A group of Christians was attacked on 21 May in Rajewal village, near Amritsar in Punjab province, India, by assailants dressed in traditional Sikh warrior dress. The Christians had gathered in a church when it was attacked by a group dressed in Nihang attire. The Nihangs or Akalis are an armed Sikh warrior group distinguishable by their blue robes, swords and spears.
According to sources, the mob forcefully entered Sukhpal Rana Ministries Church, vandalising it with sticks. They also tore the Bibles, vandalised the vehicles outside the church and attacked the Christians with sticks, leaving several injured. This was followed by a verbal confrontation between the Christians and the attackers which soon escalated, with both groups pelting stones at each other. The situation was brought under control by the intervention of the police.
Later that the congregation held a protest in response to the attack, seeking justice and threatening retaliation if there was no immediate action taken. They also demanded that the attackers be charged with blasphemy. According to local sources, a member of the Punjab Minority Commission has gone to the village to assess the situation, but it remains unclear whether further action has been taken.
The police attended the scene of the protest, accompanied by the police superintendent, who assured the congregation that a First Information Report (FIR) has been registered and that action would be taken swiftly. The police have not confirmed if the perpetrators were from the Nihang group. A local source reports that the Nihangs have denied any involvement in the attack.
Punjab has seen a huge wave of evangelism and the Nihangs have been accusing Christian missionaries of forceful conversions. In August 2022, the Infant Jesus Catholic Church in Punjab was vandalised by four masked men from the Nihang group, who also set the priests’ car on fire. CCTV footage of the incident went viral and sparked outrage among local Christians.
CSW’s Founder President Mervyn Thomas said: “The violence perpetrated against the Christian community in Rajewal village is yet another incident in a worrying trend of targeted attacks on religious minorities across the country. Often such incidents are not just a one-off occurrence, but the result of deep-seated polarisation that has been allowed to fester for years. The narrative playing out in India, where members of minority religious communities are demonised, has far-reaching implications. It also goes against the country’s founding principles, which make accomodations for every citizen regardless of their culture, language or religion. We urge the authorities to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators who planned and carried out the attacks without delay, so that the religious minority in Punjab can feel assured that their rights are being protected by the state.”