A tribal Christian in Rajasthan's Pratapgarh district walked five km naked on the main road to reach the nearest police station to file a complaint after anti-social elements thrashed him and stripped him before speeding away on motorcycles.
The police at the Peepalkunt station first took Pastor Harishankar Ninama to be insane but when the 65-year old explained what had befallen him they gave him clothes to wear before registering cases against 10 persons who had come on motorcycles to storm a prayer meeting at the residence of another tribal at Ambarunda. The assailant attacked the house owner and also slapped the pastor's daughter.
That was on February 1. More than a month later, none of the culprits has been arrested. The matter was not reported by the local media and no official ever visited Pastor Ninama. His mobile phone, diary and some documents, besides Rs.1,540 in cash which was in his pocket, are yet to reach him back. The police at Peepalkunt, not far from the Rajasthan-Gujarat border, said they had filed charge sheets against two persons — Dhuliya and Gautam — who were identified by the victim. The accused are also Adivasis.
“I was at the residence of another Adivasi praying for his ailing son when these people broke in and pulled me out. First, they hauled me on to a motorcycle and took me to their guru some two km away. Despite their guru's suggestion that I be allowed to go in my vest, they stripped me fully,” Pastor Ninama, who belongs to a Protestant group, Christian Reforms, told The Hindu on the phone from Amaliya, his village in Pratapgarh. Ambarunda is 17 km from his village.
“No one came to my help. It happened outside the Wakari middle school between 2.30 and 3 p.m. I kept walking as I bled profusely from the injuries I sustained. First the police thought I was a madman. I had to do some explaining to convince them,” Pastor Ninama said.
Superintendent of Police P. P. Tank, when contacted, said he was aware of what happened to the Adivasi pastor. “We are investigating,” he said when asked about follow-up action.
The police first took the victim to hospital for first aid. Thereafter, they took him back to the police station for completing the case formalities. “I was left to myself after that. In the market I came across a person known to me. He gave me Rs.10 and I got into a jeep which was going towards my village,” Pastor Ninama said. The next day his friends, who reached his residence, again took him to hospital. He was discharged after five days.
“Pastor Ninama was dragged by his assailants to a public place where a village haat (weekly market) was on and he was stripped in full view of the people. He walked without a stitch on his body on the Pratapgarh-Banswara highway. That no action has been taken against the assailants so far has seemingly emboldened the Hindu radical groups in the area to strike us at will,” said Pastor Samuel of Udaipur, who visited the victim at his residence.
“We take beating as part of our life as we get it too often in the tribal belt of south Rajasthan but this time the persecution has crossed all limits,” Pastor Samuel said. Ramesh, son of Pastor Ninama, said the family did not receive any threat from anyone prior to this incident.