Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Report on the Catholic Preist arrested in Jhabua

A priest blackmailed for free education, but failed to file FIR against them, which causes him police arrest

Source: Persecuted Church of India, Yahoo Groups

Fr Thomas P. T. the parish priest of St Michael's church, Jhapadra belonging to Catholic Diocese of Jhabua, Madhya Pradesh, India, was arrested on 21st July 2005 on the false accusation of abetting some tribals for conversion. He was released on bail immediately after the arrest. The priest was many times threatened of leveling conversion charges if he does not give fee concession for his child and free education to the children of his relatives by Mr. Rusmal S/o Humji Charpota. The priest was advised to file an FIR of blackmailing him and the church personal. But the priest refused to do anything. This gave enough time for the fundamental organizations to group together against him. The charged him of the same. And he was arrested and set free.

The sequence of the incident is as follows:

Rusmal S/o Humji Charpota, an active RSS worker of Jhapadra village is the main complainant in the case that led to the arrest of the priest who had been working in the area as a missionary for the last
21 years. The arrest was effected on the section 3 of the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act 1968, which provides for prevention of forcible conversion or attempt to conversion by force or allurement. The action came after Rusmal an ex-student of the above school along with his brother and Pachayath president Mr. Balu Humji Charpotta and six others submitted affidavits in the court of S. D. M. in the nearby town of Thandla on Friday 8th July 2005, accusing the priest to the above effect.

Prior to this on Friday 24th of June 2005 Rusmal had met Fr Thomas P T in the nearby Parolia Junction. There he told the priest that there was a complaint against him. On inquiry he had told him, "You have increased the fees. We will decide in our RSS meeting as to what is to be done. We will make a complaint against you to the collector and you forget about staying in Jhapadra."

The affidavits filed on 8th July 2005 stated that when they had allegedly gone to Fr. Thomas P. T Manager of the above Mission School for admitting their children, they were asked to pay a huge amount as fees. As they expressed their inability to pay the amount the priest allegedly told them that if they became Christians, no fees would be charged. As they refused to become Christians their children were not yet admitted in the school. Nothing could be far from the truth. All the school admissions are done by Sr Pratima, the school headmistress and the school staff. As the manager the priest has no direct role in the day to day running of the school. So none of the above complainants had ever approached the priest for the purpose of school admission. Moreover the wards of most of the complainants were already studying in the school for many years. And this year too all of them had paid the fees of the children prior to making the complaint and all their children are attending the classes even to this day. The same day evening Police Inspector from the nearby Kakanwani, Police Station came to Jhapadra searching for Fr. Thomas. Since he was out of station the Police asked the sisters to inform him to report to the police station at 10 `O' clock, the next day.

Next day the priest went to the Police station along with Fr. Mathias Bhuria the V. G. of the diocese and Mr. Peter Baberia a local Christian BJP leader. The Inspector advised them to settle the matter amicably in the village and then they would come and take the statements of both parties and report to the higher ups that the issue had been settled. Fr. Anand Muttungal, the spokesperson, Catholic Bishops Conference, M. P Region, talked to the Town Inspector about the incident. He said that nothing to be serious and no issue of conversion is found. He spoke same to other Christian members too.

So the priest came back to the Parish along with the others. Soon after the Block Education Officer (BEO) of Meghnagar came to the school along with Rusmal, the main complainant, his brother Balu Sarpanch and some others. They inspected the records of the school and took the statement of Sr. Pratima, the Headmistress of the school. They went away without even meeting Fr. Thomas, the Manager of the school, against whom the complaint was lodged.

After this on Monday 11/07/2005 at 3. p. m Fr. Thomas received a show- cause notice served by the SDM, Thandla based on the report of the BEO, stating that many irregularities are found in the school records. Especially it was stated that there was a disparity in the fees collected from the Christian and non-Christian students of the K. G. class. This also is not true and does not tally with the facts. This year 111 children had taken admission in the K G class. Among them 99 had paid the full fees and the rest have paid only partially for various reasons and that too at different rates. Among the above two categories, there are both Christians and non-Christians. Above all even if such difference existed it was beyond anyone's imagination that how it amounted to a case under the provisions of M. P. Religious Freedom Act 1968. The SDM asked him to file the reply by 11am on the next day.

As per the suggestion of the advocate on the next day Fr. Thomas approached the S D M with an application requesting him for the copies of the complaints. But the SDM told that he need the reply immediately within half an hour, since he had to report to the collector by 2 `O'clock. Further he said that only then he would make the copies of the complaints available. So the priest gave an interim reply on the spot. The SDM fixed 15/07/2005 Friday for the final reply. Meanwhile on Wednesday 13/07/2005 at 4 pm the same SDM came to Japadhara and informed the priest that the collector has asked him to be out of the station for a few days as the complainants are making some plan which he did not specify. As per the instruction of the S D M the priest gave an application to postpone the date for filing the reply and it was fixed for 18th July 2005.

From 16th July 2005 Saturday, it was rumored that on the collector's instruction the SDM had already ordered the Kakanwani police to file an FIR against the accused Priest. Finally on Sunday 17/07/2005 the FIR was registered. So a day before receiving the final and full reply to the show cause notice, the administration already registered the FIR. However on 18th July 2005 the reply was submitted in the office of the SDM.

