Killing of Punjabi Pastor Alarms Indian Minorities in North America

“Pastor Sultan Masih’s death is another tragic lynching,” says Sikh human rights activist

SAN JOSE, California, USA—The drive-by shooting of Pastor Sultan Masih in Punjab, India on July 16 is alarming minorities of Indian origin as far away as California.

“We denounce this killing in the strongest terms,” said Bhajan Singh, Founding Director of Organization for Minorities of India (OFMI). “This execution-style murder by unknown assailants appears intended to orchestrate violence and division among India’s many disenfranchised communities. Pastor Sultan Masih’s death is another tragic lynching like so many others India has experienced since 2014. We weep with those who weep, join the call for justice, and pray for peace to prevail in Punjab.”

Sultan Masih was talking on his cellphone outside the Temple of God Church in Ludhiana, Punjab when two masked men on a motorcycle sped by and shot him several times. He was rushed to Dayanand Medical College and Hospital, but succumbed to his wounds and soon died. Masih is survived by wife Sarbjit, son Ali Shah, 26, and daughter Hanok, 18.

“I lift up my prayers for Sultan Masih’s family and parishioners,” Father Joshua Lickter told OFMI. A human rights advocate and priest at Incarnation Anglican Church in Northern California, Fr. Lickter added: “I grieve with them, and I pray that more American Christians would stand in solidarity with him and all of India’s persecuted minorities.”

Open Doors USA, a non-profit organization focused on serving persecuted Christians, ranks the level of persecution in India as “very high” and scores it near the same level as Saudi Arabia. In a 2017 Fact Sheet, they reported: “The level of impunity has gone up markedly, with communities of converts to Christianity from Hinduism bearing the brunt of the persecution.”

At the center of the persecution are Christian pastors, several of whom have suffered extremely violent assaults throughout India in recent months.

Sikhs and other minorities protest mob lynchings in India

In Telangana, on January 21, Pastor K.A. Swamy was distributing Bibles when a mob surrounded him and dragged him to the police station. He was detained at the station overnight and beaten. “I was quite shocked that the police had retained Swamy since morning at the verbal complaint of the Hindu extremists,” said Swamy’s friend R. John Vinay Kumar. After being released in the morning, Swamy fell into a coma. According to doctors, the left side of his brain was bleeding and the right side of his body was paralyzed. On January 27, Pastor Gandham Padma Rao was visiting the home of an elderly church member when a mob surrounded him, began punching and kicking him, and attempted to stone him before nearby villagers intervened. Rao testified to police that his attackers were “members of a Hindu nationalist group,” but later discovered the police refused to record their testimony.

Also in Telangana, on February 16, Pastor Raorukala Samuel was engaging in outdoor preaching with members of his church when a mob surrounded them. “[They] started to beat us,” said Samuel. “[They] threatened to kill us if we continued…. Mr. Srinivas Rao, the MPTC (Mandal Parishad Territorial Constituencies) a local elected official, was leading the group of attackers.” Samuel called the police. “I emphasized the emergency situation, that Christians were being beaten up and needed to be rescued from the hands of the Hindu radicals.” When police finally arrived, he says: “We were threatened by the police as if we were the accused.” Officers refused to file a report and threatened to charge the Christians.

In Bihar, on April 5, Pastor Sikander Kumar was confronted by a mob outside of his home. “When the pastor stepped out, 15 men started beating him and accused him of conversions in the village,” reported fellow pastor Arun Kumar. The mob beat Sikander with iron rods until he fell to the ground with a head wound. He lost his hearing as a result. Police charged no one.

In Tamil Nadu, on May 3, Pastor John Muller returned from a shopping trip to find his church building and his attached home burned to the ground. Muller stated: “We lost everything. My wife is 26 weeks pregnant. We are expecting our first child. We are homeless.” Three days before, the pastor reported, a gang threatened him and told him to leave. Police made no arrests.

“The impunity that allows radical Hindu groups in India to thrive must end,” said Fr. Lickter. “The government has no right to tell the rest of the world they are a democracy while allowing religious persecution of this kind to continue.”

“India has a long history of division caused by Brahmanical forces who employ extreme tactics to split the multitude of minority groups along religious and caste lines for the benefit of the upper echelon of India,” stated Pieter Friedrich, a South Asian Affairs analyst. “Even more disturbing, there have been many instances of quasi-government agencies orchestrating such actions in the past.”

Several high-profile crimes in past years have been exposed as staged incidents, explained Friedrich. “One notable example was the 2001 Chittisinghpura Massacre in which 36 Kashmiri Sikhs were massacred by Indian Army forces who intended to blame the historically unprecedented crime on Muslim extremists,” he said. “Another example is the 2007 Samjhauta Express bombing, which was also initially blamed on Muslims but was eventually pinned on Hindu nationalists linked to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a fascist group affiliated with India’s current ruling party.”

In his personal experience, reported Bhajan Singh, Indian minorities everywhere are finding common ground. “Bahujan Samaj, Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, and other religious and caste-based minorities are coming together to counter the millennia-old tactics of the Brahmanical order in today’s India,” said Singh. “This frightens India’s ruling elite because they profit directly from communal conflict.”

