Thursday, April 28, 2005

Converting Christians Again in Chattisgarh

BJP leader and Rajya Sabha MP Dilip Singh Judeo is in news again reconverting Christians into Hinduism. On Sunday anchored a ceremony in which 35 residents of Lafin Khurd were reconverted to Hinduism. Judeo's sun Yudhavir Singh Judeo accompanied him in the operation codenamed 'Ghar Vapsi' (home coming) .

The residents were taken to Mahakaushal Maruti Sewa Ashram, about 70 kms away from their village where the rituals of conversion took place. no one from the Media was allowed to interact with the villagers before and after the ceremony.

Judeo said unification of the Hindus was the aim of this reconversion programme he is running.

"These people have Hindustani blood running through their veins and were converted to Christianity. We are just taking them back home. There will always be success and failures. But we will keep up our activities. There is no political backing behind this, neither BJP nor Congress. I am proud to say that I have the support and wishes of many people who ideologically oppose me," said Judeo.

Expert says it was just another effort of the administration to divert the attention of the people, striving for their livelihood, from the basic issues.

Subhash Mahapatra, Director of Forum for Fact-Finding Documentation and Advocacy in Raipur claimed that every year, innocent residents from the region either die of starvation. He also claimed that about 12 people died in police custody within the past one year.

"This conversion ceremony was just a gimmick. When they are striving for their daily bread, what's the meaning of keep them fighting around the issue of conversion from one religion to the other. The Rajya Sabha MP is just playing with their lives," said Subhash Mahapatra.

Earlier, Judeo made it to the news in March, 2004 when he attended a ceremony in Orissa where more than 200 Christians were reconverted to Hinduism.

Again in April this year, Judeo claimed reconversion of 700 persons in Dhamtari district of Chhattisgarh, under the Ghar Vapsi program organized by the Hindu Jagran Manch. (ANI)

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Tuesday, April 26, 2005

In Bengal, VHP's converts go covert

Malda Complaining of police harassment, VHP says one more


MALDA, APRIL 20 Four days after 45 Adivasis "reconverted" to Hinduism at a VHP-sponsored function in Popra village, 20 km from here, six of them have gone into hiding. Nobody knows why. The VHP claims that the police and district administration had been harassing them after the conversion ceremony.
The VHP claimed the six Adivasis were from Popra and that they had filed affidavits in the court declaring their intention to return to Hinduism. The rest of the reconverts hailed from other places in Jharkhand.
Refusing to reveal the identity of the six re-converts, Rekha Hembrom, head of the VHP-run Chitrakoot Ashram Briddhika Manch of Popra, which organised the function, told The Indian Express: "We will not tell you their names and whereabouts. We have been continuously harassed by the police and administration after April 17. It's as if we have committed a blasphemy. The Church is converting people to their fold and the government is listless. Now, if some of them are coming back to our fold, the government is after our blood. The next time we arrange these functions, they will be done in total secrecy."
But Superintendent of Police S K Pujary rubbished allegations of harassment. "We have not harassed anybody. We just inquired what was going on at the Ashram. We were anxious about their safety," he said.
Amid all this, the VHP plans to go ahead with another re-conversion function, christened 'Haprav Satsang Utsav', in the villages of North Bengal, dominated by tribals.
"We have changed our strategy. Now, we will conduct all these reconversion programmes secretly to avoid the media glare which invites police harassment," said Gangadhar Murmu, son of Rekha and a senior VHP leader.
Started seven years ago, the VHP-run Ashram runs a residential school there with 30 Santhal children. It also regularly holds religious discourses for the Santhals. "Our discourses are attended by Christians, too. Many of them have showed their interest to come back to our fold," said Pushani Murmu, a member.
The VHP runs 270 schools all over the district. It also runs a few free dispensaries in the area.
The Church, too, runs its own schools and dispensaries. "We work only for man," said Prabodh Ekka, Father of Malda Catholic Church.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Church set afire in Manipur, three arrested

Imphal, April 21 (PTI): Police have arrested three persons accused of setting a church on fire in interior Thoubal district of Manipur, official reports reaching here today said.
The place of worship named 'Believers church' was set ablaze at Tentha Lamkhai area, about 35 km south-east of here, on Tuesday last, the reports said.
The accused were being interrogated.
The church was located at an area known to be a Hindu stronghold, reports said.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

SC Notice To Centre On Reservation For Dalit Converts To Christianity

The Hindu, April 12, 2005, Tuesday

NEW DELHI, APRIL 11. The Supreme Court today issued notice to the Government on a public interest litigation petition seeking extension of reservation to the Scheduled Caste people even after they convert to Christianity.

