Facing boycott, claim Palghar Christians

FP

For over 10 days, a torn Bible and a damaged harmonium have been lying in a makeshift prayer hall which villagers now take turn to guard—just the way the attackers had left them on December 30. Although the anger has subsided, the tribals are unable to muster courage to resume their Sunday prayer service.

The tribal Christians of Tamsai village in Palghar claim that the makeshift prayer hall was attacked after the gram panchayat threatened them to stop the prayer service or else "face the consequences". They allege that the villagers who attacked them were "angered" by the spread of Christianity.

While the Palghar Superintendent of Police claimed it was an internal fight among villagers without any communal motive, the sarpanch of the gram panchayat denied having made any threat of a social boycott.

According to the victims, the attackers were from their own village and from neighbouring villages. "Most of them are known to us," claimed Raju Bhoir. The victims said they were carrying out their regular Sunday worship service when a few village men came and stopped the prayers. The tribals, who insist that they have not converted into Christianity but merely follow the path of Jesus, have been carrying out prayer services for the last three years.

Bharat Patil, 22, who has "dedicated" himself to religious work says that the panchayat has unanimously decided to boycott those who accepted Christianity. "They have decided to deny us water and firewood if we stay converted. We have been trying to convince them that our documents still remain the same. We have just chosen a newer way of life without undergoing any sort of conversion," he said.

Superintendent of Police (Palghar) Anil Kumbhare said: "The village has seen several outsiders regularly visiting them and preaching Christianity. On that day, too, some people had come and it led to an internal fight."

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