Nearly 20 days after a group of men attacked a gathering of Dalit Christians in Kooguru village, near Sarjapur, the handful of Dalit Christians in the village now live in fear of being ostracised.
Ever since the nine-member group barged into the house of Puttamma when she was celebrating her son Suresh Babu's 25th birthday on January 9 night, the four Dalit Christian families, mostly daily wage workers, in this 300-household village have been receiving explicit threats.
The attack, which left 10 persons — including a pastor — injured, has largely gone unnoticed by the media. The attackers, who allegedly came from Sarjapur town 6 km away, fled when the commotion attracted other villagers.
“We have been threatened by a few in our village who said they would cut off water supply from our homes and seek the removal of our names from the ration card list,” Ms. Puttamma told The Hindu on Saturday. She herself was hit on the leg when she tried to stop the men attacking the pastor.
Narayanamma, who was present in the house during the attack, said: “Some villagers have also asked people not to employ us in their farms. I haven't found work in some time.”
None of these families even contemplate moving out. “This is my home. We have no other place to go,” Ms. Puttamma said.
Even though the village had not seen violence against their community for some time — villagers recall an incident around eight years ago where a Christian woman was forced to perform Hindu rituals and burn of copies of the Bible. A Hindu shopkeeper, on condition of anonymity, said that around four years ago she was threatened with dire consequences after she was found reading the Bible.
Anatomy of the attack
It was around 11 p.m. that the group of about 20 people, after dinner, knelt on the floor to sing religious songs. According to pastor S. Shantakumar of the protestant church, Agape Prayer Hall in Anekal, everyone was in prayer barring two uninvited guests. “They had told [Ms.] Puttamma they had come for the prayer, but I could see that they were constantly fiddling with their phones,” said the pastor. He suspects that these two sent messages to others, who barged in at the end of the second song.
Grabbing whatever they could — curtain rods, brooms, even a keyboard in the house — the men assaulted those gathered, tearing down pictures of Jesus Christ put up on the walls, hurling abuses at the pastor, asking him to “stop conversions”.
Out on bail
Some victims recognised one of the gang members as being from Sarjapur, which led to the arrest of one person. Five surrendered before the court and three others remain absconding. The six men are currently out on bail, a fact the victims are unaware of.
Police officials investigating the case said though they believe the men were not connected to any organisation, they have been earlier named in cases involving attacks on those transporting cattle.