In addition to the ongoing struggle of caste segregation and violence, Christians and Muslims in India face additional discrimination due to accusations by Hindu nationalists of belonging to a “foreign” faith.” Today, five states have active “anti-conversion” laws which generally require government permission before changing faiths; several other states are considering similar laws and the BJP-controlled Union Government has threatened to pass a national law.

OFMI leaders urged the U.S. Congress and other world bodies to speak out against the ongoing oppression of minorities and denounce impunity for the oppressors. Praising the U.S. government for past remarks acknowledging anti-minority violence in India, OFMI cited a 2016 report (PDF link) by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, which states:

“In 2015, religious tolerance deteriorated and religious freedom violations increased in India. Minority communities, especially Christians, Muslims, and Sikhs, experienced numerous incidents of intimidation, harassment, and violence, largely at the hands of Hindu nationalist groups. Members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) tacitly supported these groups and used religiously-divisive language to further inflame tensions. These issues, combined with longstanding problems of police bias and judicial inadequacies, have created a pervasive climate of impunity, where religious minority communities feel increasingly insecure, with no recourse when religiously-motivated crimes occur.… Additionally, the national government or state governments applied several laws to restrict religious conversion, cow slaughter, and foreign funding of NGOs.”


  1. Congress hits on Punjab

    1) 1966 :- Trifurcation of Punjab
    2) 1975 :– Emergency
    3) 1982:- SYL Canal inauguration
    3) 1984 :- Blue star and Genocide
    4) 1985:- Failed Longowal – Rajiv accord

    Congress Gift to Punjab

    1) President Zail Singh
    2) PM Manmohan Singh

  2. Why RSS phobia Hardeep ?
    Had BJP govt been there in 1984 there would have been no Blue star or Genocide-84 would have taken place .
    The 1980-90 events are all EMPIRE sponsored .

  3. Whenever the police or government agencies are unable to find or don’t want to find the culprits who attack the minorities & their religious Granths, everybody knows they are communal forces who belong to majority & sponsored by BJP & RSS.


  5. Just take out

    1) Guns from public of Punjab and leave it only with police and Army
    2) Take out Drugs Lords from Punjab
    3) Keep a Check on FANATICS in Punjab.

    Punjab will become PEACEFUL.

  6. 1) Guns have been pumped into Punjab.
    2) Drugs have been Pumped into Punjab

    It is very important that police keep maintain Law and order or we will be slipping back to the 1980-90 era of

    Indira Gandhi – Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale Punjab

  7. What is likely to happen in Punjab now is that lot of law breakers men in Punjab will be allowed a free run.
    The law will be subverted by not acting against them.
    These men will slowly morph into People like

    1) Hitler
    2) Jarnail Singh
    3) Osama Bin Laden

    and Punjab will gradually begin to look like

    1) Germany of WW-2
    2) Punjab of 1980-90
    3)Syria or Iraq of today.

    Be very careful of

    1) Fanatics
    2) Fascists
    3) Rascists
    4) Imperialists
    5) Hyper Nationalists.

  8. The Congress is back in power in Punjab
    Hope they don’t take Punjab back to the
    COMMUNAL POLITICS of 1980 -90 period.
    People of Punjab need to say NO to

    • Like the Bedabis this too will go undetected.
      The forces behind all the Targetted Killings of Namdhari, RSS ,Shive Senas,Ranjit Singh are much smarter than all the security forces of Punjab or Nation put together.

  9. Most Religion teaches love only for it followers .
    The rest are ignored
    1) For Muslims the non Muslims are KAFIRS
    2) For the Christians non Christians are HEATHENS or PAGANS
    In India no such word is used for Non Hindus or Non Sikhs or Non Jains or Non Buddhists.
    In India every one is free to follow and propagate his religion provided he does not attack some ones else religion.
    India is the most TOLERANT country in the world where all religion live in peace and harmony.

  10. Religion teaches love not hate, humanity not terror, tolerance not intolerance. Attach the whole world with you but for the welfare of humanity, God will bless you all. The communal forces are driving country to wrong direction.

  11. You also don’t understand world Politics.
    RSS is a good organization’s.
    Every religion desires that people get attached to it.
    Don’t you want people should follow Sikhism.

  12. Number one terrorist group in India is RSS & now everyone knows its poisonous secret agenda is against Sikhs, Muslims, Christians & dalits.

  13. BJP and Empire ? Are you Kidding .
    The PLANET EARTH is controlled by the 5 Permanent members of Security council of the UN.
    They are the EMPIRES of the World.
    Don’t you REBEL again .
    Don’t ever EARN the LABEL of

    3) Anti -christ
    4) Gag and Magog ,Ravan or Kauravs

    If you do then your days are numbered.

  14. Punjab Police needs to do lot of work
    1) Check every man staying and coming to Punjab.
    2) Those with criminal back ground need to be deported .
    3) Have an record of every man staying in Punjab.
    4) Stop entery of men with criminal record to Punjab.

    Have an tight control over Punjab.
    To many criminals having a free run in Punjab

  15. This is an TRAP by the Empire.
    The killings have most likely been done by ” Supari Killers”
    They will now put an label on Sikhs of
    1) Anti – Christ
    2) Gog and Amog
    3) Terrorists
    Then they will say sort them out with
    1) KPS Gill-2
    2) Blue Star-2
    3) Genocide-4
    4) Extra Judicial Killings
    5) Rapes,Arson and Pillage.


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