Saturday, May 28, 2005

Pastor Missing in Andhra Pradesh

HYDERABAD: Four days after a gospel preacher, K. Daniel, was found murdered on the city outskirts, a pastor, K. Isaac Raju, went missing, keeping the police on tenterhooks.

Though no link had been established between the two cases, except that both fell under the Rajendranagar division of the Cyberabad police, the All-IndiaChristina Council, expressing concern over the incidents, urged the Governmentto speed up the investigation.

Mr. Isaac Raju (45) of Prashanti Hills in Rayadurgam received a call on hislandline on Tuesday around 7.30 p.m. From Vinod asking him whether he wouldperform a marriage. He expressed his readiness, but the caller did not turn uptill 9.30 p.m. Around the same time he received another call and went out.

Incidentally, none of the pastor's family members saw him going out. His wife,K. Satyaveni, grew suspicious as he did not return till Wednesday and lodged acomplaint with the Rayadurgam police.

According to the pastor's younger sister, Esther Rani, two youngsters came totheir house on May 13 and one of them introduced himself as Vinod. As the pastor was away, Vinod asked her if Isaac Raju would perform marriages. After waiting for sometime, they left saying they would call up the pastor.

"What baffles us is the lack of information from Vinod who has taken the pastorout. And the recent killing of Daniel adds to our apprehension," the AICCSecretary (Public Affairs), Sam Paul, said.

He made it clear that Raju had neither any enemy nor was involved in anycontroversy. As the pastor was not in the habit of using a mobile, no leadscould be stumbled upon. Even as the Rayadurgam police were racking their brains over the mysterious disappearance, the Shamshabad police investigating into Daniel's killing were completely at sea.

While fears were expressed over the possible involvement of some fundamentalist organisations, the police were not ready to buy the theory. The Shamshabad and Asifnagar police (where the victim's house is located) made inquiries over reports of Daniel receiving threats from some persons. But, they did not get any clue. Daniel's parents, native of an interior village near Sircilla of Karimnagar, told the police that their son rarely met them after getting married four years ago.

The only hope for the investigating officials was the victim's mobile phone thatwas taken away by the killers. But, that too was found switched off.

The AICC representatives submitted memoranda in the offices of the DGP and the Cyberabad Police Commissioner.

Atrocities on Christians in Southern India

NEW DELHI, May 27 (Compass) -- A Christian couple in Gujarat, India, are recovering from serious injuries received in an attack in early May. Jamubhai Choudhary was slashed with an ax, and his wife, Jathriben, suffered a bone fracture. Meanwhile, the brutal murder of the Rev. K. Daniel in Hyderabad on May 20 by pouring acid over his body has shaken the Christian community in that city in Andhra Pradesh state. Law enforcement officials deny the attacks were religiously motivated, but Christian leaders believe they are the work of Hindu extremists. "Pastor K. Daniel had been threatened many times by the local Rashtrya Swayamsevak Sangh," Sam Paul of the All India Christian Council told Compass. "Hindu fundamentalists have changed their usual way of attacking minorities ... so that their attacks can be attributed to ‘personal disputes,'" AICC’s Samson Christian added.


NEW DELHI, May 27 (Compass) -- Jamubhai Choudhary and his wife, Jathriben, a Christian couple from the Valia Taluka area of the southern state of Gujarat, India, are recovering from injuries received when axe-wielding Hindu villagers assaulted them three weeks ago.

"They were attacked on the evening of May 7 while they were returning from their field," Samson Christian, an executive of the All India Christian Council (AICC), told Compass.

"Jamubhai received a deep cut on his head and fell unconscious on the spot, while his wife suffered a bone fracture in her right hand."

Meanwhile, the brutal murder of the Rev. K. Daniel by pouring acid over his body has shaken the Christian community in Hyderabad, the capital city of Andhra Pradesh state. Daniel, a pastor from Neralla, Karimnagar district, died on May 20, according to an AICC news release.

"All India Christian Council condemns this gruesome murder," the report stated. "The designs of religious fundamentalists could be easily seen in this incident and we condemn their acts. We demand that whoever may be the culprits, they should be punished."

Sam Paul, national secretary of the AICC; Dr. G. Samuel, president of the Andhra Pradesh state chapter of the AICC; and the organization’s secretary general, Prabhu Kumar, issued the news report on Daniel’s murder.

"Pastor K. Daniel had been threatened many times by the local Rashtrya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)," Paul told Compass on May 25. "Therefore, we highly suspect that religious fundamentalists were behind the brutal murder."

The AICC report listed other incidents of violence against Christians in the region.

"In Sirsiclla and Siddipet areas, several fundamentalists are threatening and obstructing the normal conducting of worship services on a regular basis. There are complaints with police [sic] that never have seen any action from the police.

