Sunday, December 12, 2004

Pastor Beaten up in Rajasthan

19 hours on 10 December 2004.

Place: Sevana under the Dalot police station in Chittorgarh District of Rajasthan.

Mohan Rawat (21) and Shyam Lal (21), pastors working under Good Shepherd Christian Community, were proceeding to participate in a whole night prayer service at a house belonging to one of the believers. A group of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) men, led by local leader Prakash Kharadi, pounced up on the pastors and started to manhandle them.

They did not stop there. They dragged the two pastors to the house where the prayer was being held. They accused them of converting the people in the area. When the police arrived on the scene on receiving the information, they quietly left the place. Under the protection offered by the police, they went ahead with the prayer meeting.

The injured pastors were taken to a nearby hospital where they were given first aid. Then they went to police station and filed an FIR. But that failed to deter the RSS men, who were bent on driving the pastors away. They came again the following night and threatened them.

Friday, July 16, 2004

Christians Locked Up In Jail As Social Pressure Mounts Against Christians In Maharashtra

By Vijayesh Lal

15th July 2004 : Shaler Village, Satana, Taluk, Nashik District, Maharashtra: Motiram Borde, a Christian villager and his teenage son, Bhagwan, were forcibly locked up in the police station. They were arrested on the pretext of investigation as disputes arose among Christians and Hindus in the village. They were let off two days later on bail but the social pressure against Christians in the Shaler Village stays intense.

Satana Taluk, Nashik: More than 10 years ago the first missionaries from FMPB (Friends Missionary Prayer Band) arrived in the Shaler village with the good news of Jesus Christ. About 20 families accepted their message and embraced "Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior without any force or inducement."

Life did not change for the Christians in the village, they still went about their daily chores as they did in the past and the relations with the villagers and elders remained friendly. But in the year 2002 volunteers from the RSS and the fundamentalist’s organizations began visiting the villagers. It was then that trouble started for the missionaries and the Christian families in Shaler village.

Starting from April 2003 there have been around 10 incidents of attacks and threats on the small Christian community in the village. Some of the incidents are given below:

28th April 2003: Christians were meeting for prayer meetings when the Sarpanch (Village Elder) Shatesingh Sadashiv More, and a mob attacked them and forced them to stop the prayer meeting. The Christians were threatened with dire consequences and were told that their houses will be burned down if they continued meeting for prayer.

7th July 2003: The sarpanch and a group of people attacked Missionaries and local evangelists again. They made them leave the village by force. The Christians registered their complain with the local police station (Jaikhedan) but no action has been taken till date.

19th December 2003: A Christian prayer meeting was disrupted by an unidentified mob. The Christians were forced to worship idols that the mob brought with them. They also forced to Christians to wear malas (Hindu religious necklaces) and gave them pictures of Hindu gods in order to facilitate their worship.

5th January 2004: The RSS and its volunteers spread rumors about Christians breaking and desecrating a Hindu temple about a kilometer away from the village. They employed a local newspaper for the purpose too and hence carried out a systematic disinformation campaign against the Christians. The news was eventually found to be misleading but Christians have had to pay a price.

6th January 2004: The local police inspector from Jaikhedan threatened Christians with dire consequences if they did not give up their faith in Christ. He was accompanied by a rowdy mob and they manhandled some of the Christians. The Christians were accused of breaking the temple and were threatened of arrest by the local police.

7th January 2004: Four Christians were arrested and kept in police custody for about a week. They were released on bail later.

The latest incident too is in the line of the events outlined above.

Appa Sonu Borde, has a land of about 5 acres which he has been cultivating for the past 25 years. He has the proper papers of the land and even pays his taxes. But now the revenue inspector has told him that he can no longer have his land. What is more atrocious is that the revenue inspector, has sold off his land by auction, to someone else. Borde has been told that if he tries to get his land back or makes an appeal he will be killed. All this has happened to Borde just because he accepted Christianity a few years back. He says that people were after his property and his being a Christian gave them a good excuse to take it away by force.

It was in this context that the police called Motiram Borde and his son, Bhagwan to the police station for investigation and arrested them when they got there. False charges have been framed against them and they have been dragged in a long legal battle unnecessarily. The villagers and the police are threatening Christian families in the village day and night. They Christians are being forced to renounce Christianity and reconvert to Hinduism otherwise their would be burned down and they will be forced to leave the village.

