Police in Uttar Pradesh, India, Most Harsh on Christians, Sources Say
Police in northern India’s Uttar Pradesh state work in tandem with Hindu extremists to treat Christians and other religious minorities especially harshly, sources said.
“The UP police force is very different from the rest of India,” Dinanath Jaiswar, a volunteer with legal advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom-India, told Morning Star News. “They are very brash in their dealings with Muslim and Christian minorities, and there have been several cases of violence in police custody, but by God’s grace we have tried our best to reach them on time, and even while in the clutches of the enemy, God protects His people.”
From April 2017 to February 2018, India’s National Human Rights Commission registered 365 cases of judicial and custodial deaths in Uttar Pradesh, according to The Indian Express; the next highest amount was 127 cases in West Bengal state.
“It does not take long for a police officer here to lose his temper and thrash a person in custody,” Jaiswar said.
Most cases reported against police stations in several Uttar Pradesh districts fell under the categories of torture, infliction of injury and grievous hurt, according to the National Crime Records Bureau.
“It has become a trend that a batch of Hindu extremists barge inside Christian homes and accuse them of proselytizing Hindus to Christianity,” Jaiswar said. “When Christians deny the accusations and restrain them from disrupting the prayers, they use the police force to take Christians into custody.”
ADF-India personnel in Uttar Pradesh are often called to rush to police stations to try to intervene before any charges are filed, ensure that Christians are safe and work to release them as soon as possible, he added.
“UP’s legal aid team works like a Rapid Action Force,” Jaiswar said. “We aim at immediate release of pastors in custody. If police extend the custody over the night, the next morning they would file the FIR [First Information Report], and the victims will be presented before the judicial magistrate and will be sent to judicial custody.”
Obtaining bail is a lengthier process, but ADF’s Uttar Pradesh Legal Aid Cell strives to arrange for immediate release on personal bonds, he said.
Pastor Surendra Vanwasi of Jeevan Marg Trust was leading Sunday worship at a home church in Karubir village, Mau District on Nov. 17 when police arrived and took him into custody. The station house officer at Chirraiyakot Police Station “was rash and adamant,” Jaiswar said.
“Tens of requests were put before the higher ranked police officials, and only then the SHO agreed to release Pastor Vanwasi,” he said. “In the guise of enquiry police had detained him, but thankfully no charges were filed.”
Similar case of detention was reported in Mirzapur District on the same day. A church leader identified only as Pastor Khaiya from Mizoram state was invited to Uttar Pradesh to deliver a message to a congregation in Mirzapur. By noon, a mob of upper-caste Hindus and Hindu extremists had surrounded the venue, Jaiswar said.
“They slapped Pastor Khaiya and handed him to police,” he said. “When we reached Jamalpur police station, the local believers informed us that Pastor Khaiya was taken to police station like a criminal. It is a Naxalite [Maoist rebel]-belt area, and the police station in Jamalpur is specially equipped to torture Naxal suspects. The police had locked up Khaiya in an underground cell.”
The ADF team used social media and called higher officials in the district in attempts to win immediate release, he said.
“The situation turned tense as the upper-caste leaders and Hindu extremists insisted the police officers level serious allegations of forced religious conversions under stringent sections of the Indian Penal Code,” Jaiswar said. “By later that evening, the SHO had finally agreed to release Pastor Khaiya on personal bail. We were forced to give it in writing that he would not be involved in any conversion activity in future.”
Youth Pastors Jailed
Youth pastors Om Prakash, 23, and Ajay Kumar, 20, were leading a worship service at the home of Kapildev Ram in Daraura village on Nov. 25 when the village president intruded into the house and ordered the Christians to stop, sources said.
“Ram’s sons did not allow the village president and his aides to attack the youth pastors,” the youth workers’ trainer, identified only as Pastor Ramjit, told Morning Star News. “They stood as defense and did not let the person touch the pastors. This made him angry, and he went and brought the police force with him and got the pastors and also Ram arrested.”