"Similarly, almost four years back, Pastor Prabhudas of Mustabad was murdered and no one is arrested yet in that case. This shows either connivance or negligence of police with the religious fundamentalists.

"We demand a CB-CID [Crime Branch-Criminal Investigation Department] inquiry and culprits bought to book. We also urge the government to protect the peace-loving and peace-proclaiming pastors and evangelists from unnecessary harassment."

Responding to questions about the attack on the Choudharys, Valia Taluka Chief Constable Roop Singh Bhai told Compass that officers had arrested two local men, Arjunbhai Devabhai Bema and Khansinghbhai Devabhai Bema, for assaulting the couple. He categorically denied that the attack was religiously motivated.

"It was simply a personal dispute," he said. "Jamubhai and his wife have acknowledged this in their statement. There has never been any communal trouble in our jurisdiction."

Joseph Durairaj, area coordinator of the Friends Missionary Prayer Band, disagreed. "I met Jamubhai in the Civil Hospital, and he told me that the RSS and the Bajrang Dal were behind the attack," he said.

"Jamubhai and his wife are a simple farming couple; the police can easily make them give such a statement to shield the real culprits."

Durairaj thinks the attackers were targeting the small group of Christians who meet for worship in the Choudhary home every Sunday and planned to construct a small church building there.

"But in January this year when we took building materials to the site, some villagers strongly objected to it and threatened them," he said. "As a result, we could not begin the construction."

Only 12 of the 130 families in the village are Christian.

"Hindu fundamentalists have changed their usual way of attacking minorities in Gujarat after the riots of 2002, when the state was identified as the most communal [religiously divided] in India," Samson Christian said. "Now they target Christians using local people, so that their attacks can be attributed to 'personal disputes.'"

Christian pointed to the brutal beating of Sunil Benjamin Patel, a Christian teacher at a government school in Petia village, Valia Taluka, on March 14.

"On March 6, a few days before the attack, about 10,000 people from different Hindu organizations had gathered under the banner of Dharma Raksha Samiti [association for the protection of religion] in the same village," Christian said. "The leaders of this gathering spoke out against Christian missionaries."

Police have arrested a member of a Hindu fundamentalist organization in connection with the assault.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Boarding school to teach new Hindu fundamentalists in Gujarat

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad has opened a boarding school to teach the organisation's slogans and Hindu devotional practices to kids, with the result that many young Tribals, including young Christians, are returning to Hinduism.
Samyala (AsiaNews/Agencies) – One of the most hard-line Hindu fundamentalist groups, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP or World Hindu Council), has built a Hindutva (Hindu nationalist) boarding school in Padra in the state of Gujarat to educate Tribal children they deem 'lost Hindus' about Hinduism.
The first group of pupils in the new institution is made of 20 boys from refugee camps in Tripura, a state bordering Bangladesh.
The boys are Mizoram Riyang Tribals and were sent to the school by the VHP’s sister organisation, the Uttar Purwanchal Jan Jati Samity.
Parents were induced to send them to this school with promises of a good education for their children. Currently though, this education amounts to teaching Hindu prayers and VHP slogans whilst more traditional lessons are dispensed in Gujarati, Hindi and English in high schools in the towns of Padra and Vadodara.
Another group of 20 pupils are expected at the school for this June
For years, Hindu fundamentalist movements have been accusing Christians of proselytising, arguing that the latter exploit Tribals' poverty to draw them to Christianity.
Last week, as he was inaugurating the boarding school, the Shri Guruji Purwanachal Chhatralaya Ashok Singhal - VHP executive president - said: "Hindus in north - eastern India are under the great threat of Christian terrorism and Islamic infiltration from Bangladesh. We need the right force to defend our faith from these attacks and this boarding school is part of our efforts in that direction".
The VHP changed the names of some of these Tribals, ostensibly "to make pronouncing them easier".
"My parents are farmers in a village in Tripura," said Lalrinthangba (now called Lalji) who is attending third grade at the Geb School in Vadodara, "and one day a certain Dr Dhananjay got in touch with them and offered them to educate me. Everything is going well here".
Lalamarpe, who is the eldest of the kids, was brought here when organisers were having communication problems with the pupils. Now called Naresh, he was Christian, went to church and attended the Mary John School in Aizwal.
"Dr Dhananjay told my parents that Praveen Togadia (the VHP's secretary general) wanted young people from the community to take part in a social project," he said. "I didn't want to but my parents decided it was best for me and for my education. Now we are all Hindus except one brother who is still Christian".
"[Now,]I want to become a Member of Parliament and be an activist like Dr Dhananjay. I'll talk to my people and teach them Hindi and Hindu values."
Arvind Brahbhatt, VHP organisational chief for Gujarat and Rajasthan, said: "We are helping the lost Hindus assimilate the Bharat bhakti [Bharat devotional practices] and the Hindu sanskar (Hindu religious terminology)."
"[And] they'll do the same with their own people once they go home," he added, also stating that another 35 children from Tripura and Assam are being educated in a similar boarding school in Banswada, Rajasthan.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Four people arrested for handing out Bibles

