*Representative photo used to protect identity.
On March 12 in a southeast India village, the local newspaper published allegations that the Divya Jyoti Church had been built on government land.
The next day, a crowd equipped with a backhoe, demolished the small church building, with no resistance from the leaders of Guriya Village, in Chhattisgarh state.
Pastor Budhram Baghel said the church building had stood on land belonging to him.
“A temporary shed had been constructed in 2006 on this land, after gaining permission from the authorities and the shed was later replaced by a permanent building,” said Rev. Rakesh Dass, a friend of Bahel’s.
Three residents of Gadia village, filed a complaint that the building encroached on government land. Their allegations were published in the local newspaper, Dass said.
The crowd arrived the next day, led by Kailash Rathi and Yogendra Kaushik, officers of the local Visva Hindu Parisad, or VHP, a Hindu nationalist organization.
Budhram tried to summon help, but it did not arrive quickly enough to prevent the demolition.
Those who protested were assaulted by members of the crowd, Christian witnesses said. They said several local officials, including the revenue officer, land officer, village head, police chief and a group of police officers, watched the demolition without objection.