Wednesday, August 31, 2005

RSS Opposes Quota for Converted

Hindustan Time

Bhopal, August 31, 2005

Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) spokesperson Ram Madhav today said the RSS would oppose the Union Government's move to grant reservation to the Dalits, who embraced Islam or Christianity.

Replying to questions from journalists over JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar's recentstatement on reservation for converted Dalits, Ram Madhav, who is here to attend the Sangh's two-day meeting of prachar pramukhs said the Sangh was opposed to the idea and supported the views on the issue published in the `Organiser'.

He said the Indian Constitution has provision of reservation for Hindu Dalitsonly. Hence, if the facility was provided to others like Dalits converted toMuslims or Christians, it would be anti-Dalit and amount to injustice to Dalits.Those who spoke for the reservation to converted persons were enemies of theDalits.

Hindu Extremists Surround Christian Compound in Bihar, India

Extremists try to kill mission director; over 1,000 Christians trapped.
GEMS Director beaten up with lathis:
D. Augustine Jebakumar, the Director of Gospel Echoing Missionary Society (GEMS) was beaten with lathis on the 31st August night by few miscreants at Sasaram, Rhotas Dist., Bihar. Mr. Jebakumar left his home for a routine walk at 7 p.m. He was all alone.
He saw a small group of young people in a procession with blaring loud speakers and almost everyone were drunk, proceeding towards the GEMS English School, where the hostel children were studying. Mr. Jebakumar requested them to proceed further without disturbing the study of the children by switching off the loud speakers until they cross the school premises. But they started shouting loudly with abusive languages on him.
On hearing shouts one of the staff members from near by GEMS Polio Home came out to save him. The miscreants switched off their loud speakers and moved with a great speed and stopped in front of the GEMS English School. They switched on the loud speakers with a blaring noise. Despite Mr. Jebakumar repeated requests. They began to beat him and the staff. Mr. Jebakumar was profusely bleeding.
Seeing this, the school children, who where studying came out and pleaded with the miscreants to stop beating their director. But, children’s efforts were futile. Later the miscreants moved little further and started pelting stones at Gospel Echoing Missionary Society (GEMS) campus injuring some of the staffs.
To make things worse the miscreants switched off the Electricity Board main transformer creating havoc in the surrounding areas. About 6 students were hurt badly of whom 2 are seriously injured.

NEW DELHI, September 8 (Compass) -- A mob of Hindu extremists surrounded a Gospel Echoing Missionary Society mission compound in India’s Bihar state on August 31 and kept it under siege for three days. The mob attempted to kill the Rev. Augustine Jebakumar, director of the mission, and demanded his arrest for allegedly desecrating a Hindu idol. The trouble began when a group of young people taking part in a religious procession passed the GEMS compound in Sikaria village, Rohtas district. When Jebakumar objected to the noise, a man in the procession hit him on the nose and others joined in the attack. The mob then hit the Christians with sticks and stones, injuring at least 12. Four were seriously injured; two were later hospitalized.

NEW DELHI, September 8 (Compass) -- A mob of Hindu extremists surrounded a mission compound in India’s Bihar state on August 31 and kept it under siege for three days. The mob attempted to kill the Rev. Augustine Jebakumar, director of the mission, and demanded his arrest for allegedly desecrating a Hindu idol.

The compound belongs to the Gospel Echoing Missionary Society (GEMS), the largest indigenous Christian missionary agency in Bihar. It contains a school, student hospital, orphanage, hospital and other social service facilities.

The trouble began at about 7:30 p.m. on August 31, when a group of young people who were taking part in a religious procession passed the GEMS compound in Sikaria village, Rohtas district, about 200 kilometers (124 miles) away from the state capital, Patna.

Jebakumar asked the young people -- who were “mostly drunk,” according to a local source -- to reduce the volume of their loudspeakers in consideration for students who were studying inside the compound.

A man in the procession immediately hit Jebakumar on the nose, and others joined in the attack. The driver of a tractor in the procession then tried to run over the director, but several Christians who came running out of the compound managed to save him.

The mob then hit the Christians with sticks and stones, injuring at least 12. Four were seriously injured; two were later hospitalized.

Someone in the mob switched off the electricity supply to the compound, leading to mass confusion. Under cover of darkness, members of the mob also broke the Hindu idol they were carrying and blamed Jebakumar for the desecration.

The idol would normally be immersed in a nearby river as part of the religious procession.

As the news spread, more than 800 Hindus surrounded the compound, demanding the arrest of Jebakumar.

In an e-mail message on September 3, a representative of GEMS, who requested anonymity, told Compass, “We’ve been trapped inside the compound for the past three days, as there is a big mob right at the entrance of our campus. There are about 100 families and 900 children ... inside the compound.”