Bhubaneshwar (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Police in the north-eastern Indian state of Orissa arrested four people last May 13 for handing out copies of the Bible to the residents of Rajnagar Block.
The police action came in the wake of rising religious tensions after the alleged conversion of 300 Hindu families to Christianity in Rajnagar.
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the armed wing of the Bharatiya Janata Party, a Hindu nationalist party that runs the local state government, had threatened protest action if the police failed to act against "those responsible for violating the Orissa Freedom of Religion Act."
According to Sistikantha Kanungo, officer in charge of the Rajnagar police station, "the area is already tense, and open distribution of the Bible at such a time could add fuel to the fire. That is why we arrested the four young men and detained them".
The arrested are Ashok Namalpuri (28) from Chalakamba (Nayagarh district), Gorachand Pal (22) from Gaeba (Gajapati district), Siddheswar Nayak (29) and Bimal Wilson (22) from Koraput.
They had come to Rajnagar in January and were immediately accused of proselytising and trying to influence school children because they taught at two primary schools for free over the last five months.
Hemant Sharma, Kendrapara's district collector, has ordered an inquiry into the alleged conversion of 300 Hindu families. The local superintendent of police said that a report will be released within a week.
Orissa Freedom of Religion Act requires all would-be converts to inform the district authorities of their decision and obliges them to obtain the latter's authorisation.

Christian families attacked by Fundamentalists in Maharashtra

By Vijayesh Lal

Jamanya Village: 16th May 2005: Around 11 Christian families from the Jamanya Village, Yawal Tehsil, District Jalgaon were beaten up by fundamentalists for refusing to give up their faith. Their women and children were abused and beaten up as well. Attempt was made to outrage the modesty of Christian women as the fundamentalists tried to disrobe them and to harm their private parts. At the time of the report the situation remains tense in the area. The police are investigating the matter.

15th May 2005: Jamanya’s 11 Christian families were summoned to the Panchayat (Community Court) by the Sarpanch (head) and the Patil (a local designation, equivalent to the head). The 11 families were told to renounce their faith in Jesus Christ for the common good of the village. They were accused of bringing bad luck to the village by their embracing of the Christian faith. Attempts were made to persuade them and they were threatened till late in the afternoon. The Panchayat and its leaders had joined hands with Panchayat leaders of other villages as well to intimidate the Christians.

At about 3:30 pm the Christians saw a mob coming towards their homes and fled to the mountains which surround the area. As they were running away, some were caught and beaten up mercilessly by heavy sticks and logs till they managed to escape. They were chased by the mob till the evening.

When the Christian men came down to their homes after it was dark, they found groups outside each home, armed with weapons to kill them. They again fled and this time to different villages, seeking shelter wherever they could find it.

16th May 2005: The mob by now agitated and angry because of the escape of the Christian men, targeted their women and children. They too were beaten up mercilessly. Some children passed out because of the beatings. The mob attempted to disrobe the women and some even attempted rape according to reports received. One lady Karoty Bai, was particularly targeted by the mob as they beat her and tried to harm her private parts using a stick.

The Christian men meanwhile escaped to nearby villages and managed to contact other Christians in the area who then took them to the Yawal district police station, where they filed a complaint against the Panchayat leaders. Not to be outdone the Panchayat leaders too had filed a case against the Christians in the same police station on false grounds of conversion and the disruption of peace in the village.

We spoke to the police inspector who is looking into the case and he has confirmed the complaints received, but has not filed it as a First Information Report (FIR). The FIR is needed to commence investigations in a case.

The police have also called all the victims and the complainants to the police station in order to record their testimonies for the purpose of investigation.

The situation in the village is tense and the police have appointed a small force in the village to maintain law and order.

This is not the first time that the Christians had to face the consequences of choosing Christianity. A local Christian told Compass that the agitation against the Christians was initiated 3 years ago by the Sarpanch and the Patil. In 2003 the Christian families had to pay a fine of 11,000 Rupees (around 250 US Dollars) to the Panchayat for adopting Christianity. This was followed by a period of peace till the latest incident happened.

Jamanya is a place inhabited by tribals and is not without the influence of the BJP and its allies which are fundamentalists in ideology. The VHP and the Bajrang Dal have strong presence in the Jalgaon district where this has happened. The Sarpanch, Sattar Singh, who initiated this move against the small Christian community is known to have ties with the local BJP.

Pastor and Associate attacked in Karnataka

May 1st 2005: Dozens of Hindutva fundamentalists attacked the Assembly of God congregation at Shrirangapattana Taluka near Mysore. The pastor of the congregation and his associate, were injured in this attack.

