Christians in Chhattisgarh's Bastar district were forced to leave their village after being threatened with death if they did not return to their ancestral religion, according to Morning Start News.
Twenty-one-year-old Raidhar Nag, one of the Christians who left Chhingur village, revealed that his village gathering threatened to beat the Christians to death if they refused to participate in a “re-conversion” ceremony held last month.
“We fled from the village on the day of the ceremony, everyone in their own direction,” he told Morning Star News.
However, a mob tracked down 10 Christians from four families, beat them, and forced them to recant their faith and worship their tribal deities in a ceremony held on March 10, according to sources.
“They took them along and forcibly sprinkled some water on them as per the tradition and made them worship the tribal deities,” Raidhar Nag explained.
The mob's anger was ignited by a dispute over the burial of tribal animist Lakhshu Nag, who died on March 2.
Lakhshu Nag had been ill for more than a year when he approached Methodist Church Pastor Dularam Kashyap for prayer a few days before his death.
When his body was returned to the village for burial, the villagers refused to allow the Christians to bury him and assaulted them. Pastor Kashyap was also beaten as a result of his intervention.
The incident was later reported to the police station in Darbha.
“The police came to the village around 8 p.m. and spoke to the villagers to allow the burial, but the villagers refused to listen to the police,” said Pastor Kashyap.
According to Lalji Sinha, officer in-charge of the Darbha police station, the villagers demanded that Lakhshu Nag's body be buried at a Christian burial site in another village.
“Lakhshu Nag’s deceased body lay in the village the entire day, from March 2 till the morning of March 3, until the police escorted the Christians to carry the mortal remains to village Chaltipadar,” said Raidhar Nag.
Following the funeral, Christians from Chhingur were summoned by village leaders on March 3, forcing them to reconvert in a "home-coming" (Ghar Wapsi) ceremony.
The four Christian families had hid themselves in the village itself, Raidhar Nag told Morning Star News.
“The villagers frantically searched for all of us on the day of the ceremony and found the members of the four families. They took them along and forcibly sprinkled some water on them as the tradition and made them worship the tribal deities,” Raidhar Nag explained.
According to Pastor Kashyap, the 10 Christians from the four families “resisted as long as they could but ultimately gave in to perform the ‘homecoming’ ritual that was conducted before the village council of four villages.”
Pastor Kashyap and a few other Christians filed a complaint with the district collector's office, the Human Rights office, and the Darbha police station on March 12 requesting that the villagers be prosecuted for attacking, intimidating, and compelling Christians to worship tribal deities against their will.
They also asked the authorities to allot a plot of land in Chhingur village for the Christian community's burial.
Police “Went to the village and made both the parties understand to live cordially, and they have agreed to it,” officer Sinha said. “Now there is an atmosphere of peace in the village. Talks about a designated place of burial are underway. The investigation is not over yet.”
In response to the Christians' concern about the forced re-conversion ceremony, Sinha advised them to settle the problem with the local villagers on their own.