MUMBAI, India – Speaking to Crux from his hospital bed, Father Stephen Rawat, the parish priest of Saints Peter and Paul Church in Banswara Rajasthan in the Udaipur diocese in western India explained that every year he takes parishioners around the city to Catholic homes to sing Christmas carols.
This year, a group of about 20 carol singers including women and children and three religious sisters began their caroling on December 11.
On December 14, after caroling in a Catholic home, the group ended with a short prayer and walked into the street. As they walked towards their parked vehicle they were suddenly set on by a mob of 20 to 30 people armed with batons and sticks who began assaulting them unprovoked.
Rawat said “while the children ran helter skelter, the women and men were beaten on their hands, legs and backs. The nuns were still in the house, so they escaped the beating. They accused the Christians of converting people and shouted ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ (Victory to Mother India).”
Eight of them, including Rawat, were beaten. Rawat immediately went to the local police station to register a complaint against the attackers, then went to Mahatma Gandhi Hospital Banswara for medical treatment.
Three members of the group were discharged after medical attention, while Rawat and four others including three women continue to be hospitalized and are undergoing medical treatment.
Rawat seemed confident of the motive for the attack. He told Crux, “I have no enemies, I was beaten up, only because of my Christian faith.”
He said that in the street where the incident occurred, there is a hostel of the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) which is a Hindu nationalist and paramilitary volunteer group that is seen to be the parent organization of the ruling party of India, the Bharatiya Janata Party or BJP.
Rawat surmised that since this would be a place where young militant Hindus receive training, “it is not unlikely that they may be behind this anti-Christian attack.”
This is not the first such incident in India. In recent years, other groups of Christian carol singers have been attacked by Hindus claiming the carolers were trying to convert people.
Anti-Christian sentiment and persecution continues to be a running theme in the country, fueled by a rising tide of radical Hindu militancy.
As this article was published, no arrests had been made in this latest incident.