After learning that the FIR had been registered, on the same day the diocesan office sent a few persons to the police station to know the content of the FIR. They were informed that the FIR was registered under the M. P Freedom of religion Act 1968 section 3, and the priest had to be arrested. The police informed that the offence is bailable. Meanwhile the police team went to Jhapadra and confiscated all the records of the K G section, which do not come under the preview of the formal school curriculum and does not require any recognition from the education department. Finally the priest was arrested on Tuesday, 21st July 2005 and was immediately released on bail.

While the above scenario was unfolding to which regular media reports gave much hype, the report of the Narendra Prasad Committee was published in the newspapers on 11th July 2005. The committee headed by the retired Director General of Police, (Prison), was appointed to look into the reasons for communal violence which broke out in Jhabua district after the murder of Sujatha in January last year.

After the arrest of Fr. Thomas P. T the Christian community in Jhabua district came together in their respective areas and gave memorandum to the local administration at Tehsil and district level condemning the arrest. They demanded the administration to dismiss the false case against Fr. Thomas immediately and to take stern action against those who harass the Christian community perpetuating lie and falsehood against them and their institutions, which are rendering selfless service in the field of education, health and community development in the district.

Fr. Anand Muttungal

PRO & Spokesperson

Catholic Church, M. P

Modi to release Rs 4,000 million to counter conversions in Gujarat

By Samson Christian

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi is preparing to release Rs 4,000 million for a month-long programme in August 2005 to develop Dang district, mostly inhabited by tribals. Preparations are on to gather a minimum of three lakh people to attend the inauguration of the month-long programme.

According to sources, the programme is aimed at winning all those tribals who have embraced Christianity. In fact, a re-conversion drive led by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has been going on for some time with the active involvement of the government.

Their success in winning over hordes of tribals to the Hindu fold is a clear-cut indication to the massive programme under way. In fact, Gujarat has become a laboratory for Sangh Parivar to experiment their hidden agenda.

Sudarshan spews venom

The recent visit of RSS chief K Sudarshan to Sabaridham near Surat is to be seen in this context. Surat lies close to Dang district where the proposed programme is being taken up. Sudarshan has reportedly met different groups belonging to the Sangh Parivar.

Spewing venom on the Christian community, Sudarshan said Christian Popes had converted European Countries to Christianity in the first thousand years. In the next 1000 years they converted African Countries to Christianity. "Now their eyes are on Asia. Of 1 billion dollars collected by the United States, 20 million dollars will be spent on India alone. They are trying to break Hindu community again. There is therefore an urgent need to awaken the country to the harsh reality. It is time for the Hindu Community to gain sufficient power so that none would dare to attack it," he said.

Sudarshan urged the provincial leaders to get ready to face the Christian invasion. He said the disease of conversion was spreading across the country. "On the one hand Muslim terrorists are attacking us and on the other conversion activity is being carried out by Christian missionaries," he pointed out.

He said the Muslim population was increasing in India. "Within next 60 years, their population will surpass Hindus if it increases at the present rate. It is time to take steps to prevent such a population growth. For this, only the re-awakening of the Hindus is the only remedy," he added.

Jhabua issue burns again

The State Government of Madhya Pradesh on 27th February 2004 set up one man commission namely Narendra Prasad Committee to investigate the violence against the Christian community the District of Jhabua from 11th January to 17th January 2004. The commission seems to have submitted its report to the Government in the month of June 2005. The report blames the church for the violence in Jhabua as result of conversion.

The three-member team namely a senior journalist Lajja Shankar Herdenia, CPI state secretariat member Anand Pande and Father Anand Muttungal, spokesperson of the Catholic Church of Madhya Pradesh. Went to Jhabua to wanted to study the truth of the report so they visited the Jhabua District from 19th July to 21st July 2005. They visited the leaders of Hindu organizations, political leaders, government officers, non-governmental organizations, Christian representatives, schools, hospitals run by the government and non- governmental organizations, the most violent hit area of Alirajpur, Amkot, Jobat , jobat and the thirteen Christians detained for one and half years in the Alirajpur Jail for the death of Arjunpal, a rioter.

Press Release

BHOPAL: July 23, 2005: A probe panel has found baseless and unfounded the allegation that tribals are being forcibly converted to Christianity in the Jhabua district of Madhya Pradesh.

The probe panel comprised journalist Lajja Shankar Herdenia, CPI state secretariat member Anand Pande and Father Anand Muttungal, spokesperson of the Catholic Church of Madhya Pradesh.

The panel extensively toured Jhabua district for three days from July 19 to 21. During its visit, the panel met representatives of Hindu organisations, Christian missionaries, office-bearers of political parties, government officials and social workers. Besides Jhabua, the panel visited Alirajpur, Meghnagar, Aamchoor, Jobat and scores of small villages and hamlets in the district. The panel visited several government schools and government hospitals to make an assessment of their functioning. The panel also visited the schools and hospitals run by the missionaries.