The attack happened right after the Sunday worship service at the AG Church. At the time of the attack there were at least 60 people in the Church. Since there is no building for the Church the congregation meets at a rented house. Suddenly dozens of people, identified by the pastor as activists of the VHP and the Bajrang Dal, attacked the congregation.

The fundamentalists, led by a BJP general secretary, first targeted the associate pastor Mr. Kumar and then the pastor of the congregation, Mr. Samuel. The attackers dragged them both outside the hall, where the Church was meeting and beat them for more than an hour. The congregation too was threatened by the members of the VHP and Bajrang Dal.

After the fundamentalists had finished beating the two men, they dragged them to the local police station and falsely accused them of converting people. The police instead of protecting them, registered a complaint against them, while no complain was registered against the attackers.

The police also reportedly demanded that the pastor’s would no longer hold any Christian meetings in that house in Shrirangapattana. It is alleged by the pastors that only after the police took a written promise from them, to not hold any meetings in the area in the future, did the police squash the complaint.

More than 15 days later the Pastor and the associate Pastor still suffer from internal injuries. It is not known whether services will be continued in the area any more.

This is not the first time that such an incident has happened with the Pastor and his associate. They were also attacked in April last year, beaten inside their church and were taken to the same police station where they claimed they were kept "for one whole night."

This is the second reported incident in this month in the state. Just a few days later a YWAM team was attacked by fundamentalists in the Dharwad district.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Eight Bible College Students Attacked In Kerela

By Vijayesh Lal
Eight students of Beerrsheba Bible College, run by the Indian Pentecostal Church of God at Maraman, Chettimukku, near Kozhencherry, were attacked and beaten up by a group of RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) workers on Thursday, the 12th May 2005.

The students were waiting on the roadside to attend a funeral when a mob of RSS workers riding on motor cycles descended on the spot and physically assaulted them. The local police confirmed that the assault came without any provocation from the Bible School Students, who were caught off guard.

The names of the injured students are R. Ravindran, Rajesh, Binu Babu, T.E. Varghese, Blessen Abraham, Geo Abraham, Vinod and B. Rony.

The police acted swiftly and took the injured students to the district hospital in Kozhencherry where all of them were given first aid.

Two students i.e. Binu Babu and Blessen had to be admitted in the hospital because of the wounds received. They were discharged yesterday. One student, Rajesh nearly escaped blindness; he had received a grievous wound just above his eye. T E Varghese who was attacked with a sharp instrument also received injuries and had to be in the hospital for some time.

According to eyewitnesses, the Bible School students had gone to attend a funeral service of a former Church member. The incident happened when the body of the deceased was being taken from his home to the cemetery.

Since the house where the students were visiting for condolences was away from the main road and there was no room left for them in the bus which was taking people to the cemetery, the students decided to walk to the main road and wait there for the bus to return and pick them up for the service.

Meanwhile two RSS workers on a motorcycle, came and surveyed the matter. They saw the students walking alone to the main road and decided to attack them, knowing they were Christians. It is noteworthy that the RSS was having its meeting, the same day in the nearby area of Kozhencherry.

The two RSS volunteers soon returned with around 15 people on motorcycles and some more on a jeep. The RSS volunteers on the jeep were armed with weapons. They started beating the students without any prior warnings and were shouting anti – Christian slogans. The attackers were all under 25 years and are allegedly led by one ‘Sunil alias Visham’. Visham in the local dialect means poison.

Soon the bus which was supposed to carry the students to the cemetery arrived and the students ran into the bus for protection and to escape the beating. The RSS volunteers followed them into the bus and kept hitting them. They left them only when other Christians and by standers started arriving on the scene.

The incident has instilled fear in the hearts of the Bible College students. There have been reports of more threatening against the Bible College. Last Saturday afternoon a group of RSS people gathered outside the college and shouted anti-Christian slogans and gave mass warnings to the students. Yesterday a day scholar named Sujit, was stopped and threatened by the RSS people.

Police protection has been provided for the Bible College and the Church. The Beersheba Bible College has been in existence for the last 12 years and currently has close to 40 students, while the Church has been ministering in the area for the last 22 years.

However, the response of the Bible School to this incident is very surprising for the people in the area. Pastor Shibu Nalweli, who is the principal of the College and the Pastor of the local Church, has said that the Bible College chooses to forgive the attackers and does not want to push charges against them. The police however have registered a case against the 15 RSS workers in connection with the incident.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Islami Radicals Kidnap Christian Woman in Kashmir

Islamic hard-liners announced on Monday, May 9, that they had kidnapped a Christian woman in Kashmir, India, after she went missing late last week. She had converted to Christianity from Islam and was actively involved in Christian ministries such as translation work and producing children's Bible stories.
She is one of only a few Kashmiri women who have come to know Christ and is now influential in spreading the gospel in this severely restricted region. The kidnapping came soon after Muslim mullahs demanded last week that staff members with Asia Harvest move from their offices and leave their homes. The ministry reported that it is not unusual for Christians in the area to face threats from radical Muslims.
(Mission Network News)

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

YWAM Team attacked in Karnataka

May 5th 2005:

A YWAM (Youth With A Mission) team was attacked and was forced to bow down before and idol in a Hindu temple in the Kalkari villae in the Dharwad district of Karnataka.

