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Christian pastor murdered in India after threats from Hindu nationalists

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MUMBAI, India — A Christian pastor has been murdered in India days after being threatened by Hindu nationalists.

Yalam Sankar, 50, was stabbed to death on March 17 by five men who dragged him from his house in Angampalli village in Bijhapur district of central Chhattisgarh state. India.

According to local Christians, the pastor had been warned by a Hindu nationalist against preaching Christianity and had been threatened with death.

Sankar is survived by his wife, two sons and grandchildren. He was a former sarpanch, or village chief, and was known for defending Christians against Hindu nationalists.

Police say the pastor was killed by Naxals, the local Maoist militants, who suspected him of being a police informant.

“According to preliminary information, a group of suspected armed Naxals entered the house of local pastor Yalam Shankar and dragged him outside. They attacked him with sharp weapons, killing him instantly,” a police official said.

According to the police, a handwritten note was recovered in which the Maoists claimed responsibility for the murder.

However, Father Vincent Ekka, head of the tribal studies department at the Jesuit-run Indian Social Institute in New Delhi, said it is common to allege someone was a Naxal or informant of the police when a revenge killing takes place.

“Usually the Naxals make sure of the facts before they act. In the case of Pastor Yallam Shankar, it seems, he was only suspected of being a police informant. Second, the police department denies any contact or association with the pastor,” he told Crux.

“Another angle of the whole episode indicates the hatred and revenge of the fringes of anti-Christians. In the Bastar region, there is more and more violence and hatred against Christians, whether they are tribal, pastors or missionaries,” Ekka said.

“It could also be that the perpetrators are not Naxals, but that under the garb of Naxals, anti-Christian fringes may also be involved in the murder of Pastor Shankar and in doing so, they kill two birds with the same arrow. Either way, the social dynamics and peace in the community are disrupted,” he said.