‘Will Destroy You for Messing With Ram’: Hindutva Group Attacks Christian Couple
The victim Paul Kumar said that he is "fully traumatised" while Bajrang Dal's Aryan Singh boasted about the attack.
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Paul Kumar, his wife Sushmita, and a relative Sonia were returning home after visiting an acquaintance in Bihar’s Vaishali, who had been unwell for a while, when they were intercepted by a group of men. The men began thrashing Paul, accusing him of forceful conversion, and yelling slurs at him. In videos of the incident that subsequently went viral on social media, the men can be heard saying “hamare Ram se jo khilwad karega, hum usey barbaad kar denge/ We will destroy whoever tries to mess with our (lord) Ram.”
The Quint tracked down the victim, Paul, who described how the incident from 12 January transpired. “Our acquaintance hadn’t been keeping well, so we decided to check up on her. On our way back, 7-8 men just hurled on us and began beating me. They even threatened to raise their hand on my wife,” Paul told The Quint.
You can watch the video of the assault here:
Videos of the incident were first shared on Facebook by Aryan Singh, the Vaishali district president of the Rashtriya Bajrang Dal, an offshoot of Bajrang Dal.
In the caption, Aryan Singh has written: “In our Vaishali’s Jandaha town, (these people) had come to convert Hindus to Christianity. They don’t know that a strong nationalist called Aryan Singh lives in Vaishali... Note: In our Vaishali district, the Isa-Musa people (Christians) get the worthy treatment that they deserve.”
'Completely Traumatised, Talking About Christianity Not a Crime': Victim
29-year-old Paul said that he and his wife are believing Christians, and had only gone to meet their friend to check up on her health. “Yes we are Christians and we openly talk about our faith. I am a pastor. But that doesn’t make us criminals,” said Paul, who is originally from Odisha and has been living in Bihar for the last few years.
He said that after being thrashed, they were able to “beg for mercy” and run away from there. “My body was swollen after the incident. And I have been completely traumatised since then.”
In the video, an older woman accompanying the couple, Sonia, is seen trying to stop the attackers. The men then turn to her, push her away and say “yeh budhiya ko maaro pehle/ thrash this old woman first.”
Paul said that since the incident, he has been receiving calls from unknown numbers asking if “he can help them convert to Christianity.”
“I have never received such calls before, so I feel like this is a way to trap me and frame me for forceful conversion,” he said.
Rashtriya Bajrang Dal Boasts of Attack, But Police Says No Case of Forceful Conversion
Rashtriya Bajrang Dal leader Aryan Singh took responsibility for the attack. “Humne unki badhiya si service ki (we served them well),” he told The Quint.
Singh said he was informed, by his colleagues, that Paul had been trying to preach about Christianity. “So we reached the spot, gave him a good beating and told him to never come back here again,” Singh told The Quint.
When asked why he did not just go to the police, if he was certain that this is forceful conversion, Singh said he “didn’t want to waste the police’s time.”
“The police are busy solving things like murder and corruption. We don’t want to bother them with this. We can handle things like these at our level,” he said.
The Quint spoke to the Jandaha police station’s SHO, who denied there being any case of forceful conversion. “We have seen the video. But no such forceful conversion happened in Jandaha, this is all fake news. We have received no complaint of any conversion,” SHO Vishwanath Ram said.
Asked if there will be any investigation against the Rashtriya Bajrang Dal members, the SHO said that they haven't received a complaint on the same yet.
Neither Conversion Nor Religious Propagation Are Crimes
Neither conversion nor propagating one's religion is banned or illegal in the country. States like Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh and others have in the last few years promulgated laws pertaining to forceful conversion; all of them criminalise religious conversion using force, allurement, or coercion.
Moreover, no such Act exists in Bihar. In June 2022, Bihar CM Nitish Kumar ruled out the possibility of an anti-conversion law in Bihar stating that “there is no need” of such an Act in the state.
Speaking to The Quint, Supreme Court advocate Vrinda Grover said that both acts—the choice to convert as well as propagating one’s religion—are fundamental rights. “When there is no coercion, there can be no grievance with regard to the conversion. Majoritarian vigilantes have no place or locus, and nor can the State intrude, in personal choices, such as what religion to practice. In fact, there is a constitutional obligation on the State to ensure that any person freely practising his or her right to religion is not subjected to bullying, harassment and violence merely for exercising their fundamental rights. The notion that conversion per se is an illegal or immoral act, has no basis either in law or in morality,” Grover said.
“The State cannot abdicate its mandate and needs to take prompt and strict penal action against political outfits and their sponsored mob, as also family relatives, who seek to interfere and impose their majoritarian diktat over constitutional principles,” Grover added.
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