This has created a lot of tension in the village with the lines now clearly drawn between Hindus and Christians. The systematic disinformation campaign of the RSS and its allies has paid off in Shaler village. The Christians, meanwhile have appealed to the worldwide community to help them to safeguard their rights.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Pastor Brutally Attacked in Tripura Village

Intruders use knives, spears to attack a local missionary and his family.
By Vijayesh Lal

DELHI, July 2 -- An Indian pastor brutally beaten in an attack in West Tripura in late April is still recovering from serious knife wounds.

Letthang Gangte, a missionary sent out by the Evangelical Congregational Church of India, received cuts to the head and back, and a deep stab wound in the stomach. His wife and two young children were also severely injured.

However, police have insisted that until the family can identify and name the perpetrators, no action will be taken.

Gangte and his wife were awakened around 3 a.m. on April 19 by a group of men armed with knives and spears who had broken into their small mud hut in the village of Rajghat, West Tripura.

His wife screamed and Gangte attempted to fight back. Meanwhile, a heavy storm drowned out the sounds of the struggle. By the time Gangte managed to escape and alert the neighbors, all four members of his family were seriously injured.

In the thick darkness of the storm it was impossible to see the faces of the intruders. The pastor and his wife say there were at least eight, and possibly ten, men in the group.

The neighbors immediately called the police, but when they arrived, the intruders had left, taking with them some of the families' belongings.
The pastor and his family were then taken to Agartala Hospital for treatment. Gangte was covered in blood after receiving a number of severe head injuries, two deep cuts across his shoulder and a deep stab wound to his abdomen. He also suffered a broken bone.

Witnesses say it was a miracle that Gangte survived.

His wife sustained injuries to her head and one arm. Their daughter Bebem, 7, and son Bawilun, 10, were treated for slashes on their calves and thighs.

The family comes from a village in Manipur, northeast India. The Evangelical Synod Church, a constituent member of the Evangelical Congregational Church of India, sent them to Rajghat village as missionaries in 1995.

Even before they arrived, signs of trouble surfaced. Another local missionary was attacked on the night of December 5, 2002. He was slashed six times with a knife on his head and other parts of his body. The incident so disturbed him that he was recalled from the village.

Local Christians believe both attacks were carried out by the same assailants.

Gangte wants to return to the village, despite the intimidation. "I will not leave, even if it means the end of life for myself and my family," he told us through his leaders.

However, his family is still traumatized after the attack. They are living in safety outside the village, but both children continue to have nightmares and are afraid to sleep in the dark.

In an effort to safeguard the family on their return, the sending church has drawn up plans for the construction of a brick house which could provide more protection than the mud hut the family occupied. The hut's walls had softened during the rain storm, allowing the attackers to break in easily.

One local Christian told us that the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), two organizations known for their extreme Hindu beliefs, are very active in the region. The RSS insists the tribal people should not convert to what they call Christian "slavery." Both organizations have launched a propaganda campaign to convince tribal people who have converted to Christianity from animist religions that they were actually Hindus.

If tribal people do become Hindus, they are automatically placed on the lowest level of India’s caste system as "Dalits" ("Untouchables"). Only the most menial jobs are allotted to Dalits; higher-paid employment is reserved for people of higher castes.

The Christian church, on the other hand, is committed to raising the standard of education and employment for tribal people.

Theoretically, a non-Hindu tribal person is not subject to the caste system. Therefore when tribal people reject animism and turn to Christ, their conversion threatens the very fabric of Hindu society.

Gangte and his family are still recovering from their ordeal. Their sending church requested the police to carry out an investigation in Rajghat, but the officers refused, saying Gangte must first positively identify the men who attacked him. Gangte is reluctant to do so, fearing reprisals against himself and his family.
The church is currently seeking legal advice.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Christian Women Beaten, Humiliated for Refusing to Deny Christ

(Compass) -- Christian women from Orissa state, India, suffered beatings and public humiliation for refusing to give up their faith. According to media reports, a group of Hindu extremists dragged eight women, including two 15-year-old girls, out of their homes on February 6 while their male family members were at work. Attackers beat the women severely with sticks and sandals. When they attempted to resist, their clothes were torn from them and they were forced to walk naked through the village.

