Church and State

The UP Police and Sangh’s persecution of Christians

30 April, 2024

ON A FEBRUARY MORNING LAST YEAR, Sujit Yadav, a Christian pastor, drove across the wheat and potato fields of Uttar Pradesh’s Jaunpur district to the home of a congregant, in the village of Bhalwahi. Around six worshippers had gathered on the first floor, and more were to arrive soon, for a weekly prayer meeting. Sujit had barely begun to sing the first hymn when a group of around ten men wearing saffron scarves barged inside. “Stop this now, stop all this,” they yelled. “You are doing religious conversion. Come, we’ll deal with you.”

The men were members of the Bajrang Dal, the youth wing of the right-wing outfit Vishva Hindu Parishad. One of them caught Sujit by his collar. “They dragged me down the stairs to the ground floor and beat me brutally,” Sujit told me. “They hit me with the kara between my eyes and my ears. The whole area turned black.” The men said that they would kill him and make his body disappear. Then they called the police.

When the police arrived on the scene twenty minutes later, they told the Bajrang Dal cadre to bring Sujit to the police station. Sujit was made to sit on a motorcycle, sandwiched between two men. “They kept hitting me,” he said. “The one behind me was hitting me with his hand, and the one in front of me was hitting me with his head.” On the way, he added, they stopped in a field and beat him some more. As they passed the town’s market, the Bajrang Dal men shouted to onlookers, “Look! We’ve caught someone who converts Hindus.”

At the police station, the men accused Sujit of getting foreign funding and luring people to convert to Christianity by offering them money. They searched a bag they had seized from him. It had a Bible, a blank notebook in which he meant to write prayers and four yellow rings. “See, he has a Bible,” the men said, implying that he was using this to convert people. “See, he has rings of gold.” Sujit told me he had bought these for his sisters to wear to a wedding—they were worth Rs 25 each. He recalled that the police summoned a goldsmith, who declared they were made of cheap local brass.