Beaten up for worshipping Jesus Christ, tribals at Tamsai in Maharashtra are bemused that “brothers and sisters” of their own village have turned against them and called for a social boycott. After the threat issued against worshipping the “Christian god,” the Sunday prayers in the village have been stopped indefinitely.
Meanwhile, the pastors in the tribal belt of Thane district have decided to join hands against the extremist elements and will be holding a first-ever joint meeting on Saturday to combat the terror of religious extremists.
On Friday, when The Hindu visited Kaspada village, the signs of vandalism were still visible. A broken harmonium lay on the floor while the uprooted wooden wall of the prayer hall was thrown in front of the neighbouring house.
The only thing removed from the hall was the half-torn Bible, which was kept safely inside the house.
The incident took place on the morning of December 30, 2012 when the pastor entered the village for regular prayer. A mob of around 150 villagers, mostly tribals, objected to the “Christian god” and disrupted the prayer. Many in the mob were allegedly drunk, and threatened and beat up two people. The mob then marched to another place in the same village where another prayer meeting was being held and vandalised it.
“The pastor has been asked not to enter the village to conduct prayers. Even the police authorities have not registered a complaint against the attackers,” said Pandhari Govari, another pastor working in Wada tehsil.
According to the people who regularly attend prayers in the village, they have been threatened with social boycott, which means no one from the village will have any relations with them and the panchayat will not help them in their work. “This will continue until we stop praying to Jesus Christ,” said Mr. Jadhav. He called those who had done this as Hindu tribals.
According to Mr. Jadhav, none of the villagers has spoken to them since the attack. The majority of tribals survive as daily wage labourers and fears of being denied employment are rising.
A number of Christian missionary organisations have been working in the tribal belt for several years. These organisations hold prayer meetings among the tribal community and this has become the point of conflict between those who attend it and Hindu extremist elements.
In the past, nearby places such as Vikramgad and Wada have seen attacks on the tribal Christians by right-wing Hindu elements. The attacks were led by other tribals.
“We never ask them to get converted to Christianity. Not all who come for prayers are Christians. But we do tell them that there is only one god and may be that makes others angry. But we tell tribals what we believe in and they join us voluntarily,” said Mr. Govari, who was the local leader of Shiv Sena, before becoming a pastor.
Sainath Rawte, a pastor in Tamsai village works for the Church of North India. “We never ever said any wrong things about other religions. I fail to understand the conspiracy behind stopping our prayers,” he said.