NEW DEHLI, February 22 (Compass) -- Activists of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Bajrang Dal beat and robbed 280 Christian students on February 19 while the group was on its way to Emmanuel Mission’s graduation ceremony in Kota, India. The 2:30 a.m. attack occurred as the travelers disembarked from a train carrying them to Kota, Rajasthan state, for the February 23 to 27 event. Afterward, local police rounded up the students and kept them in custody at a local police station until the following evening. Alleging that Emmanuel Mission had lured the visiting students to Kota with promises of a bicycle and 250 rupees ($5.70) in exchange for converting to Christianity, police officials forced the students to return home. No attackers were arrested. At press time, RSS and Bajrang Dal activists are threatening to shut down the graduation ceremony, which annually attracts 5,000 Christian visitors to the city.
Indian Hindus Attack Christian Students in Rajasthan
Beatings, thefts disrupt graduation ceremony.
by Vijayesh Lal
NEW DEHLI, February 22 (Compass) -- Activists of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Bajrang Dal beat and robbed a group of 280 Christian students on February 19 while the group was on its way to Emmanuel Mission’s graduation ceremony in Kota, India.
The attackers, led by Deputy Mayor Ravindra Singh Nirbhay of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), also beat and robbed Emmanuel Mission students and drivers who had come to meet the guests arriving at the railway station at 2:30 a.m. from the state of Andhra Pradesh. Several victims sustained serious injuries. The attackers also damaged mission buses sent to receive the visitors.
Emmanuel Mission has worked in Kota, Rajasthan state, for several years and is recognized for its services throughout India. The Indian government awarded the “Padma Shri,” one of the highest honors in the country, to mission director Bishop M.A. Thomas.
Since the late 1990s, the RSS and its affiliated organizations have stepped up their campaign against the mission. Their aggression gained momentum after the BJP took over political power in the state.
Emmanuel Mission organizes its five-day graduation ceremony every year in February. Attended by students from the 98 mission centers all over India, the event draws 5,000 people to Emmanuel headquarters in Kota as students collect their diplomas after completing their education.
The RSS and Bajrang Dal, apparently with prior information about the graduation ceremony, used the opportunity to stir up anti-Christian feelings in the area.
According to sources, RSS and Bajrang Dal activists surrounded the Kota railway station in the early hours of February 19 and shouted slogans against Christians. As soon as the Andhra Pradesh students disembarked from the Bangalore-Kota Express, senior BJP leaders led the activists in the attack against them, beating the unsuspecting travelers and snatching their belongings.
The activists also attacked 10 students and chauffeurs from the mission who had come to the station to receive the group. Attackers dragged some of the students to a nearby Ram Temple and beat them severely. A catholic nun traveling on the same train also was beaten.
Afterward, local police rounded up the students and took them to the police station, where they kept the victims in custody until the following evening. No attackers were arrested.
Although few of the visitors from Andhra Pradesh speak the local Hindi language, the police recorded statements from them stating that they were Hindus. The statements allege that Emmanuel Mission had lured them to Kota with promises of a bicycle and 250 rupees ($5.70) in exchange for converting to Christianity.
Neither Bishop Thomas nor anyone else from Emmanuel Mission was allowed to meet the students during their time in police custody. The following evening, officials forcibly sent all the visitors back to Andhra Pradesh and issued statements that the “Hindus” had returned home of their own free will.
At press time, no arrests of RSS or Bajrang Dal activists have been made. When Emmanuel Mission staff wanted to register a First Information Report (F.I.R) of the beating incident with the police, local officers refused. After Bishop Thomas placed a call to authorities in New Delhi, however, local police took the initiative to provide added security at the mission.
The following day, RSS and Bajrang Dal extremists attacked 22 students arriving in Kota from Udaipur, Rajasthan. Following the beating, the group was also detained at the police station and sent back without being allowed contact with Emmanuel Mission representatives. The police apparently recorded the same statement saying that these students were Hindus and had been promised 250 rupees to convert to Christianity.
Bishop Thomas vigorously denied the allegations of forced conversions. “Do you think they would convert for 250 rupees and a bicycle?” he said.
Thomas told Compass that RSS and Bajrang Dal leaders spread rumors throughout the media saying that the graduation ceremony had been cancelled, hoping to reduce attendance. BJP leaders also held a march in front of Emmanuel Mission headquarters demanding that the ceremony be cancelled.
At press time, the situation in Kota remains tense. Emmanuel Mission has announced that graduation ceremonies will go ahead as scheduled, despite the indifference of local authorities to their security needs. Meanwhile, Hindu activists have vowed that they will not allow the mission to hold the graduation ceremony.
Copyright 2005 Compass Direct