A Bench, comprising Chief Justice R.C. Lahoti and Justice G.P. Mathur, which in February said that it would examine this question, issued the notice to the Government after the Attorney-General, Milon Banerjee, pointed out that no formal notice had been issued. He said the Government would file its response. The Bench asked Mr. Banerjee and other parties to make brief submissions citing the relevant case laws and directed the listing of the matter for final disposal in August.

On a petition filed by the Centre for Public Interest Litigation, challenging the constitutional validity of Paragraph 3 of the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Orders, 1950 by which Scheduled Castes people professing and converting faith in religions different from Hinduism, Sikhism and Buddhism were deprived of reservation benefits, the court in October last had sought the views of the Attorney-General.

The Attorney-General, in his response, had submitted that as it was a policy matter, courts should keep out of it. He cited earlier apex court rulings holding that any amendment to the Presidential Order of 1950 regarding the inclusion of any particular community within the Scheduled Castes or Scheduled Tribes was within the purview of the legislative action.

The petitioner contended that the 1950 order as it stood today violated the right to equality guaranteed under Article 14 of the Constitution as the Scheduled Castes converting to Christianity were deprived of the benefit given to those from the same community belonging to other religions. It pointed out that Scheduled Caste converts to Christianity, unlike tribals who had converted to Christianity, were still suffering from the social disabilities of the community, including untouchability. ``There cannot be any distinction between the Scheduled Castes converts to Sikhism and Buddhism and the Scheduled Castes converts to Christianity,'' it said seeking reservation benefits, including job and political reservations, for the latter category.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Claim of reconversion to Hinduism exaggerated

The Hindu Jagran Manch activist group has claimed that hundreds of Christians were "reconverted" in a ceremony on 2 April 2005.

As many as 700 people were 'reconverted' to Hinduism under the ghar vapsi (homecoming) programme organised by the Hindu Jagran Manch (HJM) in Dhamtari district of Chhattisgarh.

Former Union minister and senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Dilip Singh Judeo washed the feet of the 700 people from 125 families, symbolically reconverting them from Christianity at a function in Gopalpuri village.

The Manch, also known as the Dharam Jagran Manch (DJM), announced their plans for the ceremony several days before it took place. They claimed 700 people took part in the ceremony. However, according to reports in the media, only 97 were reconverted. The reports also said the men and women were given traditional Indian clothing and coconuts for use in Hindu worship.

The reports said Dilip Singh Judeo threatened Christian workers during his address at the ceremony. "If Christian missionaries don't stop converting people, we will take up arms," Singh was quoted saying.

Meanwhile, Christians in Dhamtari district said those who attended the ceremony had never really accepted Christianity, though they might have shown some interest. "These claims are false," Pastor A David, president of the Dhamtari Christian Fellowship, said. "Those who reconverted were actually Hindus who might have attended a Christian meeting once or twice."

"I appeal to the local press to interview these people and ask them when and how they accepted Christianity and who baptized them," David said. "The people of Chhattisgarh know very well that such programmes are a sham. A few years ago, The Times of India exposed how Dilip Singh Judeo called Hindus to come to his programme and later claimed their 'reconversion' from Christianity to Hinduism.

"We have written a letter of complaint to the Prime Minister, the President and the Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh, demanding protection of the Christian community," David added.

Local Christians said the DJM exaggerated the number of Christian converts in order to provoke a response from the state government, which recently announced plans to strengthen Chhattisgarh's anti-conversion law.

Pramod Singh, secretary of the Chhattisgarh branch of the Mennonite Church of India, said, "None of those who 'reconverted' [in the ceremony] had been baptized. "Christians do not indulge in conversions by force or fraudulent means," he said.