The youth ministry sends workers to 30 village house churches in four districts in Uttar Pradesh on weekdays. Leaders had sent Prakash and Kumar to Daraura village on Nov. 25, and the next day Ranipur police registered an FIR against them and Ram alleging promotion of enmity between religious groups, deliberately hurting religious sentiments, inducement by rendering an object of divine displeasure and other charges.
Lower court and District Sessions judges rejected their bail pleas. ADF-India’s attorneys have filed a bail petition in the High Court at Allahabad.
Ranipur Station House Officer Ashok Kumar Yadav noted in the Hindi-language case diary that neighbors were disturbed when the mob formed at Ram’s home.
“Our police team had reached it on time and urged them to disperse immediately,” Yadav wrote. “As our attempts to restore peace in the area had failed, we had to arrest the pastors to bring the situation under control.”
Pastor Ramjit said the youth pastors are facing mistreatment from heavy brutes in the district prison.
“When I visited them last week, they told me that under-trial prisoners in murder cases had put up fight and abused our boys in filthy language,” Pastor Ramji told Morning Star News. “They seem very frightened. Both their marriages have been set for summer, and their fiancées and families have been waiting for their release.”
‘You May Arrest Me’
When a mob of no fewer than 60 Hindu nationalists armed with hockey sticks stormed into a Christian’s home in Ghaziabad city, which straddles both Uttar Pradesh state and Delhi National Capital Region, and beat the homeowner and the pastor leading a Bible study, officers from Loni police station took both Christians into custody.
The assailants also vandalized the homeowner’s furniture, said Sanjay Mcgee of Indian Christian Assembly (Bharatiya Masih Mahasabha).
As it was late at night, Christians feared police would hold pastor Jagdish Marotiya and the homeowner overnight and charge them in the morning, Mcgee said. A Christian leader from the Delhi National Capital Region, Minakshi Singh, rushed to the police station and was there until midnight trying to persuade officers not to be misled by Hindu extremists.
“We had enough evidence of videos and photographs of the destruction the armed men had caused, and I was trying to reason with the officials as to why had not they taken any action against the assailants, and why the victims had been detained,” Singh told Morning Star News. “The argument went on for a very long time, and finally at midnight the police agreed release the Christians.”
In the area, called Bharat Nagar Society, about 25 Christian families refrained from putting stars outside their homes during Christmas season, terrified that they would be identified as Christians and targeted by Hindu fanatics, Mcgee said.
“When I visited the area on Dec. 3 after the attack on the home, there were security guards everywhere, and they stopped us from entering the colony,” he said. “I asked the guards where were they when a resident’s house was vandalized two days before, but they denied the attack. An elderly female member of the home church there told us that police had threatened [the homeowner’s] family not to pursue a case against the assailants.”
Good Shepherd Church in the Trilokpuri area came under attack a week before. On the second day of a three-day convention the church had organized, Nov. 23, more than 100 members of the Hindu extremist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh surrounded the site chanting, “Go back! Go back!” Singh told Morning Star News.
Higher police officials from the Mayur Vihar station reached the venue and ordered that the gathering must cease in order to restore peace, she said.
“As soon as I received this information, I rushed to Trilokpuri and met the assistant commissioner of police and told him that it is our constitutional right to pray to our God,” she told Morning Star News. “But the police official told me that it is not possible to let you continue Christian prayers, saying, ‘Who will take responsibility if the situation turns hostile?’ I told him that I will take the responsibility, ‘You may arrest me, but the convention should go on.”’
After long discussions on Nov. 23 and Nov. 24, police allowed them to continue as long as they refrained from using the sound system, Singh said. More than 200 policemen were deployed, and barricades were installed on four sides of the church building, she said.
“A mob of at least 200 Hindu extremists showed up outside the church premises and were shouting to the top of their lungs, ‘Har Har Mahadev [Shiva is everywhere],” she said. “We told the police that our people would remain calm, and there will not be any problem from our side, and you please control the mob outside the premises.
“By God’s grace, the final day of the convention was a success. The police also had the chance to hear the gospel and joyfully joined us for the meal after the prayer service.”