Almost all the persons the panel met unanimously denied that tribals were being forcibly converted to Christianity. Even Shri Arun Bhatt, who handed over the charge of the Collector of Jhabua on July 19, said that the allegation was not true. Shri Mahesh Agarwal, the well- known pointsman of Hindu organisations who has been leading the campaign against conversions in Jhabua, admitted that many tribals, impressed by the medical services and aid being provided by the missionaries, were embracing Christianity. But even he ruled out any role of coercion or force in conversions. Similar views were aired by young BJP leader and vice chairman of Alirajpur municipal corporation Mr. Pintoo Jaiswal. He said that there was absolutely no basis in the allegation that coercion or inducement was being used to convert tribals. He said that while Hindus were hesitant to "even touch" the tribals, the missionaries readily "embraced" them and served them in every way. The missionaries play a key role in providing services to the tribals. Mr. Jaiswal said that even his children were studying in Christian missionary schools/ "My children have never complained that any attempt was ever made to convert either them or any of their friends to Christianity", Mr. Jaiswal said.

During its visit, the panel also elicited the views of the people about conclusions of the report of the Narendra Prasad committee. Not a single person approved of the conclusions of the report in its totality. However, many people did complain that they did not come to know of the committee's visits to the district. Others complained that the report was silent on the violent and provocative attacks on Christians by the Hindu organisations. They denied that the missionaries were engaged in any sort of anti-national activities. It was pointed out by many that it was primarily due to the vigorous efforts of the missionaries that the literacy percentage among tribal Christians was upwards of 80. "Is it anti-national to serve the sick and make people literate?", a social worker asked.

The probe panel asked several Christian missionaries as to why they did not present their side of the story before the Narendra Prasad committee. The reply was that they were not allowed to meet the committee. The activists of Hindu organisations did not allow the missionaries to enter the places where the committee held its meetings. Especially, the Christians who were victims of the atrocities of Hindu organisations were not allowed to meet the committee.

The probe panel was informed by government sources that Manoj Jadhav was indeed the culprit in the case of rape and murder of Ms. Sujata. He is not insane. DNA test has proved Jadhav's guilt but this fact has not been included in the Narendra Prasad committee report. Instead, by describing Jadhav as insane, the committee has only re- iterated the allegations of the extremist Hindu organisations.

The panel also met Mr. Khum Singh Maharaj, President of the Bhagat Samaj. He had supported the BJP in the last elections. He emphatically said that unless the government put an immediate stop to conversions, "the seventy thousand members of my samaj would beat the hell out of the missionaries and chase them out of this district". Mr. Gum Singh is also unhappy with the BJP. He charged that two BJP leaders, including MLA Mr. Kal Singh Bhanwar and Mr. Suresh Aryal were "amassing wealth".

During its three-day visit, the panel also met former BJP Lok Sabha member Mr. Dileep Singh Bhuria and the new Collector of Jhabua Mr. Rajkumar Pathak. It may be mentioned here that Shri Bhuria has served as chairman of the National commission for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. Shri. Dileep Singh Bhuria said that Hindutva had never done any good to the tribals. To say that tribals convert due to inducements is tantamount to insulting them. Christianity gives them a better social status. Mr. Bhuria said that the charge of conversions was being used to build "vote banks".

The Collector Shri Rajkumar Pathak said that the administration would try to identify the reasons behind the conversion of tribals to Christianity. He said that efforts would be made to improve the socio- economic condition of the tribals.

The panel was also told that one of the reasons for the rise in the Christian population in Jhabua was that many Christians facing the onslaught of the Hindutva organisations in the neighbouring Gujarat had abandoned their homes and settled in Jhabua. They chose to settle in Jhabua because they felt safe under the regime of the (then) chief minister Mr. Digvijay Singh.

Source: Persecuted Church of India Yahoo groups

Monday, July 25, 2005

VHP, Bajrang Dal Activists attack a Prayer Meeting at Ratlam, MP

23rd July 2005

Tension prevailed in Ratlam, Madhya Pradesh as activists of the VHP, Bajrang Dal and its affiliates attacked a peaceful gathering of Christians on the afternoon of 23rd July 2005.

The Christian meeting was going on at Gujarati Manglik Bhavan, Gandhinagar, Ratlam from the 20th July 2005 and was organized by Pastor Biju Varghese of Miracle Ministries. Pastor Varghese had rented the premises for use for the meeting.

The meeting was primarily a prayer meeting where people were being prayed over for healing of the bodies from any sickness that they might have. Nearly 85 participants, most of the them Christians were attending the prayer meeting in a peaceful manner.

On the 23rd afternoon some activists of VHP and Bajrang Dal descended at the venue of the prayer meeting and demanded to know what was going on. They were using abusive language and soon many more people joined them. They were shouting anti Christian slogans and using disrespectful language against the Christian faith. They were also accompanied by some members of the local media who clearly appeared to be biased.

Some Christians attending the prayer meeting were beaten up and prevented from professing their faith. Jaikar and Antar Singh who were conducting the prayer meeting were also among those who were threatened.

Soon the police arrived on the scene. TI of the Alkapuri Thana, Mr. P N Malviya along with some constables was unable to control the RSS activists who had brought along a video camera and were interviewing and recording statements of the participants forcefully and illegally.

