Monday, February 21, 2005

Bible students sent back after violent protests

JAIPUR, FEB. 20 . All the 275 people from Andhra Pradesh, who arrived at the Kota railway station in southern Rajasthan to attend a Bible course of the Emmanuel Mission, were sent back on late Saturday night without being allowed to attend the ceremony after violent protests by the activists of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and Bajrang Dal. The Sangh Parivar workers alleged that they had been brought for religious conversion.
The State Social Welfare Minister, Madan Dilwar, has ordered an inquiry into the allegation regarding the Emmanuel Mission indulging in conversion activities and sent four senior officials of his department to Kota for holding a detailed probe. The team arrived in Kota this evening.
The Bible graduation course of the Mission is scheduled to be held from February 23 to 27. Hundreds of people reached Kota today to attend the curriculum reportedly without any protest by the Sangh Parivar activists. However, eight persons were injured on Saturday when the activists manhandled them and prevented them from proceeding to their destination in the town.
The passengers who disembarked from the Bangalore-Jaipur Express train at the early hours on Saturday were kept confined to the railway station premises by the Government Railway Police for the whole day and were sent off in late night by the Kota-Beena train. The Emmanuel Mission has claimed that they were forced to alight from the train on the way and their whereabouts were not known.
"We have no information on where the poor students are languishing at present. The district administration, far from ensuring their safety, has told us that it is not responsible for the security of any of the participants in our course," Bishop Samuel Thomas, president of the Emmanuel Ministries International, told The Hindu over phone.
Bishop Thomas, denying the charge that the people from Andhra Pradesh had been brought for conversion, said they were beaten up by the Bajrang Dal activists, while police refused to register the Mission's complaint on their behalf despite being approached at least a dozen times. On the other hand, criminal cases have been registered against the Mission's functionaries.
"This is a classic case of victims being branded as aggressors. The inquiry ordered by the State Government is another instance of the continuing harassment. Those who bashed up innocent students are roaming freely in the town and threatening our people," Bishop Thomas said.
However, Mr. Dilawar said the State Government would take appropriate action after receiving the report of officials and "would not hesitate in taking stern action against religious conversion by coercion or allurement". "The inquiry team will look into all aspects of functioning of the Mission, its religious activities and its sources of funds," he told The Hindu today.