The incident happened when the YWAM team along with a local evangelist had gone to Kalkari village to meet a new believer. The believer came from a higher cast group called the Lingayat.

It was while returning from the visit that they were stopped by three men who questioned them about their visit to the area. The men who were questioning them soon started to argue and it was with difficulty that the team managed to escape the situation only to be confronted by three more men who beat them up before dragging them to a nearby Hindu Temple. The attackers also demanded money from the team, asking for 10000 Rupees.

While the fundamentalists were trying to force the team to bow down to idols some leaders of the BJP arrived on the scene with the police and media persons.

The team was taken to the police where they were kept for about 8 hours. Jiggu Bogi a YWAM member told us, “During the time at the police station the ruffians spoke very degradingly about the sisters on the team and made fun of our Lord. Mockingly they asked our leaders to share their testimony. Both leaders counted it an opportunity to witness and shared about their changed lives since believing in Jesus as their savior. They were also asked to sing some songs and they ended up singing more love "More power more of you in my life" and worshipping the Lord in the police station.”

The scene changed after this when the police heard that the attackers had demanded 10000 Rupees from the team. They then warned the attackers and let the YWAM team go. The police even told the YWAM team that they every right to believe in any God and to preach their religion.

Sack all Christian IAS, IPS officers, says VHP

Bhubaneswar, May 9:

An official direction issued by a senior IAS officer asking all district magistrates in Orissa to rectify the process of recording the caste of "Santhal Christians" has angered the Sangh Parivar. The state Vishwa Hindu Parishad will soon start a campaign demanding the dismissal of all Christian IAS and IPS officers.

IAS officer Livinus Kindo, currently serving as a member of the board of revenue, says the recording of the caste of Santhal tribals had been incorrectly done in many tehsils. "Instead of writing 'Santhal Christian' for Christians, all the Santhals have been termed as Christians instead of mentioning the caste with their religion," Mr Kindo observed.

Subsequently, he had directed all district magistrates to rectify the mistake and submit a compliance report within three months.

The particular portion of the letter that sparked off the controversy read: "I apprehend that the state of affairs might have occurred in some other tehsils of the state of Orissa. If the caste of the Christians is not recorded properly, they may face avoidable problems in obtaining their caste certificates and other benefits."

When the Organiser, the mouthpiece of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, published an article criticising the Orissa government for favouring "converted" Christians, members of the Sangh Parivar planned to get the attention of BJP minister Manmohan Samal, who heads the revenue department.
Mr Sudhanshu Mohan Patnaik, the organising secretary of the state VHP, said, "All IAS and IPS officers belonging to the Christian community have been providing lucrative platforms for tribals to get converted."

He claimed it was an established fact that tribals were Hindus and enjoyed all the benefits provided by the Constitution. "If anybody accepts another religion, why is this particular IAS officer showing so much interest in safeguarding the benefits of the converted Christians? Mr Kindo should act impartially." The VHP organising secretary said a team could meet the revenue minister and place before him its apprehensions.

State BJP spokesperson Nayan Kishore Mohanty toned down the rhetoric of the VHP and expressed concern over the contents of the letter. Mr Mohanty said, "The party doesn’t believe in giving benefits to converted Christians. We will take up the matter with the revenue minister."

Courtesy: Asian Age

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Christians arrested in Betul District of Madhya Pradesh

Christians arrested in Betul District of Madhya Pradesh on Charges of hurting religious sentiment of Hindus
By Vijayesh Lal

Three Christians (Two women and a man) from Mizoram in North East India were arrested in Betul district of Madhya Pradesh for allegedly offending Hindu Sensibilities. At the time of this report they are still in prison waiting for the court to consider their bail application.

On 4th May Thangkhuma, age 33, Lalbhang Pui , age 25 years, and Babywan Lalopuri, age 19 years, were distributing tracks in Goladongri, Betul district, Madhya Pradesh when some RSS activists complained about the content of the tracts. The charge leveled against them was that the tracts encouraged the people to kill cows and bulls and eat their meat, which is considered to be against the Hindu religion. The tracts are produced by the Bible Society of India, Madhya Pradesh.

Soon a mob formed and started to question the three who were distributing the tracts. It is reported that the mob also tried to physically assault them, this, despite the fact that two of them i.e. Lalbhang Pui and Babywan Lalopuri are girls.