The extremists tried to persuade the women to renounce Christianity. When they refused, their attackers forcibly shaved the crown of their heads.

The act of "tonsuring," or shaving the crown of the head, is a religious ritual normally reserved for priests and monks.

None of the women from the surrounding houses came to their rescue, even though the Christian women called for help.

When the attackers made further threats against them, the women and their families fled from the villages of Kilipala and Kanimul, in the Jagatsinghpur district of Orissa. About 20 people, including two infants, took shelter in an evangelical church in the capital city of Bhubaneshwar.

New Delhi Television recently found the families in the church and interviewed the women. Despite the humiliation they had suffered, the women insisted that their faith in Christ remained firm and they would not re-convert to Hinduism.

"The villagers tortured and humiliated me before forcibly tonsuring my head. They didn't even spare my daughter," said Sanjukta Kandi, one of the victims.

According to the women, the mob that attacked them contained about 45 villagers, some of whom were their own relatives.

Tensions have flared over the incident, and family members of the victims are still afraid to return home. The women are receiving pastoral care and support from the church in Bhubaneshwar. However, the pastor is reluctant to discuss his involvement, fearing Hindu reprisals against the church.

Local police have talked to victims and witnesses, but have not followed correct legal procedure. For example, there was no female constable present during the investigation, contrary to legal requirements.

There was also a considerable delay before the women were allowed to file a First Information Report (FIR), in which they named 35 people responsible for the attack.

Some of the attackers named in the FIR were Hindu relatives of the victims.

Dayal Gangwar, the district superintendent of police, said the women had converted to Christianity only recently, after contact with a village resident who had been a Christian for nine years. According to Gangwar, there was no attempt to forcibly convert the families. Regular visits and prayer had convinced them to believe in Christ, he said.

Christian workers from Bhubaneshwar told Compass that Hindu extremists are actively working in the area to "create awareness about the evils of Christianity" among the villagers. Representatives of Hindu organizations such as the Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad have been appointed in each village to report any signs of missionary or evangelistic activity.

Orissa is already notorious for its violence against Christians. It was in this state in January 1999 that Hindu extremists murdered Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two young sons.

There have also been a number of reports in the past few years of women in various parts of the state being stripped and having their heads shaved after being branded as "witches."

The district administration has promised to take legal action over the recent attack. However, at press time no arrests had been made.