The participants were threatened to give statements that they had been brought to the venue by the organizers in order to convert them.

Such rowdiness continued till the SP Ratlam arrived on the scene and it was only then that some order could be restored.

The activist who attacked the prayer meeting have not been arrested, nor have they been charged of any criminal activity. When the organizers of the meeting tried to file an FIR they were advised not to do so thus denying them of their basic right.

The Christian community in Ratlam is saddened by this gross violation of human and minority rights especially the fundamental rights as enshrined in the Constitution of India.

This incident coupled with other incidents of atrocities against Christians in the state of Madhya Pradesh in the past week only points to a well planned strategy against the Christians of the state by Hindu Fundamentalists.

RSS 'included in US terrorist list', says Congress

Sunday July 24 2005

BHOPAL: Claiming that RSS was included in a list of 38 terrorist outfits in an US website, Madhya Pradesh Congress on Saturday demanded a high-level probe into it and said the party would raise the matter in the state assembly during its monsoon session, beginning on July 25.

"The website of a research centre in the US shows a list of terrorist outfits active in India. Besides Lashkar-e- Toiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Jamat-e-lslami and ULFA, the list of 38 outfits also includes the name of RSS", the leader of the opposition in state assembly, Jamuna Devi told reporters here.

Since Chief Minister Babu Lal Gaur takes part in activities of RSS, Congress would raise the issue in the assembly, she said adding that she has also written a letter to governor Balram Jakhar seeking a thorough probe into the activities of rss and the people associated with it in the state.

Demanding resignation of gaur for his alleged links with RSS, Congress legislature party spokesman Sajjan Singh Verma said the issue would be raised prominently in the assembly.

Accusing BJP as well as VHP, Bajrang Dal and RSS of spreading communalism in the state for 'political gains', Jamuna Devi and Verma said 'failure' of the government in providing relief to the flood-hit and scandals pertaining to land, pension and mining lease as well as the Dharaji tragedy would also be raised during the session.

Congress would also oppose hike in electricity tariff and alleged corruption in transfer besides highlighting problems like Naxalite and dacoity menace and alleged atrocities on tribals, women and minorities, Jamuna Devi said.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Catholic priest arrested on conversion charge in Madhya Pradesh

Jhabua, Madhya Pradesh, July 22 : Following the revelation in an inquiry report that the Christian population in the tribal Jhabua district in western Madhya Pradesh rose by 80 percent, a Catholic priest running a middle school has been arrested on the charge of abetting conversion to Christianity.

Father P T Thomas, director of the St Michael School, run by the Catholic mission at Jhaparda village in this district's Meghnagar tahsil was arrested yesterday under the Freedom of Religion Act.

He was released on a bail of Rs five thousand, Superintendent of Police Umesh Joga said today.

The arrest followed complaints from eight tribal parents that the school management was charging higher admission fees from non-Christians.

''The management had offered the inducement to reduce the fees if they adopted Christianity,'' the parents complained.

''Since the school management had not replied to a show cause notice within the stipulated three days, steps were being taken to cancel the school's recognition,'' said Tribal Development Assistant Commissioner B G Mehta, who is currently holding the charge of District Education Officer.

The complaint was found true during a preliminary inquiry by the Education department, Mr Joga said.

Meanwhile, VHP leader Rajendra Yadav has demanded a CBI inquiry into the activities of Christian missionaries and de-recognition of the school.

A high-level inquiry by former DGP Narendra Prasad into the frequent disputes between Christian missionaries and Hindu activists in Jhabua district revealed that the Christian population in the district had gone up by 80 percent in the past two decades.


Saturday, July 23, 2005

MP Govt may amend Religious Freedom Act

Friday, July 22, 2005 (Bhopal):

The enquiry report into the Jhabua riots of January 2004 is out.

The riots broke out after a minor girl was raped and killed on the premises of a missionary school.

One person had been killed, 15 Christian houses burnt and three churches were vandalized in the riots.

In his report, Retd DG of Police Narendra Prasad concludes that conversions by Christian missionaries was behind the violence.

Biased report?

The report quoting census figures of 1991 and 2001 says that the Christian population in Jhabua rose form 1.32 per cent in 1991 to 1.96 per cent in 2001.

It also claims the Religious Freedom Act of 1968, which makes it mandatory to inform the collector within a week after a conversion has taken place, was flouted.

Also, not a single conversion has been reported to the administration in the last three decades.

RSS demand

The government is now looking at amending the Act, a long standing demand of the Rashtriya Svayamsewak Sangh (RSS).

The changes will be on the lines of the Orissa Act under which a person wanting to convert and the priest have to inform the collector 15 days before the event.

"We are right now deliberating on the report and if needed, we will prepare an action taken report. If the need arises, we will amend the Anti-Conversion Bill," says Babulal Gaur, Chief Minister, Madhya Pradesh.

Clean chit

On their part, the Christians believe this is an excuse to implement the RSS agenda.

"The report is like a time bomb. Any time the government feels like controlling the community they will make laws which the Christians will have a tough time fighting against it. This is what RSS wanted and they got it," says Indira Ayengar, President, Christian Association.