They were taken to Betul, which is the district headquarter for Goladongri block and a certain Mr. Kapoor from Goladongri filed a complaint against them in the Betul Police Station. They were charged with 153 A under the Indian Penal Code.

Sections 153 A and B of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) are applicable to offences for promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, language etc and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony or prejudicial to national integration. Section 153 A is a non – bailable offence. That means that while the trial goes on the defendant cannot be let out on bail.

As soon as the news of their beating and arrest got out to local Christians, some of them came to help and employed a local lawyer to represent them in the case. K T Paulus, a local Christian from Goladongri even accompanied them to the police station and tried to reason things out with the police but in vain. The three were taken into police custody.

The next day they were produced before the Magistrate, Mr. D K Dubela, who rejected their bail application.

Compass spoke to the lawyer Mr. Prashant Garg and he told Compass that the three accused do not even know how to speak or read Hindi which is the local language, so how could they hurt or offend the sentiments of the majority community? He admitted however that the tracts being distributed were debatable and the RSS, VHP and its allies can easily misinterpret it even though it does not mean any harm or encourages Hindus to eat cow meat.

He informed Compass that an application for bail will now be put up in the session’s court of Betul on the coming Monday and was hopeful for their release.

The three accused are from Mizoram and are working with an organization called Soul Seekers, which is based in Aizawl in the North East India. The organization has also its office in Madhya Pradesh in a place called Burhanpur, which is about 250 kilometers away from Betul.

At the time of the incident they were visiting Betul for the purpose of meeting local Christians. During their visit they distributed some tracts too, which invoked strong reactions from the local branch of the RSS and the VHP, who then organized local people into a mob and caused the beating and arrest of the three.

This incident has resulted in tension in the area and suspicion against local Christians. Dr. Victor Choudhrie, who lives in Padhar, close to Betul, has reported that the police are now questioning even local Christians, which is causing distress to them.

Hindu Extremists in India Attack Church, Burn Bibles

NEW DELHI, May 4 (Compass) -- A crowd of nearly 500 Hindu villagers attacked the pastor of a house church, his wife and other church members in the southern state of Karnataka on May 1. The attackers sexually molested female church members and burned Bibles and other Christian literature.

About 60 people were present at the Sunday service of King Jesus Church, which meets in the home of Pastor Paulraj Raju in Mangalwarapete village near the Mysore district in Karnataka state. The church belongs to Harvest India, a Christian mission.

Pastor Charles Isaac, director of the Evangelical Free Church Urban Movement (EFCUM) of India, gave details of the attack.

"On the morning of May 1, a 500-strong mob of Hindus, who identified themselves as belonging to the Bajrang Dal, a Hindu fundamentalist group, and the Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party [BJP], entered into the church and violently attacked Pastor Raju, his wife, and other Christians.

"When the women tried to stop them from beating up Christian men, the attackers pulled at their clothes and tried to touch them sexually.

"Pastor Raju was beaten up until he started bleeding profusely. His wife was also bleeding terribly. And Mr. Nagraj, an elder of the church, was also seriously injured in the attack."

At press time, Raju was still in the hospital recovering from his injuries.

"We submitted a memorandum to the Chief Minister of Karnataka, Mr. Dharam Singh, on May 3, requesting him to protect Christians and take action against the perpetrators," Isaac told Compass.

EFCUM India is a member of the Indian Mission Association, an umbrella body of Christian churches and missions in India.

Ms. Phelomina Peris, former chairperson of the Karnataka State Commission for Women, said, "I will visit Channapatna tomorrow to talk to the women who were molested. Such a shameful incident is against the Indian culture and against international culture."

According to Samuel Jacob, the director of Harvest India, "The mob completely damaged all the items in the hall where the worship was going on. Besides, they publicly burned Bibles and Christian literature."

The May 1 attack echoed an earlier incident on April 1, when a mob of about 200 people gathered in front of Raju's house and demanded that he close down the church and leave the district, stated Jacob.

The officers of Channapatna Police Station acted promptly. "We have arrested the five accused named in the First Information Report, and we have provided protection to Pastor Raju and his wife," said Mr. Jeyaram, the officer in charge of the investigation.

However, Jeyaram rejected the Christians' claim that the attackers were from the local Bajrang Dal and BJP. "All the accused are local residents, and they do not belong to any organization," he insisted.

A more senior police official in the district, who requested anonymity, told Compass, "The attackers seemingly had the support of the local BJP."

However, this official alleged that there were only 10 to 15 attackers and that the incident was sparked by a dispute between Raju and a neighbor named Shekhar.

"Mr. Shekhar converted to Christianity some time ago, but he recently reconverted to Hinduism, which is perhaps why Pastor Raju and he developed a quarrel," the official claimed.

