MUMBAI, India, March 13 (Compass Direct News) - Police officers and members of a Hindu extremist group in Andhra Pradesh on Sunday (March 11) lured a pastor into a remote forest, where the extremists tied his hands and feet and beat him with wooden clubs as they accused him of offering money for Hindus to convert to Christianity.
Pastor Bakhthula Anand, 48, of Bethesda Prayer House in Ambojipeta village, Medak district, is undergoing treatment for severe swelling and exhaustion after he managed to reach his home yesterday morning (March 12) at 9 a.m. despite barely being able to walk. His wrists and ankles were bleeding and swollen after the extremists from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) untied him and left him deep within the forest at 3 a.m.
The previous day, as Pastor Anand was reading the Bible alone in his home adjacent to the church, two policemen came and told him that the Ramayampet circle inspector wanted to meet with him.
"As we were walking, a short distance away, a group of around 25 to 30 Hindu extremists belonging to the RSS joined them", Pastor Anand said.
A little later, the RSS extremists shoved Pastor Anand, surrounded him and forced him to walk towards a forest area about six kilometers (four miles) from Ambojipeta village. The policemen disappeared in the confusion en route.
"Pastor Anand recognized one of the extremists – though he did not know his name - as he had attended Sunday worship at the Bethesda Prayer House occasionally for the past six months," said Dr. Sajan K. George, president of Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC).
Pastor Anand noticed that one of the RSS extremists had a bag containing ropes and wooden clubs.
"They took me to an isolated area in the interior part of the forest, tied my hands behind my back, and also tied my feet," Pastor Anand said. "The RSS activists slapped and abused me, alleging that I was using money to allure people to convert to Christianity."
The person who had attended the services at the Bethesda Prayer House made loud and angry allegations that he was witness of Pastor Anand telling people to convert. He also accused the pastor of luring people with improved economic status if they embraced Christ.
The extremists beat him with wooden clubs and sticks on his arms, legs and body as they questioned him into the wee hours of the night.
Ramayampet Circle Inspector Yadagiri Raju and Anil Kumar, sub-inspector of Shankarampet police sub-station, both denied calling Pastor Anand to the police station or having any knowledge of the assault on him.
At press time, doctors at a private facility in Ambojipeta village were examining Pastor Anand for internal injuries.
Lionel Francis, local Telangana coordinator for the GCIC, told Compass that he was awaiting medical reports before filing a First Information Report.
"This is a pattern of behavior with the RSS in this Telanga area," Francis said. "The RSS run a well-knit spy network to attack independent pastors. They attend Christian prayer services, pass on information and then plot to attack the pastors."
In the Telanga area, he added, members of the youth wing of the RSS frequently disrupt prayer services and make lewd comments to pastors walking along the road, besides making threats of physical abuse.
"But nothing can be done, as they have the tacit support of the police," Francis said. "At times," Francis said, "these RSS guys masquerade as police officials and take pastors into the forest and murder them."
Pastor Anand planted Bethesda Prayer House in 1995 and has a congregation of around 200 believers. He has a network of small churches that he has planted in Telangana Region.
Compass has reported on four previous murders of Christians in Andhra Pradesh. Pastor Goda Israel, 29, was found dead with stab wounds on February 20 in a canal in Krishna district of the southern state of Andhra Pradesh. Two pastors, K. Daniel and K. Isaac Raju, were killed near Hyderabad, the state capital, in May 2005.
And on September 11, 2000, two unidentified persons beheaded Pastor Yesu Dasu, 52, on the outskirts of Mustabad in Andhra Pradesh’s Karimnagar district.