The report gives a clean chit to Asaram Bapu's disciple Krishna Ben and Nahar Singh, the MLA of Alirajpur who allegedly instigated the riots.

While coming down heavily on the Christian missionaries, the report hardly mentions the conversion of tribals by saffron brigade to mainstream Hinduism.

With the Assembly monsoon session just round the corner, a stricter religious freedom Act based on the report may just be a reality.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Christian Couple Arrested Under the Freedom of Religion Act in Madhya Pradesh

By Vijayesh Lal

Bhanwarkuan, Indore - A Christian couple was detained by RSS activists and later arrested last evening. At the time of writing this report the couple was in police custody and was presented in the court in front of the district magistrate, where they await their bail.

20th July 2005 - Jagdish and Grace (Saraswati) Nayak belonging to the Banjara tribe and independent Christian workers were visiting Christians in Jeet Nagar in Indore, when Dharmendra Chaterjee the local RSS activist gathered people from the neighborhood and accused the couple of alluring him and his family to convert to Christianity in return for favors like education, health and other facilities.

Bhagwanti Bai, the neighbor of Dharmendra also gave a similar complaint and affirmed that she too had been offered money and facilities like education and health by the couple, in return for her promise to adopt the Christian religion. The couple Dharmendra alleged had also promised him money for his family wedding.

The couple was detained by the neighbors of Dharmendra and Bhagwanti Bai together with the activists of the Dharma Raksha Samiti (Religion Protection Committee) and the RSS (Rashtriya SwayamSevak Sangh). They were threatened during this time and questioned.

Soon the police got this information and a team from Bhanwarkuan police station reached the spot and brought the couple and the mob that had formed by then to the police station. The mob was lead by RSS leader Rajendra Chandel and the office bearers of Dharma Raksha Samiti.

In the police station Dharmendra alleged that he had been allured by the couple to accept Christianity and renounce Hinduism. The police arrested the couple under the Madhya Pradesh Dharma Swatantraya Adhiniyam (Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Bill, 1968) articles 3, 4 and 5.

Article 3 of the Freedom of Religion Bill says, “Prohibition of forcible conversion - No person shall convert or attempt to convert, either directly or otherwise, any person from one religious faith to another by the use of force or by allurement or by any fraudulent means not shall any person abet any such conversion.”

The Bill also lists out definitions for allurement, conversion, and force wherein

"Allurement" means offer of any temptation in the form of-

(i) Any gift of gratification either in cash or kind.
(ii) Grant of any material benefit either monetary or other wise.

(b) "Conversion" means renouncing one religion and adopting another;

(c) "Force" shall include a show of force or a threat of injury of any kind including threat of divine displeasure or social excommunication;

If convicted the couple will be punishable with imprisonment with may extend to one year or with fine which may extend to five thousand rupees or with both. Since a woman (Bhagwanti Bai) is also involved as complainant the punishment may extend to two years and a fine up to ten thousand rupees.

The correspondent spoke to the Police Inspector of Bhanwarkuan Police station, Mr. Parihar and he dismissed the complaint of the complainant, suggesting instead that it was a planned move of the Dharma Raksha Samiti and the RSS against the couple.

Parihar informed Compass that the couple had been visiting Jeet Nagar for some time now for the purpose of praying for people. It was recently that two people in Jeet Nagar, accepted Christianity and it was widely perceived that it happened because of the visit of this couple and that is why they were targeted by the RSS.

Mr. Praihar added that Christian missionaries like the Nayaks only go to pray for people when they are invited and keep away otherwise. He was confident that the couple will be awarded bail by the court.

The issue of conversions has once again come into the limelight with the issue of a government report by the former director-general of police Narendra Prasad on the Jhabua violence.

The report clearly blames the conversions in the Jhabua district for the violence against Christians. It raises an alarm at the number of conversions taking place without going into the fact whether the conversions were by force or fraud. The report seems to treat conversion to another faith, a constitutionally guaranteed fundamental right, as a sin against society.

Following the report the Chief Minister of the state Mr. Babulal Gaur has come out with a proposal to amend the present state Freedom of Religion Act with intent to make religious conversions more difficult.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Crosses Desecrated in Goa

Panaji, Goa, July 20, (Alexandre Moniz Barboza):

There has been a sudden spurt in cases of crosses being desecrated in Goa. Four such cases have come to the notice of the authorities, three of them within a week's time. A cross at Farmagudi Ponda was found damaged this week, while two crosses were found desecrated on the morning of Thursday, 14 July again in Ponda Taluka in Central Goa.

The crosses at Tisk and Daag in Ponda taluka, were apparently vandalised during the night of Wednesday to Thursday, as villagers claim to have seen the full crosses the previous evening.

The Cross at Tisk has been damaged a second time in two years and it belongs to the Mount Carmel Chapel in the area. The cross has been partially damaged. The other cross at Daag, standing in private property was totally destroyed. The cross at Farmagudi was slightly damaged, but coming soon after the other incidents is a matter of alarm. Some weeks back, a cross at Opa, again in Ponda taluka was found to be desecrated.

Goa, is dotted with crosses along the roads and some have been erected in private property and these are the venues of litanies during the month of May, when the feast of the Holy Cross is celebrated. The roadside crosses are easily accessible and perhaps hence the miscreants doing the rounds.