Kaviraj Lall, a member of the Christian Legal Association of India, said, "Hindu fundamentalists often threaten the poor people of Chhattisgarh with loss of livelihood and social ostracism to pressure them to reconvert to Hinduism.

Dhamtari district is a forest area, where people depend on societies formed by the state government, which give them jobs like collecting special leaves and flowers for Indian cigarettes and wine. Many government employers are biased against Christians and tell them they will lose their jobs if they don't reconvert to Hinduism," Lall explained.

In organising the homecoming ceremony, the DJM appears to have violated Chhattisgarh's Freedom of Religion Act. Under terms of the law, the organiser of such an event and prospective converts must send advance notice to the district collector.

SL Dewangan, personal assistant to the district collector of Dhamtari, said, "Some representatives of the Mennonite church had informed us that a reconversion programme was being planned. We asked the superintendent of police to investigate, but so far we have not received a report from him. Neither have we received any affidavit or intimation from the organizers of the programme." Superintendent of Police Himanshu Gupta refused to comment on whether he was notified before the re-conversion ceremony took place.
(Courtesy: AICC)

Friday, April 15, 2005

Christian Businessman in India Charged With Conversion

NEW DELHI, April 14 (Compass) -- An Indian court has charged a Christian businessman in southern Kerala state with attempted conversion.

"Mr. Vidya Sagaran, a businessman from Kayamkulam Taluka, in Kerala's Alappuzha district, was arrested by local police on March 30," defense attorney Ranjit George told Compass. “The Judicial First Class Magistrate of Kayamkulam granted him bail on the 31st.

"The complainant, Mr. Vishwanathan Pillai, accused Sagaran of inducing him to convert from the Nayar caste (a Hindu sect) to the Pentecostal faith.

"Sagaran was charged with Sections 447, 153A(1)(a), and 323 of the Indian Penal Code, for criminal trespass, promoting feelings of religious hatred, and causing grievous hurt," George said.

States that do not have an anti-conversion law can use Section 153A of the Penal Code to charge those accused of "forced" or "fraudulent" conversion.

Section 153A(1)(a) states, "Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise, promotes or attempts to promote, on grounds of religion, disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will between different religious groups, shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to three years, or with fine, or both."

Pillai alleged that Sagaran lent him 1,000 rupees ($250), which he claimed was a bribe to encourage him to convert. According to Pillai, Sagaran later entered Pillai’s house and demanded the return of the money because Pillai had not converted to Christianity.

However, George explained that Sagaran, who is Pillai’s neighbor, was the mediator for a money transaction between Pillai and a third party. “It seems Sagaran took money from the third party and gave it to Pillai. Then when Sagaran went to ask for the money to be returned, Pillai accused him falsely."

George also said Hindu activists may have encouraged Pillai to file this complaint.

"The local Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a radical Hindu group, was not happy with Sagaran because he accepted Christianity about four years ago from a Hindu background, and was attending the Emmanuel Mission church in Kayamkulam. He was allegedly being asked to return to Hinduism.

"I think the case will not even reach the stage of collecting evidence, as there is no basic case against my client. The case is fabricated," George added.

Christians account for almost 20 percent of Kerala’s population of 31.8 million. However, Kayamkulam is predominantly Hindu, with only three small churches -- including the Emmanuel Mission church attended by Sagaran.

In recent weeks, Hindu activists have objected to the work of Christian relief groups -- including Emmanuel Mission -- in tsunami-torn coastal areas of Kerala.

As Sajan K. George, national convenor of the Global Council of Indian Christians, told Compass, "Emmanuel Mission is engaged in the rehabilitation of affected people with a proposal for an orphanage. However, the RSS and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council) are trying to discredit the rigorous work carried out by Christian organizations."

For example, "The Hindu group Aikyavedi recently objected to tsunami rehabilitation projects run by Christians in Kollam district," Sajan George said.

"Mr. Kummanam Rajshekhar, general secretary of the Aikyavedi, accused Fr. Rajesh Martin, director of the Kerala Catholic Youth Movement, and Fr. J. Francis, Latin Catholic president of Kerala ... of conversions."

Both of these Catholic priests were involved in large-scale rehabilitation work.

Varghese Thudian, state coordinator for Emmanuel Mission, confirmed to Compass, "The RSS is very strong in Kayamkulam district, and incidents of persecution are common."

