Almost two months after police in India pulled a Christian pastor from his grandmother's home, tied him to a tree, and severely beat him, threats from officers and other individuals have kept him from filing a complaint, according to sources.
Morning Star News reports Pastor Pravesh Kumar, 26, of Amamahua, Uttar Pradesh state was visiting a sick uncle at his grandmother's house in nearby Bhais Khur village on April 22 when police arrested him after a Hindu neighbor videotaped them singing during a family devotional on the roof.
The neighbor sent the video to the police after recording it from another rooftop. When the officers arrived on the scene, they questioned Kumar about his visit and why the family was singing.
When he explained that they were singing hymns, the officers told him they were arresting him on suspicion of forcible conversion because hymns were part of converting people, Kumar told Morning Star News.
"They completely ignored the fact that the family we were visiting were all followers of Christ," he said.
Kumar told the outlet he was taken to the Bijauli police station where officers tied him to a tree and assaulted him.
"I was beaten so brutally on my legs that they swelled up, and I was not able to walk," he told Morning Star News. "I was limping."
Kumar's uncle arrived at the station and called on the officers to stop the assault. In order to gain their release, the officers told the pair they would have to pay from $256 to $320. Kumar told them he had no money and committed no crime, so the officers sent the two to the police station in Bardah.
Once at the next station, Kumar said he was lashed 30 to 40 times with a leather strap by a senior officer who demanded the pastor shout praises hailing Hindu gods and goddesses.
When one of the junior officers asked the senior officer if they should release Kumar's uncle, he refused, saying they would fabricate a report that the pastor and his uncle fought each other. He then allegedly ordered the other policemen to assault Kumar's uncle.
Once the word spread about the pair being assaulted while in police custody, concerned Christians began to call the police station.
"When my well-wishers and concerned Christians called the police station, the officer came and told me that he received a call and beat me all the more, accusing me of having a 'big group' of supporters," Pastor Kumar told Morning Star News.
The two Christians sustained several internal and external injuries. Kumar was beaten on all major joints of his body, including the wrists and knees, with a ruptured nerve on a wrist that turned black.
Police filed a complaint against Kumar and his uncle under the Indian Penal Code for "five or more assembling and disturbing public peace," "abetment" and "abetting commission of the offense." They appeared before the Sub-Divisional Magistrate court in Lalganj, Azamgarh District after a medical exam, and the next evening they were released on bail.
Kumar was still taking pain medication two weeks after his release, he said.
Morning Star News said it refrained from calling the police for comment as it could exacerbate mistreatment of the Christians. Kumar gave the outlet permission to report on the case.
Dinanath Jaiswar, a human rights activist and Christian leader in Uttar Pradesh, along with other church leaders, said he reached the police station where the two Christians were being held around midnight.
He told Morning Star News that he was utterly shaken when he saw Kumar's condition.
"He was brutally beaten in custody," Jaiswar said. "I had tears in my eyes when I met him in the police station."
Another Christian leader speaking on condition of anonymity said that he went to the police station the same night and asked police why were they torturing Kumar, which the officers denied.
"It was so heart-breaking to see Pastor Pravesh," the leader said. "We felt so helpless. We panicked as to whom should we approach for protection when the 'protectors' themselves have become assaulters."
Morning Star News also reported that when the police finally sent Kumar and his uncle to receive medical attention, the accompanying officers were told to tell the medical staff their injuries were the result of a scuffle between them.
The station chief had warned Kumar if he told doctors or any senior police officer about the assault while in custody, the officers "knew where to find" him.
"The officer told me that he would falsely implicate me and my uncle under the anti-conversion law and send us to jail if we tried to take any action against them," Kumar told the outlet.
As a result, the pastor wouldn't allow the attending physician to note in the medical report the brutality in which he was beaten.
Kumar was also hesitant to reveal anything that could spoil his brother's imminent wedding, he said.
Formerly a Hindu, Kumar began to follow Jesus Christ 18 months ago, along with his siblings and their families. The church where they worshipped was about 25 miles from their village, so his pastor encouraged him to start a fellowship at his house. His house church reportedly grew to about 60-70 people.
Since his arrest, Kumar has not led the regular church service or met for his congregation's regular Friday prayer meetings. The local residents in Amamahua have also threatened him, saying they will call the police if people come to his house for prayer or worship.
A rise in the number of assaults on Christians in Uttar Pradesh has raised concern in the minority Christian community, according to Morning Star News.
As CBN News has reported, the hostile tone of the National Democratic Alliance government against non-Hindus – an effort that's led by the Hindu nationalist BJP – has emboldened Hindu extremists in several parts of the country to attack Christians since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took power in May 2014.
India currently ranks 10th on the Open Doors 2022 World Watch List of places in the world where it is most difficult to be a Christian.
The Open Doors watch list warns "the persecution of Christians in India is intensifying as Hindu extremists aim to cleanse the country of their presence and influence."