According to reports from a new Delhi Online News site (Morning Star News), the body of a widow, Bajjo Bai Mandavi, persecuted by Tribal was found severely mutilated in the wilderness near her village in Chhattisgarh, India, sources said.
40-year-old Bajjo Bai Mandavi, mother of four, was last seen going into the wilderness of Kondagon District to collect firewood on May 25. When her body was discovered four days later, it was initially unrecognizable as it appeared to have been eaten by wild animals.
She had received several death threats, suffered deprivation of water and shunned at the hands of villagers who were upset that she left their Hindu and traditional tribal rituals for Christianity. Family members and area Christian leaders are forced to believe she was raped and killed before animals fed on her body.
According to what the area pastor Rupesh Kumar told the Morning Star News, villagers had met four times to discuss action against her.
“She was threatened and asked to leave her faith and re-convert, but she boldly took a stand for her faith,” said Pastor Salam, who leads a church of about 120 people in nearby Kue Mari.
Bajjo Bai Mandavi had attended Sunday services there regularly with her four children. In Kumud village, hers was one of just two Christian families among 21 other families.
The Pastor says Bajjo was prohibited from fetching water from the common village tap so she was forced to walk miles for it.
“She bravely fought all the odds and refused to deny her faith even after she started to receive death threats from the Hindu extremist villagers,” Pastor Salam says. “Bajjo Bai became a Christian a little more than three years ago, and since then had faced severe opposition from the villagers.”
Bajju is said to have talked regularly about the threats and shunning she and her children faced from the tribal Hindu villagers.
“I always told her that we are praying for her and that everything will be fine – we could never imagine that she would face such brutality,” Pastor Salam said. “She was raped and then murdered by religious extremists for her Christian faith.”
The remains of the semi-naked body were found in the wilderness by the driver of a passing tractor loaded with road construction material, Pastor Salam said.
The driver notified police, and Christians arrived at the site of the body with officers, he said.
The village chief and four other area mountain villages, denied any foul play and believe she was probably killed by a wild animal. The village chief said it was common for wild animals to attack humans in the wilderness but admitted that no such attack had ever taken place in the area where she was collecting firewood. He said the last attack took place three years ago in a far different part of the wilderness.
However, the police/autopsy report is yet to be seen by family members and church leaders also have not received a copy of the police report.
Bajjo Bai Mandavi’s brother-in-law Bhajnath Mandavi is now caring for the deceased’s two younger children. The 12-year-old child has been living with another relative 30 miles away for the past year, while the oldest son, who is a contract labourer in Tamil Nadu state, was forced to miss the funeral due to travel restrictions.
“I am still in shock. I do not know what the future of her four children will be,” said Mandavi, who also was unable to attend his sister-in-law’s funeral due to coronavirus travel restrictions.
Bajjo Bai Mandavi had supported her family as a daily-wage labourer. A senior pastor and Christian leader in the area said converts to Christianity in India’s rural areas increasingly face the threats and shunning she suffered.
Another Pastor, Son Singh told Morning Star News, “Social boycott is very real. It is practiced even against high-ranking government officials when they accept Christ, so what can we say about this woman who was just a poor person and also a widow?”
Chhattisgarh Christian Forum President Arun Pannalal told the Morning Star News that Bajjo Bai Mandavi’s death exemplifies violence against Christians that is routinely dismissed. According to him, it is a crime against a minority community, and the authorities are yet to do anything about it. “The Chhattisgarh Christian Forum will move to the High Court if this matter is not taken seriously,” Pannalal said.
India is ranked 10th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2020 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian. The country was 31st in 2013, but its position has worsened since Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in 2014.