A street in a village in India. (Photo: World Watch Monitor)

An Indian man who had become a Christian last year was killed and beheaded in eastern India earlier this month, reports Persecution Relief.

On 11 February, Anant Ram Gand, 40, was taken from his home in the village of Raigarh Tehsil, in the district of Nabarangapur, Odisha, by three men who killed him and left his decapitated body in the middle of the road.

At the time, his wife Sukbati, 38, was away with their four daughters and Anant was at home alone with his 6-year-old son.

Since his conversion to Christianity nine months ago, Anant and his family had been harassed by the villagers, the news site reported.

They were not only stopped from getting water from the public well, “he was beaten twice in 2018, and excommunicated from the village. He moved his family away … and was living a kilometer away from the village”.

Local residents said Hindu militants in the village contracted the Naxal, and Indian Maoist guerrilla group, to kill him, AsiaNews reported. At some point he had been supportive of the guerrilla group and although “he was never a part of the fighters … the Hindus made the Naxals believe that the Christian would reveal their secrets to the police. Instead, Anant Ram was no enemy of anyone”, said Shibu Thomas of the Persecution Relief Network.

India has seen a wave of anti-Christian violence in recent years, with a notable increase since Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist BJP came to power in 2014.

States with so-called “anti-conversion laws”, such as Odisha, have been particularly affected. The laws on their face are meant to prevent forced conversions, but in effect are used as a pretext to anti-minority harassment. Those accused of attempting to convert others to another religion often face mob violence.

Watchdog charity Open Doors said in a recent report that another “driver” of persecution in India is the Hindutva ideology, which equates Indian identity with Hinduism.