Pastor beaten up in Police lockup

Mahmudpur Katawa, Sultanpur District, UP
According to reports received, a pastor was arrested on charges of converting people; later on he was beaten in the local police station. The situation in Mahmudpur remains tense as Christians are increasingly under pressure.
Ram Prakash, a lay pastor in Sultanpur area in Uttar Pradesh was visiting Harish Chandra a Christian and his distant relative in a Dalit (Untouchable) colony on February 6th, 2004 when local High Caste Hindu leaders seized him. They were leading a mob of about 200 people. Accusing him of converting the locals they were roughing him up mercilessly when Harish Chandra took initiative, seized and locked up Ram Prakash inside his house in order to protect him.
The crowd then entered his house beating up both Harish Chandra and his wife. They misbehaved with the women in the home, and used abusive language against Christians. Meanwhile Ram Prakash called the police using his mobile phone, which was later taken away by the mob.
Soon the Police intervened and arrested Ram Prakash instead. He was taken to the local police station where he was detained on the pretext of investigation. According to reports received the Police Sub Inspector SI Anand Singh Thakur and three other constables beat him up mercilessly in the police station on the same night. They kept accusing him of being an American Agent and forced him to say "Jai Shri Ram!" (Victory be to Ram) and "Jai Mata Di" (Victory be to the goddess durga).
Ram Prakash was beaten up mercilessly and one can still see the wounds on his body. After he was released on Bail, a medical examination was done where in the doctors confirmed the injuries on his body. Meanwhile a false case has been made against Ram Prakash and he has been accused of spreading communal tension under section 151 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The local leaders who created all the trouble have not been arrested; the violence against Ram Prakash has been explained away as an outburst of an angry mob. When the correspondent spoke to the Police personnel he was told blankly that if Ram Prakash continues to proclaim Jesus in a Hindu environment this is bound to happen especially when a Hindutva wave is sweeping the country.
The High caste Hindu leaders have a lot of say in matters of local administration and the police, and it is believed by the Christians that Ram Prakash's arrest and then subsequent beating in the police lock up took place at the orders of the local Hindu leaders. This is the second incident against a Christian pastor in the Sultanpur district in less than two months.
Earlier on 25th December 2003 Hindutva Fundamentalists and local politicians had disrupted a Christian Meeting in Ramdaspur village. About 100 Christians were meeting in the house of a Christian when the police disrupted the meeting on the complaint of the Hindu Fundamentalist Groups. About eight Christians were charged with spreading communal tension under section 151 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
The person in whose house the meeting was held was arrested and the pastor who was conducting the meeting was threatened. The Local media briefed by the Fundamentalists had carried venomous articles against Christians, some of them against Pastor Ram Prakash even though he had not been associated with this incident.
It is a result of that negative propaganda that Ram Prakash is experiencing trouble now. He himself is from a Hindu background and came to know Jesus Christ a few years ago after getting healed of a mental sickness. Since then he has been conducting regular prayer meetings in his home, for which he has been constantly harassed. But if we have to understand what really is behind these outbursts we have to understand the context where all this has taken place.
Mahmudpur is a village where about 200 Thakur (High Caste Hindus) families and about 40 Dalit (Untouchable) families live. There has been a history of oppression by the Thakurs on the Dalits. Their women are raped, they are forced to work as labors for the Thakurs in their fields all the days of the week without getting paid adequately and the list goes on. With the coming of the Gospel however things have started to change.
As more and more Dalits embrace Christianity because they find their dignity restored in it, the Thakur community gets angrier primarily because of economic implications of the same. As Ram Prakash himself put it, "I am from a Dalit background and when I first encountered Christians I was surprised to learn that I could actually touch their sacred scripture and read it too. I felt like a dignified human for the first time in my life."
The trouble at Mahmudpur started when the Dalit Christians started going to Church on Sundays. This meant no labor for the Thakurs on Sundays and that the fields would not be tilled. The Thakurs soon found out that the reason for the change was Ram Prakash and hence this animosity towards him. However, threats against Ram Prakash and the small community of Christians do not seem to cease.
On 7th February 2004, Jai Narayan, a Christian was attacked by Fundamentalists using a country made pistol; his crime: showing the Jesus video at his house to his neighbors. The bullets have wounded his face and he is recovering.
On 15th February 2004, while the Sunday worship was going on in Ram Prakash's home in Khutehna village, he was again attacked by Thakurs. Two armed men attacked him and if it was not for the local Christians, anything could have happened.
This was a tactic of instilling fear in the hearts of the Christians and the fundamentalists have some how succeeded in this. When the correspondent spoke to a few Christians in the area they expressed fear and the insecurity of being alone in their struggle.

Sunday, February 29, 2004

Police Beat Dalit Pastor in Uttar Pradesh

Hindu activists disrupt Christian meetings.
by Vijayesh Lal

DELHI, February 27 (Compass) -- Pastor Ram Prakash, from Mahmudpur village in the Sultanpur district of Uttar Pradesh, was beaten while in police custody and is still under threat from Hindu activists, according to reports from Open Doors of India.

Prakash, a lay pastor, was visiting a Christian relative in a Dalit (untouchable) colony on February 6 when he was attacked by Hindu activists. Local high caste Hindu leaders led a group of about 200 people to Harish Chandra's house, where they accused Prakash of converting the local people to Christianity.

The Hindu leaders seized Prakash and began to physically threaten him. Chandra pulled Prakash back into the house and locked the doors - but the crowd soon broke through the door and began beating Chandra and his wife. They also threatened women in the house and used abusive language against other Christians who were present.

Meanwhile Prakash managed to call the local police on his mobile phone, which was later taken from him by the mob.

However when the police arrived, they arrested Prakash instead of the attackers. He was taken to the police station and held on the pretext of further investigation.

Local Christians claimed that police inspector Anand Singh Thakur and three other constables gave Prakash a severe beating that night. The police accused him of being an American agent and forced him to repeat the words Jai Shri Ram ("Victory to the god Ram") and Jai Mata Di ("Victory to the goddess Durga").

