09/29/2021, 15.30
INDIA
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In Bihar Dalit Christian boy dies from acid attack, labelled suicide by police

by Nirmala Carvalho

A 14-year-old boy suffered burns to 70 per cent of his body. Local Christians complain of ongoing intimidation by Hindu nationalist, but the authorities refuse to investigate. For Bishop Sarat Chandra Nayak, Dalit Christians are the victims of double discrimination.

Patna (AsiaNews) – A 14-year-old Dalit Christian boy died in the Indian State of Bihar following an acid attack. Police labels the case suicide to avoid investigating an incident probably related to Hindu extremism.

Nitish Kumar, an eight grader in Gaya district, died on Sunday at a Patna hospital after struggling for more than a month with severe burns on more than 70 percent of his body, The Telegraph (India) reported.

Despite his death, the authorities have failed to open an investigation, claiming that the boy threw the acid on himself following a family quarrel over a hair cut.

The dead boy’s older brother Sanjeet tells another story, describing increasingly serious threats over recent months from Hindu extremists, of strangers who on the morning of 11 August threw acid at the boy from a motorcycle while the two brothers were going to buy vegetables.

Nitish’s father is a rickshaw driver in the village of Kamta Nagar. Five years ago, he and his family became Christian. When the parents arrived at the hospital with Nitish, they were terrified.

After the police refused to open an investigation, even after the death, the family asked that the body to be buried immediately even though the law requires a mandatory autopsy in case of unnatural death.

Dr Kamod Narayan Tiwary, owner of the hospital, says that he informed the police but the latter refused to get involved in the case. At that point, he gave the green light for the burial.

In Gaya district, a local Christian told The Telegraph that Nitish's family and other people received threats from people who " sported saffron gamchhas (scarves), turbans and kurtas (collarless shirts)”. Saffron is a colour closely associated with Hindu nationalists.

“We are afraid to go to the police because our homes, land and businesses are here,” the Christian added.

For Fr Devasagayaraj M Zackarias, former national secretary of the office for disadvantaged castes of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI), “Freedom of religion is at stake in India especially under the BJP government at the centre.”

“Throwing acid on a minor Dalit Christian for practising is a barbaric act,” He added. “The family is threated. They need protection as we seek justice for the death of the boy.”

"From many sources we know that in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh many Dalit Christians are attacked for their faith with murders, rapes, assaults and intimidation,” said Bishop Sarat Chandra Nayak, chairman of the CBCI’s Office for Scheduled Castes and Backward Classes.

“Dalits are at least half of the Christian population and suffer from an increasing level of violence against them and a double discrimination,” the prelate explained.

For this reason, “The authorities must do their duty and protect the most vulnerable instead of de facto denying that India is a democratic country that promotes the development of everyone.”

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