India: Christian evangelists harrassed by police in Jaipur

Christians in India protest the violence and persecution against them.Reuters/Adnan Abidi

Twenty Christian evangelists were reportedly harassed and beaten by police in India's Rajasthan state.

People's Union for Civil Liberties head Kavita Srivastava told the World Watch Monitor (WWM) that the Christians were detained in Jaipur after attempting to preach there on February 25. They were also allegedly beaten with sticks on their hands and wrists by policemen.

Jaipur is the capital of Rajasthan state, which is governed by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.

The evangelists were from the Hebron Bhakta Singh Fellowship Church of Hyderabad.

Pastor Stephen Raj, one of the group's leaders, said that they had visited the state in order to preach and to do some sightseeing, after arriving in Jaipur on the morning of February 25. In the afternoon, they went to Jaipur's Mansarovar Centre, and began to preach and pass out evangelical literature.

"As soon as we started, a man came and asked, 'What is this?' He took our leaflet and went. He must have called the police," Raj told WWM.

Protesters began to amass as they continued to preach, but the police arrived to disperse the crowds. They were escorted back to their hostel, but Raj said that the hardliners followed them to where they were staying and started abusing them again. Eventually, the police had to be called back. The Christians were then taken to the police station where they say they were beaten.  

"They made us stretch out our palms and beat us severely with wooden (sticks)," the pastor revealed. "Those who pulled their hands back after the first beating came in for more beatings. Many of us have bruises and blood clots on our palms six days later."

The People's Union for Civil Liberties subsequently intervened with the help of local Christians to have the group released. 

Raj described the rescue as timely.

"If they had not reached us promptly, we might have had to face more torture," he said.