Christian father dies after Indian villagers forcibly immerse him overnight in cold pond

A Christian father died after angry villagers in Kubuaa village in India's Jarkhand state forcibly immersed him and his wife overnight in a cold pond for refusing to renounce their faith.

(REUTERS / Adnan Abidi)Visually-impaired Kartik Ram Sadhu, 67, a follower of Ramnami Samaj, who has tattooed the name of the Hindu god Ram on his body, bathes in a pond in the village of Arjuni, in the eastern state of Chhattisgarh, India, November 15, 2015.

On Sunday, local Christians familiar with the situation told BosNewsLife that a number of residents of Kubuaa village were upset after Bartu Urawn's family rejected their indigenous religion and embraced Christianity. They forced the Christian man and his wife to spend 17 hours in a pond with the frigid water up to their necks.

"All throughout the night, they were in the cold water shivering, and I along with 15 to 20 villagers were witness to the brutality," said Urawn's son Beneswar, according to BosNewsLife. "The villagers kept asking my father if he is ready to forsake Christ and return to the Sarna (tribal religion) fold. He reiterated every time, 'I will not deny Christ ... I will continue to believe till my last breath.'"

According to Beneswar, his 50-year-old father died after suffering two bouts of paralysis caused by nerve damage after spending 17 hours in the frigid pond. He said the villagers pulled the couple out of the water the following morning and struck them before ordering them again to renounce their Christian faith. The wife recovered from the incident but the husband died after being hit by paralysis for the second time on Jan. 20.

Athough relatives reported the incident to the police, the officers only ruled the man's death as a "natural death" and arranged peace talks between the two parties. To make matters worse, the tribal villagers would not allow Urawn to be buried. They said that the whole family should go back to their indigenous faith, advocacy group Voice of the Martyrs Canada said.

Last month, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom released a report saying India will never achieve religious liberty unless it changes its constitution. The organization also asked the U.S. to bring up human rights issues when it conducts trade and diplomatic discussions with the South Asian country, World Watch Monitor relays.

USCIRF notes that India's constitution has provisions for equality among its citizens, but seven states still prohibit religious conversion. Based on Open Doors' latest World Watch List, India ranks 15th among the top 50 countries labeled as the worst Christian persecutors in the world.