A radical Hindu who is known for his devotion to the Hindu deity Shiva has confessed to the attempted murder of a house church pastor in India's Andhra Pradesh state.
According to Morning Star News, the attempted murder occurred on the night of March 29 when Pastor Madira Koti Reddy was praying and reading the Bible in his room.
His wife, Madira Shanti, said that she was in the backyard doing the dishes when she heard her husband scream. The assailant had reportedly entered Reddy's room unnoticed and attacked the pastor with his axe.
Police Inspector Koteswara Rao, who was patrolling the area, responded to the incident and immediately rushed the pastor to the hospital.
Eleven suspects were initially taken into custody, but one suspect grabbed the attention of the police officers after key witnesses said they saw him walking outside the pastor's house with an axe on the night of the incident.
The authorities raided the house of Manne Shiva Narayana, also known as Shivayya, and found the weapon he used against the pastor.
"He is a staunch devotee of Shiva," Rao said, according to Morning Star News. "He confessed that he wanted to 'finish' the pastor that night. He said he was offended by the pastor's routine of sharing the gospel in the village," he added.
Narayana had reportedly confessed that his attempt to murder Reddy was driven by "hate." The suspect was not known to be affiliated with any Hindu extremist groups, but villagers noted that he is a self-proclaimed Shaiva Sadhu, or a Hindu "holy person."
Reddy's son-in-law, John Paul, noted that the pastor had previously told the family about the arguments he had with the suspect about religion.
"He was in trouble a couple of times because of boldness in professing Christianity. He was several times confronted by people who opposed him distributing gospel tracts, but he never stopped," John Paul was quoted as saying.
Reddy's wife noted that the pastor would often write biblical verses on the walls of other people's houses.
Rao said that the police went to the houses where Reddy had written on the walls, but there had been no objections because the area is mainly populated by converts to Catholicism.
Shortly after being jailed, Narayana reportedly requested to be transferred to another cell because he objected to the picture of a cross that was drawn by a previous inmate.
"We were able to observe in the Shaiva Sadhu high levels of intolerance. He did not want to be even physically present in a room where a cross is drawn on the wall," Rao said, as reported by Morning Star News.
Reddy underwent surgery on Friday to repair his right arm. He will reportedly undergo another operation on his left arm sometime this week.
Religious rights advocates in India have expressed concern that Hindu extremists have been emboldened by the National Democratic Alliance government's hostile tone against non-Hindus.
Christian charity Open Doors has noted that Hindu radical organizations such as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Shiv Sena and Vishya Hindu Parishad (VHP) have been the main source of persecution against Christians in the country.
India is currently ranked in Open Doors' 2018 World Watch List as the 18th country where Christians experience the most persecution.