‘Lawfare’ in Madhya Pradesh
On Easter Sunday on April 4 Pastor Manu Damor, 35 led a 4pm worship service for five Christian families in a private home in Rangwasa Village, Indore District, Madhya Pradesh (MP). Towards the end of the service four or five men walked into the home and aggressively questioned the believers.
The Christians objected, so the men left, only to return shortly afterwards with a mob of more than 300 angry Hindu nationalists who demanded that Pastor Manu be delivered over to them. The Christians refused, so the Hindus unleashed a terrifying attack on the house, all the while hurling obscenities and issuing death threats.
Fortunately, by the time the attackers had breached the roof and entered the house, the police had arrived. The police took Pastor Manu, his wife Asha and their three young children into custody for their own protection. With tensions soaring, police recommended they remain in detention overnight and return home the next day after things had cooled down. The couple sent their two oldest children, aged 4 and 5, home with a Christian family, but kept their 18-month-old daughter with them in the prison as she was not yet weaned.
The next morning, as the family was waiting to be released to go home, they were informed that a complaint had been registered against them. During the night a mob, comprised of radical Hindu nationalists and influential political figures, stormed the police station demanding Pastor Manu and Asha be charged with the non-bailable offence of procuring illegal conversions [see RLPB 583, Madhya Pradesh: anti-conversion law ramped up (3 Feb 2021)]. Instead of going home, the couple would have to remain in jail and face court.
According to the First Information Report (FIR), Pastor Manu and Asha offered to pay a woman named Leela Bai 3000 rupees every month if she would convert to Christianity. The charge is ridiculous, false and baseless. Regardless, the couple have been charged under the Penal Code’s Section 294: ‘Whoever, to the annoyance of others – (a) does any obscene act in any public place, or (b) sings, recites or utters any obscene song, ballad or words, in or near any public place, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three months, or with fine, or with both.’
With Covid-19 running rampant through the jails, the couple sent their 18-month-old daughter home with Christians, who then delivered all three children into the care of their grandmother. The separation has been deeply distressing for all concerned. While Asha was released on bail on 12 April (the day MP went into lockdown), Pastor Manu remained in jail until May 4. The case against them is before the High Court. Furthermore, sources told Morning Star News that residents of Rangwasa are now terrorising the village’s three Christian families, threatening to burn them all alive if Pastor Manu or Asha ever pass by the village again. Please pray.
The end of Modi magic?
Hindutva (Hindu nationalism) is not Hinduism. Hindutva is a political tool through which religion is exploited for political gain. Founded in April 1980 as the political wing of the Sangh Parivar (a collection of Hindu nationalist organisations), the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) now rules India with an absolute majority. Unfortunately, the Hindutva “virus” (Hindu nationalist ideology) attaches itself to the worst elements of human nature — megalomania, pride, greed, self-interest and fear — and in the absence of restraint, spreads rapidly.
The symptoms of Hindutva are hatred, communalism, willingness to inflict harm and lack of empathy. It is incredibly destructive. Christians are increasingly being violently persecuted with impunity, and ‘lawfare’ is increasingly common in the nine BJP-ruled north Indian states where anti-conversion laws – known in India as Freedom of Religion laws – have been enacted. [From east to west: Arunachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat.]
When fortunes appeared to be lagging ahead of the 2019 polls, the BJP not only reversed its fortunes but increased its majority by running a subversive campaign of mass manipulation through social media, unprecedented in its sophistication. According to an analyst who worked on the campaign, the strategy was to create ‘a customised enemy for every group’ and posit the BJP as the solution. While the tactic worked, inasmuch as it secured political conversions, it has fuelled communalism and further shredded India’s social fabric [RLPB 506 (12 June 2019)].
Since 2014, much of the BJP’s electoral success has been down to what is known as ‘Modi Magic’: that is, the personality cult of Narendra Modi. Today, the Modi Magic is beginning to fade. India’s current Covid crisis has been sourced to the month-long Kumbh Mela (Hindu festival) held throughout April in Haridwar (roughly 200km north-east of New Delhi) in Uttarakhand. Held every 12 years, the Kumbh was not due until 2022.
However, with critical state elections looming, the BJP wanted to hold it now! And so the BJP accepted astrological advice that said the festival — long known to be a super-spreader event — could be brought forward by a year. Hindu devotees from all across India descended on Haridwar in their millions, caught the virus, and then shared it freely while on their journey home. Indians are starting to realise that the BJP does not have the welfare of the people at heart. On the contrary, the BJP will sacrifice anything – including communal peace (the loss of which has been catastrophic for Christians) and human lives (even the lives of Hindus!) — to retain its power and privilege. Could this spell the end of Hindutva politics?
Please pray specifically that God will:
* comfort, sustain and protect Pastor Manu and Asha Damor as they prepare for their trial in BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh. May the family — children, grandparents and fellow believers — know the peace (Matthew 11:28-30) that comes from trusting a good, faithful and sovereign God (Matthew 10:29-31).
* move in the hearts of the hostile Hindu nationalists who bore false witness against Pastor Manu and Asha — in particular Leela Bai (the woman who falsely claimed to have been bribed to convert); may they repent and confess so that truth and justice might prevail and so there might be forgiveness, deliverance (from the “father of lies“), salvation and reconciliation to the glory of Christ.
* redeem India’s COVID crisis, to awaken Indians to the megalomania, greed and self-interest of the ruling Hindu nationalist BJP government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is nothing but another false ‘god’. Lord in your mercy, intervene to restore liberty to India.
* grace all India’s Christian leaders – in churches, families, workplaces and communities – with words of wisdom and deeds of grace, that they might be channels of healing and hope in these days of crisis, grief and fear
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