Pastor Raju was beaten by local people in January and later arrested by local police on charges of attempting conversions.

"On January 14, Pastor Raju had gone to a nearby village, Rampur, where some villagers caught him and beat him up, saying he had come to convert Hindus," Isaac said. "Later, he was taken to the police station, where he was interrogated and finally asked to go back home."

On the following day, the police summoned him and arrested him for converting Hindus, a charge levied by a local Hindu, Mr. Lokesh. Raju was arrested under Section 153A(1)b of the Indian Penal Code, which prohibits any act leading to religious disharmony.

"Raju was detained until March 3, while the police did no investigation at all. He was finally released after his wife filed a petition to quash the case against him and after the Karnataka High Court passed an order for his release."

Only one million of the 52.8 million inhabitants of Karnataka state are Christians. Hindus number 44.3 million, according to 2001 census figures.
(Courtesy: Compass Direct)

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Foreign funded NGOs under scanner

In a move that has left non-government organisations (NGO) in Gujarat rattled, the state government has ordered an inquiry into all NGOs getting foreign funds.

The organisations feel this is yet another attempt by the government to harass them, particularly those who do not fall in line with the ideology of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The inquiry is being seen in the light of Chief Minister Narendra Modi's statement in the tribal district of Dahod on 17 April 2002 that " these five-star activists of NGOs are serving their own interests."

A circular issued by an additional DGP on 7 March 2005 asks police stations to follow a specific procedure of inquiry. They have been asked to provide names and addresses of all the office bearers of these NGOs and to find out if they have a criminal past.

The police have also asked to find out if the NGOs are capable of "misusing" these foreign funds and give their opinion on whether the NGOs should be allowed to receive foreign funds in the future. An official of a prominent NGO said, "The police specifically wanted to know if we had projects in the tribal belt with foreign funding."

Although the NGOs have so far cooperated with the inquiry, they say the exercise is futile because the Union Government conducts its own inquiry before giving them permission to bring in funds. Besides they also submit their annual reports to the charity commissioner.

"This is a routine exercise, started mainly by the intelligence department," Vadodara police commissioner Deepak Swaroop says. "The aim is to ensure that NGOs use the funds for what they are meant for."

"Before allowing an NGO to accept funds under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) 1976, the Union Home Ministry conducts an elaborate security check," a member of a top NGO in Vadodara says. "Even the state intelligence bureau is asked to dig into the background of the organisation. This is also the first time that a policeman has knocked at my door," he adds.

To ensure that the police are not accused of an anti-minority bias, the list that the Vadodara police received from Gandhinagar includes Gujarat Ecology Society, Heritage Trust, Deepak Charitable Trust, Bal Bhavan, Bhasha Research and Publication Centre, Parsi Panchayat, Shroff Foundation and even the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON).

For Muslim-run organisations, however, this exercise is not new. "Every year, a police official turns up at our doorstep asking for details of our activities," secretary of one such organisation says. "We give them all details except those related to FCRA. They can get the details from the Centre or from the charity commissioner."

(Source: The Times of India)

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Vicar General of Patna Archdiocese Dies of Stab Wounds, Christian Community Agitated