Another local Christian worker who requested anonymity said Hindu activists physically attacked Pastor B. Monachan, the leader of a Pentecostal church in Kayamkulam, on March 28.
(Courtesy: Compass Direct)

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Chandurthi Church Pastor Found Dead

A pastor of a church in Chandurthi mandal of Karimnagar district, Andhra Pradesh was found dead under mysterious circumstances at Lakshminagar in Karimnagar on 12 April 2005. According to sources, Pastor Sidney David (58) was brutally murdered by miscreants at a secluded place near a function palace in Lakshminagar late in the night.

The miscreants smashed his dead with a boulder and abandoned the body near an open place. The neighbours who noticed the body in the early hours informed the matter to the police authorities. The town police rushed to the spot and shifted the body to the mortuary at the district headquarters hospital. The deceased belonged to Nalgonda district.

Meanwhile a section of Christians from Chandurthi arrived at the mortuary and demanded that the police probe the matter to unravel the culprits responsible for the brutal murder of the pastor who was revered in the whole of the mandal.

Tension gripped the hospital premises following the protest by the villagers of Chandurthi demanding action against the guilty. The One Town police authorities registered a case and had taken up investigations.

(Courtesy: AICC)

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Pastor attacked, prayer hall burned

Hindu and Muslim villagers burned down a prayer hall and physically attacked three church members following a baptism ceremony in Kerala on 1 April 2005. Two days later, the villagers manhandled Pastor Paul Ciniraj Mohammed and his 54-year-old assistant.

Ciniraj, as he prefers to be known, is a Christian from a Muslim background. He pastors the church in Thiruvananthapuram district. He is also the head of Salem Voice Ministries (SVM), which runs orphanages, village schools and adult literacy centres in Kerala. The SVM is registered under the Charitable Societies Act.

"The incident occurred in the slum area of Panamvilla village in Thiruvananthapuram, where we have a thatched prayer hall," Ciniraj said. According to him, four villagers from Panamvilla were baptized in a ceremony in the prayer hall early in the morning on 1 April, which perhaps made some villagers unhappy. A total of 26 adult members from different villages were baptized during the ceremony.

"After the baptism, I went back to my place in Kottayam district. Later I heard that a group of local villagers, comprising both Hindus and Muslims, attacked three of our church members while they were praying in the prayer hall," Ciniraj said. "After beating them up, the miscreants set the prayer hall on fire."
Ciniraj said, "Ours is the only Christian group in Panamvilla. Except for the 12 people who come to our meetings, the other villagers are either Hindus or Muslims. Some villagers from both communities are against Christians, and a kind of anti-Christian movement is evolving in the village."

When the pastor heard about the attack on the prayer hall, he returned to Panamvilla on 3 April. However, he was also attacked, as he questioned villagers about the violent incident on 1 April. "While I was talking to a leader of the attackers, an old man hit me on the head," said Ciniraj.

"Shivanandan, a 54-year-old church member who was with me, immediately intervened and tried to save me. He was also beaten until he started bleeding profusely. By God's grace, he is all right now." Ciniraj said he did not report the matter to the police because the attackers apologised immediately after the beating.

"When they were beating Shivanandan, I knelt down and prayed to Jesus to save him and also to forgive the attackers." Village women who witnessed the beating saw Ciniraj praying and were moved by his humility. They immediately asked the attackers to stop the beating and apologise.

Some church members said the local unit of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a Hindu activist group, was behind the attack. "One of them told me that the local RSS unit was planning to create some trouble during the baptism ceremony," said Ciniraj. "That is why we held the ceremony early in the morning - at first it was scheduled for later in the day," he added.

According to 2001 census figures, 19 per cent of the total population of Kerala is Christian. While Muslims account for 23 per cent of the population in Kerala, Hindus make for 57 per cent. Incidents of violence against Christians are increasingly common in Kerala. As recently as February 22, five pastors from the Church of God were beaten in Karunagapally, near Kerala's Kollam district, while they were holding a convention.

