NEW DELHI, December 2 (Compass) - A group of young people attacked three Christians as they distributed Christian literature in the western state of Maharashtra on Saturday (November 26). Two of the three injured were hospitalized.
"It's a miracle that we are alive today," Shaji Samuel, a Christian worker with the Panvel Brethren Church, told Compass. "We were beaten up very badly. I still can't take a deep breath, as I have received numerous internal injuries and my mouth is still hurting."
The attack took place at about 7:15 p.m. behind the State Transport Bus Terminal of Panvel Taluka in Raigad district, near the state capital, Mumbai.
Biju Jacob, 35, said he, Samuel and 30-year-old Reji Paul distributed and sold literature and Bibles at the Panvel bus terminal from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. without incident. When they returned in the evening, he said, "a group of about 30 young people brutally thrashed us."
Paul and Jacob were sitting inside the jeep, and Samuel was standing near the hood, where a stack of literature lay.
"A young man approached Samuel, took a piece of literature and asked him why there was no mention of 330 million Hindu gods in it," Jacob said. "Soon he got furious, and about 30 more young people came and started beating him."
According to Vedas (Hindu scriptures), there are 330 million gods in India.
"When Paul and I got out of the jeep, they started beating us also," Jacob said. "They beat us for about 15 minutes."
The attackers then dragged the three and made them sit in a motorized rickshaw. They asked the driver to take them to the Panvel police station and followed them in their own vehicles.
"As we reached the police station, they [the attackers] alleged that we were converting Hindus," Jacob said. "I told the sub-inspector, S.H. Warenkar, that we were only selling Christian literature without any force."
Warenkar agreed to take the victims to a nearby government hospital, where they were treated for their injuries, he added.
The Panvel Municipal Hospital referred the three to a private hospital for further treatment. En route, however, the police asked at least one of them to report to the station for statements.
Samuel, who bore the brunt of the attack, went to the Thane Lok Hospital, where he was admitted immediately. Paul was able to return to his home.
When Jacob reached the police station, the attackers had given a written complaint to the police accusing him and his associates of conversion.
The police interrogated Jacob until 1:30 a.m.
"On Sunday, I had fever and terrible headache - therefore I went to a hospital and was admitted," Jacob said. "The police had to come to the hospital for further interrogation. I was released on Tuesday. But I still have swelling on my head."
The police, however, did not file charges against the Christians but against the attackers. Anil Madhukar Kalyankar, Kishore Madhukar Kalyankar, Sanjay Yashwant Wahulkar and 25 others were charged with rioting and disturbing the public peace, said the investigating officer, Warenkar.
"The miscreants wanted us to register their complaint against the Christians, but we did not accept it," he said.
Warenkar added that the persons charged were absconding. "The police will arrest them very soon."
The situation is still tense, Samuel said, as the attackers have put up posters on area walls warning Hindus of conversion attempts. "The posters allege that a Christian program is on to convert Hindus in the area," he said.
Samuel said he and the other victims have nothing against the extremists.
"We have forgiven them," he said. "However, it is sad that we were misunderstood, as we were simply distributing Christian literature that talks about love and peace."