‘Threats will not deter me’, says beaten pastor
Almost a month ago a mob of about 150-200 men of the Sikh community barged into the house of Angrej Singh, where Pastor Jagdish Gill and his 24-year-old nephew, Johnson Raj were visiting.
The mob caught hold of Gill and dragged him to the nearest Gurudwara (Sikh Temple). More people joined swelling the mob to around 600 including members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) – a Hindu right-wing nationalist organization.
The mob manhandled Gill, beat him and abused him as they headed towards the Sikh temple in Bangawan village, district Udham Singh Nagar of the Indian state of Uttrakhand.
They not only forcibly bowed Gill’s head before the Holy Book of the Sikh but also insisted that he consumes ‘Prashad’, the sacrificed food.
According to Sikh customs, anybody entering the Gurudwara has to cover their head, and thus Gill was also asked by the mob to cover his head as he was forced into the Sikh temple. “I decisively told the crowd that my Holy Book prohibits me to cover my head. And when my assaulters asked me to bow my head down before their Holy Book, I plainly refused saying, ‘Chop my head off my shoulders, but dare I worship anything else’ and then they caught hold of my head and thrusted it before their sacred place inside the temple,” said Jagdish Gill in an interview with Global Christian News.
“For three hours my father was held in the Gurudwara against his wishes before they handed him to the police. My uncle and his family frantically searched for dad,” said Jerald Gill, the younger son of Pastor Gill.
Gill was taken to Khatima police station by the mob and a case was registered against him.
Gill was held in the police station for a night and then sent to Haldwani jail. He was released on bail on 30 July 2016.
During the physical assault Gill sustained a lot of internal injuries and underwent a number of tests to make sure his internal organs were fine. A month after the assault, Gill is still under medication and recovering from pain in his neck, back of his ear and part of his head where he was repeatedly beaten by the mob.
Almost a month after the 59-year-old pastor was attacked and in spite of the release of videos of the attacks on social media no arrests have been made.
Pastor Gill, runs his own church by the name of Eternal Life Pentecostal Church with about 60 members attending Sunday Service every Sunday.
Fourteen families from the Sikh community had started to attend Gill’s church for in the past year. “They had encountered various healing experiences after they started to attend our Church,” said Praveen Raj, Pastor Gill’s sister-in-law. The Sikh community was angry at this.
“We have not suspended any Church service since the attack. Around 12 people from the Sikh converts attended Church on 31 July and reported that they were threatened on the way by some members of the Sikh community and were warned not to continue to attend Church or they would be killed. After the service a few men from the Sikh community came to the Church gate and argued with Praveen Raj asking her, why do they not stop the Sikh people from entering Church. She told them, “How can we refuse people to enter Church? Their families and children have received healing and they are getting spiritual food to eat. They come by their own free will. We have neither forced anybody nor can we stop anyone,” said Praveen Raj.
In spite of police protection provided to the Church on the first Sunday of August only two families from amongst the Sikh convert attended Church. “My congregation is reduced to half, due to threats received by the Sikh converts,” said Gill.
“Since this Church was established in 1992, we have organized several open meetings and this has never happened in the past. We could see that few RSS members had instigated the Sikh community to question us and attack us,” exclaimed Gill.
The mob after noticing that Gill was not intimidated by the attack took him outside the Sikh temple and made him sit there and asked him questions about his faith in Christ.
“I got several opportunities to tell the crowd the reason for my faith, the sacrificial death of Christ on the cross, his suffering, death and resurrection,” said Gill.