Fundamentalists Attack Carmel Convent School in Gwalior, Gwalior Diocese

(This news is put as it was recieved. No editing has been done.)
Fundamentalists Attack Carmel Convent School in Gwalior, Gwalior Diocese.
The Christian Association Gwalior due to the passing away of Pope John Paul II turned the Easter Milan Samaroh in to a Prayer Service, Shradanjali Samaroh, for Pope on Sunday, 3rd April 2005. This was attended by Mr. John Dayal, the General Secretary, All India Christian Council and a very senior journalist. The meeting was organized in Balbhavan Auditorium by Mr. Raju Francis, Rev. S.P Luther and others.

After the prayer meeting Mr. John Dayal issued a written statement regarding different stands by the Christian council. Mr. Dayal was already been quoted by Panchajanya that he is against the Hindutva. The media asked clarifications to this he said that Hindu religion we respect but the Hindutva ideology is used by the communal forces to divide the community.

This statement was misquoted by Dainik Bhaskar, (A leading Daily) “RSS is the enemy number one for Christians." It irked the feeling of fundamental forces and on Tuesday, April 05, 2005, evening around 7 pm a group of fundamental activists barged into the Carmel convent school campus burnt the effigy of Mr. Dayal and tried to destroy the property but the police stopped them.

After this they said to have held a meeting and demanded an apology from the Church or else they would extend their agitation to other institutions and schools.

This incident has nothing to do with the official Catholic Church as none of the clergy has taken part in it. Public Relation Office talked to all the party concerned and Mr. Dayal has promised to clear his statements as he has been misquoted by the media. This has incited the religious passion and which lead to the violence.

Fr. Anand Muttungal

PRO & Spokesperson

Catholic Church, M.P & C.G

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Conversion 'attempt' lands Jharkhand school in trouble

Ranchi, April 4:
A police complaint has been lodged against a Jharkhand missionary school for allegedly attempting to force two tribal students to convert to Christianity - but the school says the boys themselves wanted to convert.

The complaint was lodged Sunday in the Jaggnathpur police station against Elson Dundung and other employees of the Prabhat Tara School. The report was lodged on the complaint of Ajay Tirkey, president of a tribal welfare organisation, Adivasi Sarna Samittee.

The complaint said that on Sunday, two brothers - Bidhan Bara, 12, and Mahan Bara, 10 - were called to the school where the conversion was to take place.

However, the Adivasi Sarna Samittee, the Shiv Sena and the Bharatiya Janata Party got wind of this and staged a demonstration in front of the school. "The school authorities tried to forcibly covert the tribal students to Christianity. They were assured free education and money for converting," Tirkey alleged. School representative Father Albinus Kujur denied the charge and said the boys themselves wanted to convert.

"Neither did we put any pressure for converting them nor did we allure them with money," he maintained. "This is a baseless allegation. The children had expressed their willingness to embrace Christianity. The mother of the boys had submitted an application for this. Some people are politicising the issue," Kujar added.

Police said the case would be thoroughly probed before any action is taken. "An officer of the rank of deputy superintendent of police will talk to the boys, their mother, and the school authorities. If we find anything wrong, action will be taken against the school authorities," a police officer said.

Call to register criminal case against former minister Rajagopal

April 5 2005
KOLLAM: N.K. Premachandran MP on Monday urged the government to register a criminal case against former Union Minister O. Rajagopal for his statement "inciting communal violence".
In a statement here, Premachandran said that Rajagopal had stated that if Christian organisations were allowed to construct houses in the tsunami-hit areas it would result in bloodshed.
He said that the state police who registered a case against Madhani for making a speech which would stir up communal hatred were remaining silent on the statement of Rajagopal.
Premachandran urged Chief Minister Oommen Chandy to make clear the stand of the government on the issue. He also urged the government to take measures against the attempts to divide the people in the coastal area on communal lines and to unleash violence.
CPM central committee member P.K.Gurudasan said that the statement of BJP leader O.Rajagopal against the Christian organisations constructing houses to tsunami-hit was a challenge to the Constitution and the rule of law.
In a statement here, the CPM leader said that his party would construct 100 houses – 70 in Kollam and 30 in Alappuzha districts – under the supervision of the engineers appointed by the State Government.
He made an appeal to Mata Amritanandamayi Math and other NGOs to follow his party’s decision with regard to the construction of houses for tsunami-hit.