The scars from that beating are still visible on Prakash’s body. When he was eventually released on bail, doctors performed a medical examination and confirmed that he had been severely beaten in police custody.

Hindu activists later charged Prakash under section 151 of the Indian Penal Code for spreading communal tension.

Police constables told an Open Doors staff member that if Prakash continued to proclaim Jesus, he could expect more of the same treatment, particularly as a wave of Hindu nationalism was sweeping through India.

The attack on Prakash was the second violent incident involving Christians in Sultanpur in recent months. On December 25, 2003, Hindu activists and local politicians disrupted a group of about 100 Christians meeting in a private home in Ramdaspur village. Eight members of the group were charged under section 151 with spreading communal tension.

The homeowner was arrested and the pastor threatened with further abuse if they continued to hold these meetings. In the weeks following the December incident, local media carried venomous articles against Christians.

About 200 Thakur (high caste) Hindu families live in Mahmudpur village, along with 40 Dalit families. Throughout India, these two castes are in conflict. Dalit men are often forced to work as unpaid laborers for Thakurs while their own fields are left untended.

This partly explains why Christianity has such an appeal for the Dalits. As Prakash said, "I am from a Dalit background, and when I first encountered Christians, I was surprised to learn that I could actually touch their sacred Scripture and read it too. I felt like a dignified human for the first time in my life."

Prakash became a Christian a few years ago after being healed of mental illness. Since his conversion, local Hindu leaders have constantly harassed him for holding prayer meetings in his home.

Threats against Prakash and the small community of Dalit Christians in Mahmudpur seem to be increasing. On February 7, Hindus brandishing a homemade pistol attacked another local Christian named Jai Narayan for showing the Jesus video at his home. Narayan is still recovering from bullet wounds to his face.

On February 15, Hindu activists attacked a small gathering of Christians in Prakash's home, seeking to instill fear in local Christians. High caste Thakurs react negatively to the conversion of Dalits. When Dalit Christians in Mahmudpur began attending church on Sundays, for example, it meant that no labor was available to till Thakur fields that day. When landlords in the area found out that Prakash was responsible for leading many Dalits to Christianity, their animosity toward him increased.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Jhabua Victimized by Dirty Politics

By Vijayesh Lal

More than a month after the unfortunate incident of a nine-year-old girl being raped and murdered in a Christian school in Jhabua and the subsequent planned attacks on Christians all over the district, the situation continues to remain tense in the area.

After the body of the girl, Sujata, was found in the Christian school, on January 11th Christians in the area faced an upsurge of violence aimed primarily to teach them a lesson. The situation for Christians in Madhya Pradesh has been deteriorating ever since Uma Bharati, an extremist herself, came into power as chief minister of the state. For Christians in Jhabua however the nightmare had just started on the 14th January 2004. Since then Christians have been systematically targeted, their Churches and homes burnt, property looted and Religious effects desecrated. It was as if the Gujarat carnage was being repeated in Jhabua as looters and troublemakers made life miserable for the Christian community, shouting slogans of, “Jai Shri Ram!” (Victory is to Ram!). The police, mostly, stood as a silent spectator.

Chronology of Events:

January 11th 2004: Nine-year-old Sujata’s body was found in the school toilet after she had been raped sparking off rumors that the main priest, Fr. John Sunny, was responsible for the deed.

January 12th 2004: The VHP, ABVP, Bajrang Dal and some other organizations belonging to the RSS gave a call for a bandh (close down of the city) and a dharna (protest) for 13.01.04 in front of the mission compound.

January 13th 2004: Three people including two priests were taken to the police station but were allowed to come back only after mid night.

January 14th 2004: An armed mob shouting slogans against the church and the priests entered the compound, demanding that the actual culprit be arrested. The police just let them in and the mob vandalized and ransacked the place. They smashed a jeep owned by the church, broke an image of Infant Jesus, tossed chairs around, pelted the church windows with stones and slapped Fr. John Sunny several times.

The police took the priests away saying that otherwise they might come to some harm. Nine members were kept in an 8 feet-by-12 feet lockup for two days without food or water.

