Wednesday, May 18, 2005

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.