(Morning Star News) – A retired pastor, his wife and their sons are in hiding from police after a Hindu extremist mob injured them in a gruesome assault in northern India, sources said.
Patram Mangala, retired Church of North India pastor now helping to run St. John School in Sohna, Gurugram District in Haryana state, sustained injuries to his nose when he was hit with a spade in the face, and his 28-year-old son Abhishek Mangala lost four front teeth and ruptured blood vessels in his eye in the Sept. 22 attack.
Pastor Mangala’s 65-year-old wife Sarla Mangala sustained an injury under her right eye apart from internal injuries to her body, and their son Raj Kumar Mangala, 40, sustained internal injuries in the attack, which appeared to be rooted in a recent court judgment against the Hindus in their attempt to erect a Hindu idol on the property, the retired pastor said.
The 68-year-old Pastor Mangala and his wife were cleaning their front yard in the early evening when a group of Hindu extremists with wooden sticks surrounded them and began to assault them, he said. Between 30 to 40 other people then joined in the assault.
Pastor Mangala’s sons ran to help their parents but were also attacked. The pastor said he could identify only some of the assailants, and that those who joined in had been notified earlier for a well-planned attack.
“Two men, Anil Kumar and Danny, smashed a stone on Abhishek’s face, breaking four of his front teeth,” Pastor Mangala told Morning Star News. “His mouth was profusely bleeding, and his face was covered with blood. Abhishek’s lip tore, and his left eye blood vessels ruptured.”
Their home is part of the St. John’s school premises, and the assailants picked up a spade used for repair work on the institution in the attack, he said. They also struck them with rocks lying outside the gate, along with sticks.
“They began to hit me with their legs and fists and manhandled my wife by pushing her and hitting her,” he said. “They abused us using vulgar language and threatened to kill us. The attackers snatched the gold ring that I was wearing in my finger and snatched my son Abhishek’s cell phone as well.”
Besides the injury to his nose from the spade, Pastor Mangala sustained injuries to his thigh and other parts of his body, he said.
The family reported the assault to city police in writing on Sept. 24, but officers registered no complaint for nearly a week – in stark contrast to a false complaint registered against the Christians the day of the attack, he said.
“The culprits have been threatening us to kill us, and they have warned us that if we go to the police, they will kill us,” Pastor Mangala reported in his complaint, translated from Hindi. “In the future if I or my family members are attacked, these people named in the complaint should be held responsible. I request that strict action be taken against these hooligans and a First Information Report be registered and they be arrested. I pray that justice be given to me and my family.”
Local news media broadcast the Hindu extremists’ false charges as stated by a police official and the main accused in the pastor’s complaint, Anil Kumar. Officer-in-Charge Arvind Dahiya told Punjab Kesari News Channel that an FIR had been registered against Pastor Mangala, his wife and their two sons for “breaking the Hindu temple and illegally trying to take possession of the Hindu temple land under the Indian Penal Code.”
They were also charged with rioting, being armed with a deadly weapon, unlawful assembly, disobedience to an order lawfully promulgated by a public servant, injuring or defiling a place of worship with intent to insult the religion, voluntarily causing hurt and criminal intimidation, he said.
Kumar told media that the Christian family attacked him and the others.
Denying all allegations, Meenal Mangala, the daughter of Pastor Mangala, told Morning Star News that she felt helpless as she does not know who to contact for help.
“The allegations against us are false and fabricated,” she said. “We don’t know what to do. It is our property, and we have the papers to prove it. They forcefully wanted to worship their god on our land. Through court we stopped that and won the legal battle, but now they are spreading a false and fabricated story through media, and it is being telecasted on local TV.”
Meenal Mangala said the family has submitted a CD to the police containing footage from CCTV cameras installed at the school facing its front gate. The cameras captured the entire assault and show how the Hindu extremists beat the family, she said.
Fearing arrest, the Christian family has left their home and gone into hiding since being released from the hospital.
Only after Morning Star News spoke to Investigating Officer and Assistant Sub-Inspector Shish Ram asking why no action was taken on the complaint of trespassing and assault filed by the Christian family did officers register a case against the assailants on Friday (Sep. 27).
Ram said a case was registered against the Hindu assailants under First Information Report 608 for rioting, rioting armed with deadly weapon, unlawful assembly, disobedience to an order lawfully promulgated by a public servant, voluntarily causing hurt and criminal intimidation.
He said justice would be done, though no action has been taken yet.
The land on which the St. John’s School was built was purchased in Sarla Mangala’s name on Sept. 30, 1985, according to official records. She and Pastor Mangala were running the school and residence in 2015 when some Hindus trespassed and erected a Hindu idol and brought construction material onto the campus, Sarla Mangala charges in a lawsuit.
“On June 10, 2015, in the evening between 6-6:30, some anti-social elements came to our land and tried to enter forcefully,” Pastor Mangala said. “They threatened to kill my wife if she did not leave the property, hence we filed a complaint in the court claiming that the property is ours and that no construction should be done on that land. I approached the court against the trespassing four years ago and got a stay from the court. The court pronounced judgment in our favor two months ago.”
Tehmina Arora, director of legal advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom-India, said in a press statement earlier this year that India must enact laws to protect religious minorities from such attacks.
“Nobody should be persecuted because of their faith,” Arora said. “It is worrying to see these horrendous acts of mob violence continue. It is high time special laws are enacted to protect Christians and other religious minorities from being attacked and then imprisoned under false accusations.”
Mob attacks are not isolated incidents in India, added Paul Coleman, executive director of ADF-International.
“While the right to religious freedom is protected by the Indian constitution, we nonetheless see Christians face persecution and denial of their fundamental rights,” he said. “Sadly, the recent mob attacks are not isolated incidents but testify to what many Christians experience in India today. All people have the right to freely choose, and live out, their faith.”
India is ranked 10th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian. The country was 31st in 2013, but its position has been worse each year since Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in 2014.
Photo: Retired pastor’s wife, Sarla Mangala and son, Abhishek Mangala