January 15th 2004: Manoj Yadav working as a sweeper at the National Insurance Company was detained, questioned and arrested. He confessed to the crime, but an identification parade is not arranged as the Superintendent of Police and the District Magistrate were waiting for the DNA report. Failure to have the identification parade gave rise to many rumors. The rumor mills of the RSS worked overtime to establish that the arrested man was innocent, that in fact he was impotent, and that the police had been bribed into arresting him, suggesting that it was the priest who was responsible for the crimes. Sujata’s parents were told that the police and the priests are conniving to protect the real culprit. A virulent attack was mounted on the missionaries and the Christians by the fundamentalist organizations. They urged the people to drive the missionaries out. The distribution of inflammatory literature gained momentum.

January 16th 2004: A Mob led by Krishna Behn descended at Amkhut village, they distributed anti Christian pamphlets, made provocative speeches and attacked the Christian school, vandalizing it in the process. The mob was shouting provocative slogans and warning people not to send their children to an institution run by "rapists". Several students were attacked and school property broken; pictures of Jesus Christ were torn down. The mob left with the warning that they would return to power after the Lok Sabha (general) elections.

More violence followed as the BJP legislator from Alirajpur tehsil, Nagar Singh Chauhan, came to Amkhut village with several armed people in tow and attacked the Church premises with firearms. After two hours, the mob returned with more people and in the skirmish that followed, Arjun Pal, a Seva Bharati member was shot dead.

The Amkhut violence sparked off violence in Alirajpur too, as the mob went back, mobilized locals and started targeting Christian homes and institutions. A priest of the Don Bosco school was beaten up and the school and his vehicle was set afire. The Church was attacked and the furniture and musical instruments burnt. Shobhana and Sudhir Onkar, a Christian couple were also attacked by about 200 – 300 strong mob. Their five vehicles were damaged and about twenty men got inside the house and broke their furniture, television and other household goods. The mob was led by the local BJP MLA (Member of Legislative Assembly) while the T.I (Thana in-charge or the Police Station In Charge) with four policemen stood and watched. They have lodged an FIR but no arrests have been made so far.

The Aftermath:

Following this Chief minister of the state, Uma Bharati sent two of her ministers to Jhabua to investigate the matter. The two ministers visited Jhabua and gave a clean chit to the Sangh organizations without meeting a single Christian victim. Wrong information was given to the media at a press conference addressed by Uma Bharati claiming that there was firing from within the church.

The chief minister herself visited Jhabua, mostly by helicopter, met some of the victims, ordered a CID (Central Investigating Department) probe but virtually rendered it useless by stating that the Hindus had displayed patience and tolerance despite provocation. The State government was least interested in providing relief to the minorities and this was evident in an aggressive meeting organized by the RSS on January 20 in Bhopal. At the meeting, several persons were brought from Jhabua and the Chief Minister drew a link between the violent incidents and the alleged activities of conversion.

Soon the opposition picked up the issue and accused the government of shielding the Jhabua culprits. The whole issue was politicized to take an advantage of it. Meanwhile the Christians in Jhabua urged the National Human Rights Commission to ensure that adequate security is provided for them. Several fact-finding teams were dispatched to Jhabua and here is what they have found:

1. As per the list of cases registered and arrests made given by the SP, on 22.1.04 whereever the attacks occurred on Christian institutions, the only arrests have been those of either priests or Christians.

2. No steps have been taken to prevent the publication and distribution of inflammatory literature. It is still going on strong.

3. The VHP and its sister organizations are freely holding dharnas and demonstration despite promulgation of section 144 (curfew)

4. The worst attacks that occurred had taken place on 16.01.04, and three of the five BJP MLA’s (Member of Legislative Assembly) led the mobs. But no cases have been registered against them.

5. No steps have been taken to instill confidence in the Christina community that their rights guaranteed by the constitution of India will be safe guarded. There is widespread fear that attempts are afoot to create another Gujarat.

There are reports coming in that Christians are increasingly being targeted in the area. There have been instances of Churches being burnt and Christian homes burnt and looted by unruly mobs. One Pastor has reported that nearly every night He and others are staying outside of their village on a hilltop watching over their village. Their fear: that their houses will be burnt down. Their wives and children are spending the nights under the bushes in this cold winter season. Police harassment too is increasing.