It is suspected that the same group of vandals could have damaged the crosses. The police are investigating.

In peaceful Goa, such incidents where Catholic churches and crosses have in the past been desecrated, have not evoked tension among the communities as all communities join together to condemn such vandalism. However, this does not deter miscreants from attempting to incite communal tension in the State.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Staines' Killer Dara Singh's Supporters Launch Anti-Christian Booklets

New Delhi, July 21, 2005:

In a move expected to add to anxiety within India's churches, supporters of a convicted killer of Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two minor sons plan to massively distribute anti-Christian booklets in the tense eastern state of Orissa, BosNewsLife learned Wednesday, July 20.

Dara Sena, an anti-Christian group floated by fans of prime convict Dara Singh, wants to hand out as many as 30,000 copies of booklets describing Dara Singh as a "god and depicting Christianity in [a] poor light," reported the influential Hindustan Times newspaper.

The organization was formed to project Singh as a protector of Hinduism. Dara Sena Chief Mukesh Jain, was to distribute the booklets in the Karanjia area while on his way to visit 11 persons acquitted in the murder case by the Orissa High Court on May 19.

Located in the northern part of Orissa, Karanjia is a rural area dominated by tribes, who advocacy groups say have been open to the Christian Gospel, despite pressure from Hindu militants.

Jain had met Singh at Baripada central jail in Orissa's Mayurbhanj district, shortly before the Orissa High Court commuted Singh's death sentence, awarded by a lower court on September 22, 2003, to life imprisonment. It acquitted 11 others whom the lower court had awarded life imprisonment, while one militant retained a life sentence.


Staines and his two sons were burnt alive by a mob led by Singh while they were sleeping in a van at Manoharpur village in Orissa's Keonjhar district in the night of January 21-22, 1999, investigators established.

The Superintendent of Police of Mayurbhanj district has made clear he will not accept the distribution of anti-Christian publications, amid fears of new religious tensions. "So far, no booklet has been distributed. But if they start distributing them, the police will arrest them," the official was quoted as saying by the Hindustan Times.

The daily suggested that the booklet distribution was aimed at creating a base for Dara Sena's political ambitions. "Officials in the state intelligence don't rule out the possibility of at least one of the acquitted persons taking the plunge into politics with the active support of the Dara Sena," the newspaper commented.


Even Singh himself told reporters earlier that he was contemplating joining politics. Singh added that a decision on participating in elections was to be taken and that he would follow the recommendations of Dara Sena's executive committee.

Analysts say however that Singh, being convicted of a crime, will not be allowed by the Election Commission of India to participate in a ballot. Christians have been apprehensive about members of their minority community since the May 19 verdict of the Orissa High Court, a BosNewsLife investigation shows.

"The acquittal of the criminals involved in the gruesome murder of Australian Missionary Graham Staines and his two children by the Orissa High Court has sent shock waves across the country," said Sajan K. George, National Convenor of the Global Council of Indian Christians, told the BosNewsLife New Delhi Bureau.


"There has been a rise in the number of attacks on Christians in various parts of the country, especially after the Orissa court verdict, clearly indicating that the communal elements seem more emboldened now," he said in a statement.

One of the key suspects in the murders of Pastors K. Daniel and K. Isaac Raju, last month in Hyderabad, a region in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, has told media he was "inspired by the example of Dara Singh." The two pastors were found dead in early June.

Singh reportedly plans to appeal to the Supreme Court of India for a full acquittal. Christians, advocacy groups, and secular political parties in India have demanded that the Central Bureau of Investigation, which investigated the murder case, will challenge him and the Orissa High Court verdict in India's Supreme Court.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Houston Hindus oppose Church on Tirumala Hills

Lalit K Jha (HindustanTimes.com)

Minneapolis, July 18, 2005

Opposing the construction of a church at the sacred`Tirumala Hills, as many as 23 Indo-American organizations based in Houston has urged the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, to ask the Andhra Pradesh Government to maintain the sanctity of the religious place, which is a holy shrine for the Hindus world over.

Agitated by media reports emanating from India that the Andhra Pradesh Government was actively considering the application of a religious society to build a church atop the Tirumala Hills, the abode of Lord Venkateswara, these Indo-American organizations held an emergency meeting at Houston on Saturday (July 16) to discuss the issue.

Even though the news has been denied by the Andhra Pradesh Government that no such thing would be allowed at the Tirumala Hills, the Indo-American, mostly Hindu organizations, at the meeting decided to send a representative to Washington D.C. to submit a memorandum to the Prime Minister during his visit this week.

Another representative of these Houston-based Hindu organizations would be flying to Hyderabad on Tuesday (July 19) to meet the Chief Minister, Y S Rajasekhar Reddy, to apprise him of the sentiments of the community in the United States.

"We are all agitated and upset following the series of news regarding the Tirumala Hills which is coming from Andhra Pradesh. We want to make sure that such a anti-Hindu thing does not happen," Geetha Donthi, of Prajna - JET USA, which is one of the signatories to the memorandum, told the HindustanTimes.com.

