Devra village is a remote tribal hamlet in the central Indian state of Madya Pradesh where people are mainly laborers or farmers. In a corner of the village is a Christian cemetery where there is a grave for an unborn child with no epitaph. The child, a boy, was killed in the womb of his mother “because of her faith.”
On Dec. 30, last year Christian farmer Rakesh Allawi, 28, from the village took his eight-month pregnant spouse, Leela Bia, to her relative’s home located several miles away to join prayers on New Year’s Eve.
But once there Rakesh had to return to his home village to tend to some work matters.
“Attend the prayer and pray to Lord for the family and our well-being,” Rakesh told his wife as he left.
A few hours later, some 30 hard-line Hindu men shouting anti-Christian slogans barged into the house where the prayer meeting was about to commence.
First, they ridiculed those attending the meeting for changing their faith, and then began beating them up.
Pregnant Leela, who had been a Christian for only two years, tried hiding behind a door but was found and dragged out and abused for converting.
“I didn’t convert. I turned to my Lord for peace. I didn’t convert,” Leela said recalling what she told the men before she was hit hard from behind.
Leela fell on the floor and she was then kicked in her belly, the force of which left her unconscious.
“Moments later, I regained my senses and the attackers weren’t around. I was surrounded by my relatives who called an ambulance and I was taken to a local health center,” Leela told LiCAS.news.
“I was dying from the pain but the staff in the hospital refused to help me properly. Perhaps they were threatened by the fanatics and that is why they refused to attend to me. I was then referred to Thikiri Hospital where I gave birth to a stillborn baby. He was a baby boy,” Leela said.
Her husband was unaware of the incident until he was called by one of his relatives and he made his way to the hospital as fast as possible.
When Rakesh finally reached the hospital, he found his stillborn baby draped in a used cotton cloth and his wife sobbing inconsolably.
“I was distraught. I didn’t know what to think or what to say. Everything around me was fading and looked like it wasn’t real,” Rakesh said.
“Our child in the womb for eight months was killed because he would be born in a family that believes in Jesus Christ,” he said.
“I took my wife along and we buried the child in a nearby cemetery. She often goes there even today and weeps quietly beside the little grave.”
After the incident the couple went to the police to file a report against the culprits, but the police were not helpful. Station officials told them to wait in the corridor and later they were told to come the next day and then the next. Till now, there has been no complaint registered against the attackers by the police.
According to Shibu Thomas, from Prosecution Relief, the denial of justice to victims of hate crimes doesn’t only exhaust the victims trying to seek justice but also gives confidence to hardliners that they are free to commit crimes with impunity.
“Radical Hindu nationalists continue to use false allegations of fraudulent religious conversions to justify anti-Christian violence and police look the other way,” he said.