Indian villagers allegedly forced Christian families to participate in Hindu ritual

(Reuters/Adnan Abidi)People take part in a religion conversion ceremony from Christianity to Hinduism at Hasayan town in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh August 29, 2014.

Christian families in Uttar Pradesh state, India, have been reportedly beaten and pressured by villagers to participate in Hindu rituals.

Morning Star News reported that Hindu villagers in Jalalabad village, Ghazipur District attacked four Christian couples, along with several other Christians, on April 25 and accused them of forcibly converting Hindus to Christianity.

"The mob supported by the village president forced us to drink gangajal [water from the Ganges River, considered holy), eat tulsi [basil considered holy] leaves and declare that we deny Christ," Pushpa Kumari, one of the Christians who were attacked, told Morning Star News. "When we resisted, the men and women of the village beat us even more severely," she added.

The four couples, along with four other Christians, refused to participate in the Hindu ritual, but they said 13 other younger Christians felt compelled to take part in the ritual and deny Christ.

Sasikala Kumari, who was also beaten by the villagers, said that the attackers also cut off their water supply with the permission of the village head and the police. "They have all joined together and are conspiring against us," she said.

Village President Santosh Kumar Gupta denied that the Christians were pressured to deny Christ and take part in the Hindu ritual. When the Christians filed a complaint against the assailants at the Dullapur police station, Gupta accused them of engaging in forced conversions of Hindus to Christianity.

Manoj Kumar, who leads prayers in his house every Sunday, said that the police listened to both sides and have asked the villagers to "let anyone follow their own Dharma [religious teaching] peacefully, and that nobody shall disturb the prayer services in the village's house church."

The Hindu villagers reportedly agreed to abide by the police request, but they still refused to sell water to the Christians.

Gupta said that he cannot prevent the Hindu villagers from cutting off the water supply to the Christians. "If nobody in the village wants to sell them water from the bore wells, it's their personal choice," he said.

Gupta claimed that none of the families have complained to him about the lack of water service, but Pushpa said that the Christians have approached him twice already.

When the Christians came to Gupta for the third time on June 14, they said that the village head told them that they must stop the worship services in the village and stop following Christ before water can be supplied to them.

Christians in India have been facing attacks from Hindu extremists since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took power in May 2014. Religious rights advocates have claimed that Modi's National Democratic Alliance government, led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has emboldened Hindus in several parts of the country to carry out attacks against Christians.

India has been ranked in the 2017 Open Doors World Watch List as the 15th country where Christians face the most persecution.

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