Donthi would meet Reddy in Hyderabad on behalf of these 23 organizations including Gujarati Samaj of Houston, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Chinamaya Mission, Arya Samaj, Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, Hindu Worship Society, Kerala Hindu Society, Shri Radha Krishna Temple, Ashtal Lakshmi Temple, Hindu Student Council, Vallabh Priti Samaj, Esha Vasyam, Param Shakti Peet, Indian Senior Citizens Association, India House, Bhakta Samaj, Friends and Family of Houston, Santhan Hindu Center, LPSH, Houston, Bhram Samaj, Houston Natya Kala Vrund and Center for Global Studies.

"It shocks the conscience of the Hindu-American community of Houston that the Government of India can so cavalierly demolish a structure with a history of 550 years, as if it were yesterday's newspaper being tossed into the rubbish bin," said the petition signed by these organizations on Saturday, which would be submitted to both the Prime Minister and the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister.

Stating that the Seven Hills of Tirumala, in their entirety, have been considered to be a tirthasthanam and a devasthanam since time immemorial, the petition said: "It affronts the sanctity of the place for the Government to permit the construction of a Christian church." "Consequently, it is incumbent on you, as the Prime Minister of India, to direct the Government of Andhra Pradesh to ensure that the sanctity of Thousand Pillar Temple and the entire Seven Hills of Tirumala remains intact," it said.

The organizations said given the fact that the Central and State Governments, rather than private trusts, controlled the Hindu structures, they have the solemn obligation to maintain these places.

"Despite this, the Andhra Pradesh Government has knowingly permitted the demolition of the 550-year old Thousand Pillar Temple and was considering constructing a Christian church on Tirumala Hills," the petition said adding that this was in direct contravention of the interests of the worldwide Hindu population, including the Hindu-American community of Houston.

Different countries, including the United States, may be the homelands for the worldwide Hindu population, only India serves as their matrubhumi and dharmabhumi, in said.

As such, the Hindu-American community of Houston has a vested interest to ensure that thousands of tirthasthanam and devasthanam which cover the landscape of India remain preserved and accessible to devotees from across the globe, the petition said.

Action initiated to deport Christian missionary

Sunday July 17 2005

HOSUR: Based on a direction from the Madras High Court, Hosur police have initiated action to deport a Christian priest from India, who had been illegally living in the country.

South Asian regional headquarters of the Christian missionary - Seventh Day Adventists - is located at Hosur. David Ron Watts, a Canadian national, is heading the South Asian division of Seventh Day Adventists.

Ron and his wife Dorothy Watts have been living in India on the American business visa. According to the Indian Emigration Act, an American business visa holder can stay in the country for 180 days without any registration.

It is alleged that Ron and his wife were involved in converting people into Christianity in several parts of South India. Based on complaints against them from various quarters, the Ministry of Home affairs issued a deportation order on the couple and sent it to the TN Government in 2003.

But the priest did not act upon the Home Ministry order and continued to live in India, particularly in Hosur.

In the meantime, a petition demanding eviction of Ron from India was filed in the Madras High Court recently.

Subsequently, the Madras High Court ordered Krishnagiri district police to evict Ron from the country. But it is said that the priest and his wife had disappeared from Hosur.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Christian couple harassed by Hindu Activists in Rajasthan


A Christian couple running an ashram for tribal children in Mount Abu, Rajasthan are being harassed by Hindu activists. They are also involved in translating the Bible for the tribals living in the area.

The couple, Vickie Patel and Dinesh Patel belonging to IEM inMount Abu area run an ashram for 11 tribal children, taking care of their education. They have been working in the area for the last 25 years.

They stay in a house belonging to IP Mission Trust (IrishPresbyterian). It so happened that one day a stranger approached them, claiming that the house they were staying in was his property. He said there was a legal case between him and the trust and the trust had won the case.

When the stranger started to create problems, the matter went to the local police. As part of probing the case, the police questioned the couple about their identity. The couple disclosed themselves as Christian missionaries. Following this, the stranger brought in antisocial elements, some belonging to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to get the couple evicted.

They spread the word around that the couple was involved in converting the tribal children. Under pressure from the Hindu activists, the police enquired from the parents of the tribal children to know more about the couple. Although the parents gave them a good report about the couple's activities, the Circle Inspector called the missionaries to his office and allegedly beat them up. He then warned them that they would be in trouble if they continued with their missionary activities. The incident also found its way into the local press, with some of them reporting that the missionaries were indulging in conversion activities.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Suspect in Killings of Indian Christian Pastors Confesses

NEW DELHI, July 11 (Compass) -- A 25-year-old man recently confessed to the murder of two Christian pastors in Hyderabad city, Andhra Pradesh, southern India.

The accused said he was inspired by Dara Singh, a Hindu activist convicted for the murder of Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two sons, ages 11 and 7, in January 1998.

Police said on June 30 they had arrested five other suspects and claimed the men had drawn up plans to kill other Christian ministers, according to a report by the Indo Asian News Service.

Police Commissioner V. Dinesh Reddy said two or three other pastors were on the list and the gang had already threatened them.