Police eventually gave in to mob pressure and arrested Jebakumar on the afternoon of September 3, holding him for several hours at the local police station. Jebakumar later said he had cooperated with the arrest as the police admitted they were “unable to control the violent crowd.”

Sohail Ahmed Khan, chairman of the Bihar State Minorities Commission, told Compass, “Sikaria village does not come in the normal route of the procession. It seems the procession was taken there to deliberately create trouble.”

Those behind the arrest of Jebakumar belong to the Bajrang Dal, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), and the Bharatiya Janata Party, Khan said, “all of whom want to destabilize the school Christians are running there.”

“I will talk to the police superintendent and ask him not to allow Christians to be harassed,” Khan added.

Pastor E. C. Johnson, the regional coordinator of GEMS, said the attack was politically motivated. “Sharad Joshi, an independent politician seemingly supported by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council) and the RSS, is the leader of the group which is politicizing this event,” he told Compass. “This is partly because the state assembly elections are near.”

Bihar state came under federal rule on March 7 after the state governor, Buta Singh, said no local political party was in a position to form a stable government.

State assembly elections are scheduled to begin on October 18.

“We have also heard that the agitators are now planning to construct a temple near the compound,” Johnson added.

GEMS members confirmed that a few hours after Jebakumar was arrested, the mob planted a flag on land adjacent to the compound. The land was donated on September 2 by a neighbor sympathetic to the mob for the construction of a Hindu temple. Local politician Joshi has reportedly promised a large sum of money for construction costs.

In a statement on September 5, Jebakumar said this was the fourth attack on the school, and asked for prayer as the situation remained tense.

According to 2001 census figures, Christians make up only 53,137 of Bihar’s total population of 83 million.

Christian couple and their 2-year-old child brutally beaten.

August 29 (Compass) -- A mob of Hindu extremists violently attacked a prayer meeting in the town of Indore in the north-central state of Madhya Pradesh on August 21. At least 10 people, including women and a 2-year-old child, were injured.
The attack seemingly targeted Jagdish and Grace Nayak, independent Christian workers who are awaiting trial on charges of forced conversion. Grace Nayak is a convert from Hinduism.
The attack took place at around 11:30 a.m. "About 50 people allegedly belonging to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh [RSS] threw stones at the prayer room, where about 15 people were praying, and beat them up," Indira Iyengar, a member of the Madhya Pradesh State Minorities Commission, told Compass.
"The prayer room was completely ransacked and stones were lying all around the place," she added. "The attackers had vandalized all the equipment inside, including the public address system. They also tore Bibles into pieces."

The Nayaks and their baby were brutally beaten, she added. "When I went to the hospital to see them, I was horrified. They were beaten up as if they were not human beings, but animals. It was difficult for me to even look at them, as her husband was still bleeding profusely."

All the injured Christians were treated at a local hospital.

The Nayaks were able to identify three of their attackers; Shalik Ram Pawar, Chauhan Singh and Prem Singh.

All three men were named in the initial police report, but at press time they remained at large.

Police Accept Counter Complaint from Assailants

The police have denied that the RSS, a Hindu extremist group, was behind the attack. Adarsh Katiyar, the superintendent of police in Indore, told Compass, "The attackers were local people of that area, who claimed the family was converting Hindus to Christianity. They were not from any organization."

Katiyar said the attackers had lodged a counter complaint against the Nayak family after the attack, accusing them of attempted forced conversions.

Members of the Dharma Raksha Samiti (DRS, or Religious Protection Committee) and the RSS had filed a similar complaint against the Nayaks on July 19. The Nayaks were immediately arrested under the state anti-conversion law, held in police custody overnight and released on bail the following day.

"The police, while releasing Grace, issued a warning to her, saying she was not to return to her locality for at least eight days, nor was she allowed to conduct any prayer meeting," Iyengar, of the minorities commission, said. "The complainants also put up posters and distributed pamphlets saying Grace was converting people to Christianity using fraudulent means."

Judges have yet to set a date for the first court hearing. (See Compass Direct, "Indian Couple Arrested for Attempted Forced Conversion," August 4.)

Tensions Rising

Tension between Hindu and Christian communities increased after the Madhya Pradesh state government released the Narendra Prasad Committee Report on religious conversions in late July.

Prasad, a retired director-general of police, claimed missionaries were forcibly converting large numbers of people in the state. His report also blamed government laxity for the "huge" numbers of conversions.

The Prasad Committee was set up following an incident in which the Hindu community blamed Christians for the brutal rape and murder of a 9-year-old girl identified only as Sujata. (See Compass Direct, "Indian City in Uproar over Death of 9-Year-Old Girl," January 22, 2004.)

