"They tore off the drums and broke the musical instruments and mics. They then broke the picture of the 12 disciples. They broke the glass of that picture and left while chanting 'Jai Shri Ram'. While leaving, they dragged two of our people Johnny and Shivam, thrashed them and took them out of the lane before they let them go," Pastor Satpal Bhati (38) said as he sat around a pile of broken chairs and glass pieces at his property in Delhi's Tahirpur village.
On the morning of 20 August, Tahirpur village opposite the Rajiv Gandhi Memorial Hospital woke up to chaos after a mob of 15-20 people associated with Hindutva right-wing groups allegedly attacked a Christian Sunday prayer meet. Bhati has been conducting this prayer meeting for the past 12 years.
The mob alleged that religious conversion was happening at the meet. They thrashed both men and women present, tore a copy of the Bible, and vandalised the premises. While an FIR has been filed in the matter at the GTB Nagar Police station, that, too, was a challenge, claim the complainants.
It is yet unknown which organisation the people from the mob were affiliated to.
Born into a Gujjar family who later converted to Christianity, Bhati said: "We are not converting anybody. Nobody has ever come here to get converted. All those who come here always been followers of Jesus Christ."
'They Said This is Hindu-Rashtra, All This Won't Be Allowed'
The meet comprised 30-35 people, most of them being women. It was disrupted after they heard a loud DJ system playing religious songs outside.
While Bhati lives with his family on the first floor of the building, he uses the ground floor to conduct prayer meets.
The mob came armed with wooden sticks, metal rods, and knives, Bhati alleged.
"When we were chatting after the prayers, we heard a DJ playing outside. We realised it was getting louder and coming into our lane. I asked one of our people to check. By the time, some people entered the house and asked us what we were doing. We told them we were singing bhajans (religious songs). One of them asked whose bhajans were we singing and I told him Jesus Christ. They said that such prayers will not be allowed since this is Hindu Rashtra and that the court has passed a law that such prayers will not be allowed. While we were trying to talk to them, some of them got aggressive and started hitting us," Bhati said.
"There were just five-seven men here since it's usually more women coming for the prayers. They hit Johnny, Shivam, and Abhishek who were present here. They hit them with rods. The women tried to save them. One girl called Payal was injured when she tried to block one of them with her hand. Her hand is swollen. Another woman came to save her but they pushed her too. They hit her in the leg with a rod. Another woman called Alice was also hit with a rod," he said.
A few people present at the prayers, who did not wish to be identified, said some people from the mob were also carrying knives.
"They tore the drums and other musical instruments with those knives," a man present at the meet said.
'They Gathered at Police Station to Try Pressurising Them'
The police came after they dialed the police helpline 100 but filing the FIR was a tedious task since many from the right-wing organisations came to the GTB Nagar police station and resorted to sloganeering and claimed that there were attempts being made at the prayer meet to convert people.
"I called up some other pastor friends and we all went to the police station. The police asked me who the people were but I told them I did not know them and that I have never seen or met them before. The police came here to investigate as well. An FIR has been lodged.
"The FIR was delayed because the people came to the police station as well. I did not know who they were. They gathered there in huge numbers and kept raising slogans. We were just a few of us but we trusted the police. The police were trying to talk to them to pacify them," Bhati said.
One of those present at the meet said: "They wanted to gather there and create pressure against the FIR being filed."
Even though they went to the police station to file the FIR soon after the incident, it was registered only later in the night.
'People Are Scared'
After the attack, injured women Payal and Alice were taken to the GTB Hospital for treatment.
The FIR was filed under the following sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC):
Section 323 (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt.)
Section 452 (house-trespass after preparation for hurt, assault or wrongful restraint)
Section 295 (injuring or defiling place of worship with intent to insult the religion of any class.)
Section 295A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings)
Section 296 (disturbing religious assembly)
Section 297 (trespassing on burial places, etc)
Section 298 (uttering, words, etc, with deliberate intent to wound the religious feelings of any person)
Section 354 (assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty.)
Section 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion)
Section 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention)
Bhati said that since the incident, people of the Christian community living in the area are scared.
"If they are going to be thrashed with rods by entering their homes, people are bound to be scared. This is my private property. This has never happened before. Nobody from their community even spoke to me before," Bhati said.
"We will conduct prayers next week too. Nobody can stop us from praying. People pray in their homes, we were praying at my home. We were not troubling anybody. A learned man once said that all religions are branches of one tree," Bhati said.