The two murders that shook the Christian community of Hyderabad took place in May. The body of Pastor K. Daniel, a preacher from Kummarvadi, was found on the outskirts of the city on May 20, bearing marks suggestive of an acid attack. The body of Pastor Isaac Raju, who went missing on May 24, was found on June 2. (See Compass Direct, "Second Pastor Found Dead in Andhra Pradesh, India," June 6, 2005.)

Police arrested Kokala Govardhan, who confessed to the killings, in the third week of June. Two other accomplices are still on the run.

Govardhan told reporters in Hyderabad that Dara Singh, convicted of the murder of Graham Staines, inspired him to kill the pastors.

"By killing the two pastors, we wanted to show the world that whoever tries to convert Hindus to Christianity will meet the same fate," he said.

Singh, who recently received a life sentence, was convicted of burning Graham Staines and his two sons to death while they slept in a jeep in Baripada district of eastern Orissa state.

Along with hundreds of Hindu extremists surrounding the jeep, Singh set fire to the vehicle and blocked all possible escape. Singh and his followers had accused Staines of running a "conversion camp" in Baripada. Staines and his wife were running a medical center for leprosy patients.

Soon after the gruesome murders, Staines' widow said she had forgiven the killers of her husband and children. "If we don’t forgive men of the wrong that they do, then how can we be forgiven?" she repeated in a recent BBC interview.

Sentences of life imprisonment normally run for a maximum of 14 years in India. With the arrest of Govardhan and his shocking revelation that Singh inspired him to kill the pastors, however, Christian groups in India say Singh must receive a stiffer sentence as a warning to other extremists.

The Global Council for Indian Christians (GCIC) plans to file a review petition in the Supreme Court, asking that Singh's life sentence be changed to the death penalty.

The GCIC has also petitioned Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to provide adequate security for Christians in India. In its petition to the prime minister, the organization said "The well-orchestrated attacks against Christians are aimed at intimidating Christians ... [and pushing] radical Hindus to keep the pot of hatred boiling all the time."

The All India Christian Council also supported the petition, although its president, John Dayal, said he was against the death penalty.

"We have always said that the award of a life sentence to Dara Singh would have serious consequences," said Dayal. "What greater evidence do we need than this case, where the killer himself is saying that Dara Singh inspired him?"

For this reason, Dayal said, he strongly supports the petition of the GCIC. "Exemplary punishment," he said, "should be given to people like Dara Singh."

Courtesy: Compass Direct

Gaur targets collectors on conversion


Bhopal, July 11: Babulal Gaur is planning to amend a state law to make religious conversions more difficult after a controversial report said they were responsible for violence on Christians in tribal areas.

The Madhya Pradesh chief minister is considering action against all officials who served in tribal-dominated districts in the last 37 years but failed to check conversions.

Collectors and senior officials serving in tribal welfare departments since 1968-69 — when the Madhya Pradesh Religious Freedom Act was passed — will be questioned and necessary action taken against the "erring" officials who failed to report conversion cases to the state government.

The Madhya Pradesh Religious Freedom Act makes it mandatory that all conversions should be reported and maintained in a register by the collector, who is to furnish the details to the state government on the 10th of every month.

Gaur's move comes in the wake of the findings of a one-man committee report which probed into the rape and murder of a girl at a missionary school on January 11, 2004.

But the Opposition, Christian leaders and rights activists have raised questions on report prepared by former director-general of police Narendra Prasad.

Indira Ayenger, the chairperson of Madhya Pradesh Christian Association, rubbished the report's findings.

She said the report claimed nearly 80 per cent rise in Christian population in Jhabua.

"That is what is called being economical with the truth. The Christian population in MP is on the decline. We are merely .03 per cent of the population. And if there were forced conversions, how is that not a single thana has a complaint in the last 10 years or so?" she asked.

"How is it that the report is silent on the burning of three churches, illegal detention of 11 Christians from January 2004 till date, 15 houses that were torched and the conduct of Nahar Singh, the BJP MLA from Alirajpur, who led attacks on Christians?"

Prasad's report also names Ayenger, saying her organisation set up a technical and vocational training centre with the help of an American university and adds that three foreigners working with the centre were sent away following objections by security agencies.

Ayenger retorted, asking: "Since when did Arizona State University become a Christian outfit?"

Union minister of state for agriculture Kantilal Bhuria also criticised the report, wondering why the Gaur government was relying on it when a committee from the National Minorities Commission and the Madhya Pradesh State Minorities Commission had submitted a report.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Dara Singh to join politics

By Bibhuti Mishra in Bhubaneswar

Dara Singh, sentenced to life imprisonment as the prime accused in the gruesome murder of Graham Staines in January 1999, has shown keenness to enter politics.

Interestingly, Dara has condemned politicians as dirty and self-centred and said that he wanted to change this image of the politician by becoming clean and committed.

"I will contest the election too. But when the time comes, I would decide whether it would be for the Legislative Assembly or the Lok Sabha " said Dara.

Dara said a decision on this was yet to be taken and he would go by the executive committee decision of the Dara Sena, an outfit floated by his supporters.

The Dara Sena was formed by some fundamentalists to project Dara's image of the protector of Hinduism as he is against cow slaughter and conversion.

Although time and again, he has been linked with the BJP and the RSS, Dara himself categorically denied any link with either organisation.