning Star News, Persecution Relief)