By BosNewsLife Asia Service with reporting by BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos
NEW DELHI, INDIA (BosNewsLife)-- Grieving family members were still awaiting justice Friday, January 3, in northern India, more than a month after a seven-year-old Christian boy was allegedly tortured and killed by Hindu militants because of his faith in Jesus Christ.
Local authorities initially said a postmortem showed that Anugrag Gemethi, nicknamed Anmol, "drowned" outside the village of Gamidi in the Dungerpur district of India's Rajasthan state.
However his father, Harish Gemethi, and rights investigators have accused police and doctors of conspiring to shield the killers.
"Doctors spoiled the first postmortem by saying that the death happened due to drowning and the police are going by the report," he said in published remarks.
"It is the handiwork of Hindu fundamentalists. They had earlier also threatened us not to come to the village because of our faith," added Gemethi, who has demanded a second postmortem.
Christians said Anmol’s broken body was found floating in a pond on November 18, a day after he left for Sunday school at the evangelical local Believers Church congregation. The child's face was mutilated beyond recognition, there were burn marks on his stomach, his toes were chopped off, and one hand and leg were deeply slashed, Gemethi told reporters.
CONTROVERSIAL AUTOPSY REPORT
Yet the autopsy report said the boy drowned while other injuries were caused by "animal bites", according to Christians who saw the document.
Five witnesses at the hospital reportedly said, however, that the body had obvious signs of torture, ignored by doctors.
Anmol’s death has devastated the Christian community in Gamidi, where some 200 believers attended the emotionally-charged funeral, local Christians said.
Protestant Pastor P.S. Jose, of the Believers Church denomination in Rajasthan complained in an open latter about "the serious delay of the police in their investigations." He said he is concerned about the "severe brutality against Christians" and called for "justice for a grieving family."
The reported murder followed Hindu pressure on Anmol and other family members, said well-informed mission group Gospel for Asia (GFA), which supports the Believers Church.
FAMILY IS THREATENED
"Anmol’s family has been a main target for persecution since 2003, when Harish [Gemethi] made the decision to live for Jesus Christ after witnessing the miraculous healing of his older brother who had been sick for a long time," GFA said.
Along with Harish Gemethi, 45 people "came to know the saving grace of Jesus and were added to the church because of this healing," GFA added in a statement. Later, distant relatives also became Christians "through Harish’s witness", despite Hindu opposition, the group claimed.
GFA's founder and international director, K.P. Yohannan, said the murder was part of a wider campaign against the spread of Christianity in India, a predominantly Hindu nation. "Persecution against Christians is an ongoing matter that we see happening every week. In fact, it’s increased by 400 percent in the last several years," he explained.
However, "the killing of a little child like this is unheard of. Our people are already there to comfort and meet the needs of the family," Yohannan said.
Several Christian groups have launched a campaign urging India's leadership to investigate the murder and to increase protection of Christians, who comprise roughly two percent of the country's more than 1.2 billion people.
(BosNewsLife, the first truly independent news agency covering persecuted Christians, is 'Breaking the News for Compassionate Professionals' since 2004).
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