May 3, PATNA, Bihar: Catholic priest, Father Mathew Uzhuthal, Vicar General of Patna Archdiocese and Parish Priest of the Catholic Church, Mokama, Patna District, died, May 1, of stab injuries by a criminal, at Patna's Kurji Holy Family Hospital (KHFH), Patna.
The Christian community in Bihar has been agitated over the armed attack and injury of the priest, April 11, by a criminal youth Mr. Gyan Prakash Das, at Mokama, 95 kilometers southeast of Patna.
The news on the attack on the priest was reported several times in the newspapers and the TV.
This was the fourth incident of killing of Christian priests in Patna Archdiocese and the second at Mokama. Father Uzhuthal, aged 70, was brutally attacked in the evening of April 11, at his office-cum-residence at the priest's house in the Church compound near Nazareth Hospital, Mokama (NHM).
The priest had suffered heavy wounds on the left lower chest, and back of the neck besides several cuts around the neck. The assailant ran away from the room as another priest and Chaplain of Nazareth Hospital, Father Thomas Cheruvally, accompanied by Notre Dame Sister Suja, rushed to the spot hearing the agonizing cry of Father Uzhuthal. Collapsed and in a pool of blood, Father Uzhuthal was immediately rushed to NHM, run by the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth (SCN).
Brought on April 16 to Patna's Kurji Holy Family Hospital for availing treatment by specialists Father Uzhuthal was operated upon, April 23, by senior neurologist, Dr. Ramesh Chandra. However, his health deteriorated and battling for life for 19 days, he succumbed to his injuries at 00.15 hours, May 1.
What is disconcerting is the police inaction, in spite of a First Information Report (FIR) filed soon after the incident.
A delegation of concerned citizens led by the Archbishop of Patna Benedict J. Osta, Father James Amakatt, Chairperson of Mokama Citizen's Forum (MCF) and MCF member Mr. Daljeet Singh, Sister Nirmala Mulackal, Administrator of Mokama's Nazareth Hospital, Apostolic Carmel Sister Dr. Doris D'Souza, Principal of Patna Women's College and another member met the Director General of Police Mr. Narayan Mishra on April 28, and the Governor Dr. Buta Singh, on April 29.
The delegation appealed to the Governor to arrest and prosecute without delay the assailant Gyan Prakash Das, and to provide police protection to the Mission personnel at Mokama in particular, and to free Mokama town and vicinity of criminal elements who continue extortion and terror, in general.
Some Christian schools were kept closed on Monday May 2, protesting the aggression and death of Father Mathew.
The State authorities have assured the delegation of justice. The police started a round-the-clock patrolling security at the Mission compound on April 30. The police have also claimed that they have arrested five persons allegedly connected with the criminal. But the criminal who had been earlier jailed for 5 years, is still at large.
An energetic and zealous missionary, Father Mathew Uzhuthal from the Palathumkal family at Vaikom in Kerala, joined Patna diocese in 1953 and had his ecclesiastical training mostly at St. Joseph's Seminary, Mangalore. He was one of the hundreds of priests ordained by the pope himself (Paul VI) at the Eucharistic Congress on December 2, 1964, at Mumbai.
During his 40-year-priestly ministry he had served in many Mission stations as co-pastor (5 years) and parish priest (22 years). His distinguished contribution was catechetical training at Jyoti Bhawan (House of Light), the Archdiocesan Catechetical Training Centre, which he founded at Mokama.
In his condolence message during a Mass attended by nearly 2000 laity, clergy and religious, on May 1, at St. Joseph's Pro-Cathedral, Patna's Archbishop Benedict Osta thanked all doctors, nurses and others, especially the SCN nuns at NHM and the nuns at KHFH, collaboratively run by Medical Mission Sisters and SCN nuns.
In the funeral Mass held at Mokama Church from 10 a. m, Monday, May 2, the Archbishop told the people to keep to their faith and work united to overcome the anti-social elements in Mokama. Father Mathew represents all those who lost their lives fighting against violence, aggression, and greed, he added.
While deploring the death of a priest the Archbishop highlighted two messages of Father Mathew at his death: courage to stand for truth and forgiveness to the offender.
Over 3000 people including three bishops, 150 priests, a few hundred nuns and lay persons from many dioceses in Bihar and Jharkhand attended the funeral and bade a touching farewell to their spiritual guru.
SCN Sister Mercy Thundathil associated with Father Mathew for nearly 32 years said the greatest contribution of Father Mathew is empowerment of the laity through faith formation. He loved the Dalit Christians, she told SAR News, May 2.
His organizational qualities as Vicar General, an additional post he was shouldering since 1993, will be remembered in fostering lay leadership, Mr. Gabriel John, President of the Bihar unit of the All Indian Catholic Union, told SAR News.
One of his students, Mr. Shila Chandra Das, a government employee in Patna recalled how Father Mathew tirelessly worked for the youth, educating them and helping them get jobs. He maintained good contact with members of other Churches and other religions, said Church of North India (CNI) member Mr. A. Christopher.
The Church in Bihar has lost a great missionary who loved his people, Archbishop Osta said.
(Courtesy: SAR News)

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Over 500 people reconverted in Orissa

Press Trust of India
Sambalpur, May 1 2005 Sunday

In a reconversion ceremony, 567 Christians returned to Hinduism at Bijepur, a block headquarter town in neighbouring Bargarh district on Sunday, VHP sources said.

The ceremony was organised by the VHP and an elaborate arrangement was made at a local school premises where the people, mostly belonging to SC, had assembled.

A 'yagna' was held to mark the occasion and the people reconverted were provided with new clothes. VHP sources said that activists of the organisation had been in touch with these persons for a long time counselling them to return to Hinduism.

Members of 169 families from seven nearby villages were expected to attend the ceremony but all had not turned up, the sources said.

Asked whether they had informed the district authorities about their intention to change their faith as laid down in the Orissa Freedom of Religion Act (OFRA), the sources said, "all of them had sworn affidavits in this connection which were sent to the district authorities". Contacted, the local police said over 700 affidavits sworn by those intending to reconvert had been submitted with the authorities. Two sections of armed police and five officers had been deployed at the venue of the 'yagna' to ensure law and order but the entire procedure was completed this afternoon peacefully.

Dharma Narayan Sharma, VHP National Secretary, Rohini Parmanik, National Joint Secretary and Satyanarayan Panda, Vice-President of state VHP were present on the occasion.