After making the report public, the state government announced its plan to amend the Dharma Swatantraya Adhiniyam (Freedom of Religion) Act of 1968 to tighten controls on conversion of tribal people to Christianity. (See Compass Direct, "Indian State to Tighten Control on Conversions," July 26.)

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Hindu Extremists Attack Prayer Meeting in Rajasthan

Nine Christians seriously injured; situation tense.

NEW DELHI, August 15 (Compass) -- Hindu extremists violently attacked a prayer meeting in Rajasthan state last night, seriously injuring nine Christians, including one woman.

The mob struck at midnight on August 14, during an all-night prayer vigil held in a private home in Pathda village, Banswara district, near the border between Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. The Christians had gathered for a three-day prayer meeting to mark India’s Independence Day on August 15.

"There were about 50 people from Pathda and Piploda villages at the prayer meeting, in which prayers were offered for the nation," Patras Habil, a member of the Madhya Pradesh State Minorities Commission, told Compass.

The assailants delivered an axe blow to the head of Jeeva Badar, in whose house the prayer meeting was organized. The resulting wound required nine stitches.

"They also tried to strangle Asha Suresh, a Christian lady, which has apparently affected her vocal cords as today she is unable to speak," Habil said, adding, "Laxman Rupara received an injury to his lower back, making him unable to stand up."

The names of the nine Christians injured in the attack are Jeeva Badar, Border Dippa, Bua Rupa, Prabhu Baji, Laxman Rupara, Shandu Mangu, Khumji Hawala, Dangi Mangu, and Asha Suresh.

Tensions were still running high at press time. A mob of about 300 people went on a rampage today when representatives of Miracle Ministry, the Madhya Pradesh-based Christian organization that organized the prayer meeting, came to the local police station to collect a copy of the First Information Report (FIR).

"Seeing a 300-strong mob with sticks, the police had to escort the Christians back across the border to Madhya Pradesh in the afternoon," Habil explained. "It seems there is a threat of further attacks."

Pastor Biju Varghese of Miracle Ministry, who was at the police station, told Compass that about 20 people chased the police jeep as the Christians drove to the Madhya Pradesh border.

"We are worried about the Christians in [the area]," Varghese said. "They are not safe there."

Varghese said those who attacked the prayer meeting were wearing the typical khaki uniform of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a Hindu extremist group. A member of the Rajasthan State Minorities Commission confirmed that the border area was the center of RSS activity in the state.

But Sanjeev Kumar, police superintendent of Banswara district, denied that Christians were seriously injured in the attack or that a Hindu extremist organization was behind it.

"It was a very ordinary clash, and no one has received serious injuries," he said. "No organization was behind it. However, I have ordered an investigation and the arrest of the accused who are absconding."

The police are seeking seven men in connection with the incident on charges of rioting, house-trespass with intent to commit a punishable offence, voluntarily causing hurt, and unlawful assembly.

Banswara district, which is among the poorest in the state and is populated mainly by tribal peoples, has long been a target of Hindu extremist organizations.

In 1998, Advocate P.L. Mimorth and M.P. Chaudhry of the Indian Social Institute noted that leaders of the Sangh Parivar (a family of Hindu extremist organizations under the leadership of the RSS) had declared their intention to stamp out Christianity in Banswara district by the year 2000.

Incidents of violence against Christians increased after the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party defeated the Congress Party in the state elections in December 2003. In one recent example, extremists violently attacked students of the Emmanuel Mission Bible School in Rajasthan’s Kora district on February 19. (See Compass Direct, "Indian Hindus Attack Christian Students in Rajasthan," February 22.)

Monday, August 15, 2005

Church attacked in Raipur, Chattisgarh

(Exclusive to Christian Persecution India)

14th August 2005:

Hindu Fundamentalists broke into the prayer hall of the Teacher Disciple Vineyard Church in Jagannath Nagar, Raipur, Chattisgarh, demolishing it. The Dharam Sena, a Hindu Fundamentalist organization has claimed that the land on which the Church is built belongs to one Mr. Sandeep Tiwari, a leader of the outfit.

The Pastor of the Church Rakesh Jairaj has denied all such allegations. Jairaj, a Physiotherapist by profession, claimed that the Church brought 2 lands by paying 253,000 and 157,000 Indian rupees respectively. The Church was being built on the latter property.

Members of the Dharam Sena, stormed into the prayer hall which was near completion, damaging the boundary wall. They also desecrated the Crosses in the Church, throwing them into the Gutter. They allegedly kept on intimidating the Christians saying that, "It is our rule now and we will see how you worship here."

The Church leaders filed an FIR with the police, though the police deliberately did not mention in the FIR that Crosses were desecrated and religious feelings were hurt. The report was filed against 5 people under IPC 147, 427, and 448. Only three were arrested and were let off later.

The Teacher's Disciple Vineyard Church currently meets in homes and has 70 - 80 members.