A 26-year-old Christian mother was killed by Hindus last week in Jharkhand state's Khunti District in east India after she refused to hand her daughter over to be raped.
Around 1 a.m., Sunita Devi, whose name has been altered for security purposes, spotted two masked men outside the bedroom window where she was sleeping with her children. She attempted to send them away, but was killed during the confrontation.
"Unaware of their intentions, Devi with the help of her cell phone torch, stepped out of the house to shoo the men away," pastor Jaymasih Nag of Grace Family Ministry told Morning Star News. "Devi's daughter followed her mother. Before long, the men attacked Devi and she fell on the ground dead. On seeing her mother fall on the ground, the minor girl quickly ran inside the house and latched the door from inside."
According to local police, the two assailants dragged Devi's body into a nearby jungle, placed the corpse into a sack, and disposed of it into the river about two miles from her home. Police found her body around 2 p.m. the same day.
Nag said the two men "had raped Devi's minor daughter three times in the past" along with "three other Christian juvenile girls."
Devi's daughter told police that the men had previously called Devi with demands to hand her daughter over to be sexually abused. Devi had ignored a phone call from the assailants the night of the incident.
Devi's husband and the parents of another rape victim went to police only after Devi's killing. Khunti Police Chief Jaideep Toppo said his department arrested two suspects based on the parents' testimony, but did not charge them with killing Devi.
"At the complaint of the two minor girls, we arrested two suspects, and they have confessed to their crime of raping Devi's daughter three times and the other girl once," Toppo told Morning Star News. "The two men are arrested for rape and not killing."
The two Hindu men arrested live in Saridkel village, where Nag has held worship services for the past 12 years. It is located less than a mile away from Regadi village where Devi lived with her family.
Nag said young girls from Christian homes are often targeted by Hindus who convince other tribal religions to join them in trying to drive out Christians.
Sandeep Oraon, a Christian leader from Ranchi, India, said Christians are "soft targets."
"The underlying factor of such incidents are always because of their faith," Oraon told Morning Star News. "This belt of Jharkhand has been witnessing rising persecution, and it is very real for the Christians who are living it every day."
Devi was the fifth Christian in two months to be killed in India.