With the coming of the Lok Sabha (General Elections) things are likely to get worse for the Christians in Jhabua. What we see here has been brewing for a long time. Christianity is more than a century old in Jhabua, the Church and the institutions testify to it. Yet in their zeal to lure the tribal voter the Sangh Parivar has created an enemy in the minds of the people. Preparations for attacking Christian institutions have been on for the past one-year as Hindu sangams' or meetings were organized all through out in the Jhabua District over the past two years. The sole motive of these meetings was to whip up communal passion against the Christians.

In an attempt to Hinduise the Tribals (whom the Sangh Parivar addresses by the derogatory term Vanvasis meaning Jungle Dwellers) thousands of idols of Hanuman and Ganesh (Hindu Gods) were installed and the tribals were encouraged and mobilized to be a part of it. This is alien to the tribal culture nevertheless they complied because of the economic benefits given to them because of this. But the Hinduization of the tribals and the stirring up of hatred against the Christians is only a deliberate attempt to consolidate tribal votes in what is otherwise considered as the Congress land and sending the right message to the Congressi Christian.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Sister Nirmala, others robbed in Jharkhand

Sister Nirmala, others robbed in Jharkhand

MEDININAGAR (JHARKAND), FEB. 21. The Superior General of Missionaries of the Charity, Sister Nirmala, was among a number of people robbed by a gang near Amjharia Ghati in Latehar district today. The District Superintendent of Police, Maninder Singh Bhatia, said a group of 20 to 25 went on a looting spree on Medininagar-Ranchi Road near Amjharia Ghati under the Chandua police station.

They stopped a number of vehicles, including buses, and looted the people. Sister Nirmala, who was on a two- day visit to Palamu district in connection with some functions, was in a vehicle along with five others, the Bishop of Chandwa, Anthony Xevier Lakra, said.

(The Hindu 22.2.04)

Sister Nirmala, others robbed in Jharkhand

Sister Nirmala, others robbed in Jharkhand

MEDININAGAR (JHARKAND), FEB. 21. The Superior General of Missionaries of the Charity, Sister Nirmala, was among a number of people robbed by a gang near Amjharia Ghati in Latehar district today. The District Superintendent of Police, Maninder Singh Bhatia, said a group of 20 to 25 went on a looting spree on Medininagar-Ranchi Road near Amjharia Ghati under the Chandua police station.

They stopped a number of vehicles, including buses, and looted the people. Sister Nirmala, who was on a two- day visit to Palamu district in connection with some functions, was in a vehicle along with five others, the Bishop of Chandwa, Anthony Xevier Lakra, said.

(The Hindu 22.2.04)

Saturday, February 21, 2004

Sister Nirmala, others robbed in Jharkhand

MEDININAGAR (JHARKAND), FEB. 21. The Superior General of Missionaries of the Charity, Sister Nirmala, was among a number of people robbed by a gang near Amjharia Ghati in Latehar district today. The District Superintendent of Police, Maninder Singh Bhatia, said a group of 20 to 25 went on a looting spree on Medininagar-Ranchi Road near Amjharia Ghati under the Chandua police station.

They stopped a number of vehicles, including buses, and looted the people. Sister Nirmala, who was on a two- day visit to Palamu district in connection with some functions, was in a vehicle along with five others, the Bishop of Chandwa, Anthony Xevier Lakra, said.

(The Hindu 22.2.04)

Friday, January 23, 2004

Indian City in Uproar over Death of Nine-Year-Old Girl

Minister says murder in Jhabua, Madhya Pradesh, was a 'well-planned' conspiracy.
by Vijayesh Lal

DELHI, January 22 (Compass) - - Citizens of Jhabua in Madhya Pradesh are still enraged over the murder of a nine-year-old girl whose body was discovered in a mission school compound on January 13. Local government minister Kailash Vijayvargiya believes the violent clashes in Jhabua are the result of a "well-planned" conspiracy.

Hindu protesters allege that Sujata, the daughter of a fruit-seller, was selling fruit outside the Catholic mission school when a young man beckoned her into the school. When she did not return, her brother went to search for her and eventually found Sujata's body on the school grounds.

The following day, a crowd of over 500 people gathered outside the school in Jhabua. The crowd forced their way onto the mission premises, chanting anti-Christian slogans, and pelting stones at staff and vehicles in the compound.

