NEW DELHI (Morning Star News) – The father of a 7-year-old boy tortured and killed last week in India’s Rajasthan state said police are ignoring his suggestions on possible suspects – Hindu extremists who have long threatened to kill him.
“For the 10 years I have been a Christian, some local Hindu extremists have threatened to kill me and harm my family countless times – the last threat I received was earlier this month, before my son was killed,” Harish Gemethi told Morning Star News. “I have repeatedly mentioned the names of these people who constantly threatened to take my life and my family in connection to my son’s death to the police, but sadly they are not paying heed to my suggestions.”
The threats against Gemethi of the Believers Church in Gamidi village, Dungerpur District, began soon after Gemethi and 45 people put their faith in Christ after witnessing the miraculous healing of his older brother in 2003.
The body of his small son, Anugrag Gemethi, nicknamed Anmol, was found in a pond on Nov. 18 after he failed to return home from a friend’s house the previous day. His face was mutilated beyond recognition, there were burn marks on his stomach, his toes were chopped off and one hand and arm were deeply slashed, Gemethi said.
“My son’s face looked as if he had been burned up,” he said. “His eyes, nose and ears were gone, and there was nothing that supported his neck.”
An autopsy report denoted only drowning as the cause of death and, except for mention of “animal bites,” said the body was otherwise “normal” – contrary to the mutilation seen in a photograph of the body obtained by Morning Star News. Five witnesses at the hospital at the time of the post mortem told the doctor who did it that the body was far from normal and that there were severe marks of torture, but he ignored them, Gemethi said.
The Rev. P.S. Jose, diocesan secretary of the Believers Church in Rajasthan, stated in a letter to the chairman of the State Minority Commission that police have been slow to investigate. He urged the commission to arbitrate a case of severe brutality against Christians and bring justice to the bereaved family.
“His body was found in a small pond in Tadi Obri, where opposition against the Christians is strong,” Jose told Morning Star News. “The innocent child was killed in an inhumane and barbaric manner. We are deeply hurt by this incident, and it is a clear evidence of atrocity against minorities.”
Asked about accusations regarding the autopsy and lax prosecution, Sadar Thana Police Inspector Man Singh told Morning Star News only that the cause of death was drowning but that police were investigating. He denied having received any names of suspects from Gemethi.
Attorney Tehmina Arora of Alliance Defending Freedom-India said the murder shows how elusive religious freedom is in India.
“This is a tragic and brutal killing of a young child, seemingly to curb the free exercise of his and his parents’ religious beliefs,” she said. “In a nation where we have constitutionally guaranteed freedom of conscience and religion, no one should be targeted, let alone murdered, for their faith. This is a sad and painful reminder of how far we have to travel before these fundamental rights become a reality.”
In the same village in September, Hindu extremists stopped the prayer meeting of Believers Church led by the Rev. James Dhilal and threatened to kill him if he continued doing so. Seven years ago in the same village, a Christian woman was murdered in a similar way, church leaders said.
Police have registered a First Information Report against unidentified assailants, but no arrests had been made at press time.
Anugrag never returned home after waving goodbye to his parents as he went to Sunday school at about 10 a.m. on Nov. 17, church leaders said, adding that he was an active Christian who loved Jesus.
After the Sunday worship service, he visited the Christian family of Mani Lal in Tadi Obri about one kilometer from his village and ate lunch with them.
“Mani Lal has five children who were Anugrag’s friends, and he sometimes stayed overnight at their home,” Gemethi said. “But he left their home after lunch after he told them that he needed to go to school the next day.”
Thinking the boy had stayed to play with his friends, Gemethi and his wife only began to worry when Anugrag did not return home that evening; they begin to search for him.
“I called up friends and relatives, and the people who last saw Anugrag were Mani Lal’s children when he crossed a small bridge that connect the two villages and disappeared thereafter,” Gemethi said.
The next day, Gemethi submitted a missing person report at Sadar Thana police station. The small Christian community, friends and relatives continued to search, finding his body floating in a pond at about 4:30 p.m. Though only 20 minutes away, police did not show up until 7 p.m., Gemethi said.
“He was a very special boy, always ready to go to church to worship Jesus, and he was also a good student,” his father said.
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