Police initially dispersed the crowd at around 4 p.m. on January 14, but a mob re-assembled on the school grounds at 7 p.m. This time the police used batons to break up the crowd.

Later, police arrested seven staff members, including Father John Sunni, in charge of the mission school, and the school principal.

Observers said the arrests were made to appease the crowd, whose anger had been fueled by militant Hindu groups such as the Hindu Jagran Manch (HJM) and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). VHP leader Khumsing Maharaj led a crowd of hundreds to the school premises and demanded the arrest of school staff.

A few days after the murder, police arrested Manoj Jadhav, an employee of an insurance company, who reportedly confessed to the crime of raping and killing Sujata, before throwing her body into the mission compound.

However, Maharaj claimed that Jadhav was mentally retarded and could not be responsible for the crime. He further threatened to take drastic steps if the “real culprits” were not caught.

The Hindustan Times on January 17 quoted a spokesman for the Catholic diocese, who said the Bajrang Dal, HJM, VHP and other Hindu organizations were leading mass protests and spreading misinformation about the incident. The spokesman also said people were being brought in from Gujarat to "aggravate the already tense atmosphere."

Krishna Ben, a Gujarati disciple of a famous Hindu guru, led a mob to nearby Amkhut village soon after the murder and made provocative speeches against the Christian community. The mob later descended on the local Church of North India premises where they ransacked buildings and other church property.

Retaliation soon followed from the local community, which is composed mostly of second generation Christians from tribal backgrounds. The Hindu mob was dispersed, only to return armed and in greater numbers with VHP and Bajrang Dal activists. Several houses owned by Christians were burned to the ground while police failed to intervene.

Arjun Pal, a member of the Hindu organization Seva Bharati, was killed in the clashes that day. Chief Minister Uma Bharati, a Hindutva (Hindu nationalist) hardliner, later paid tribute to Arjun Pal and said the sum of 100,000 rupees ($2,200) had been paid to his family as compensation.

Ms. Bharati, speaking to a gathering of Hindu protestors, said she "strongly disapproved of their negative slogans." However, she was quick to add that the provision of medical and educational services by Christian missionaries in Jhabua should not be used as a cover for religious conversions, reiterating that conversion by means of "enticement" is against the law.

On January 21, the situation remained tense. Anti-Christian pamphlets were distributed openly in bus terminals, at marketplaces and at the funeral of Arjun Pal, now described as a martyr for the Hindu cause.

The pamphlets warned against conversion drives sponsored by "anti-nationalist forces and missionaries," urging Hindus to band together and defend India as a Hindu nation. VHP leaders also alleged that a conspiracy to create another "Nagaland" in Jhabua was underway. The population of Nagaland, a state in northeast India, is at least 50 percent Christian.

Throughout Jhabua, banners and pamphlets continue to accuse Christians of the murder. Many still believe the accusations, even though an investigative team led by minister of state Kailash Vijayvargiya returned from Jhabua convinced that school personnel are innocent.

Monday, January 05, 2004

RSS sees Shiva lingam in stone in stone near Panaji church

Panaji, January 4: A BLOCK of carved stone, which was found in the compound of the Bishop's Palace in Panaji, has become the centre of a controversy.

Church authorities say the stone was found in the palace premises after part of a wall was broken during renovation. But as rumours spread that the stone was found while the ground was dug up, RSS and allied organisations began to lay claim to it earlier this week.

According to Raju Velingkar, in-charge of the RSS Vishwa Samvaad Kendra, the stone was part of a "Shiva Lingam" destroyed by the Portuguese and will have to be "located" where it was found. Sources said a group led by BJP councillors Pritam Rane and Deepak Mapusekar and RSS leader Raju Sukerkar had attempted to gatecrash the Bishop's Palace and make away with the stone on Monday.

But officials at the Bishop's Palace, located just 50 metres from CM Manohar Parrikar's official residence, prevented them from doing so and insisted that the object would be handed over only to the government. Father Olavo Velho Pereira, director of the Diocesan Centre for Social Commu-nicatioas Media, said a process was underway to establish the stone's authenticity. Department of Archaeology and Archives director M.L. Dicholkar said the object would be shifted to the Goa State Musuem and has written to church authorities in this regard.

(Indian Express 5.1.04)