Friday, September 30, 2005

Christians beaten up in Police Lockup in Maloud, Punjab

Maloud, District Mukhtsar, Punjab,
According to reports received around 40 - 50 Christians were praying in a Christian home on the 25th September 2005. The meeting was a late evening meeting and started at about 9:00 pm.

At about 10:30 when the meeting was almost over, members of the Bajrang Dal accompanied by a mob stormed the venue. The mob led by Lekhraj Batla, president of the Bajrang Dal, Maloud, abused and threatened Christians and even beat some of them.

The Christians quickly called the police for their protection but as soon as the police reached the spot it was evident they were already inclined to the cause of the Bajrang Dal.

4 Christians Gurdev Singh, Balkaran Singh, Jaswant Singh and Amar Singh who is a pastor were taken into custody. The police said that they had been taken into custody for their own safety as the mob was very violent. They were then taken to the police station for investigation.

On reaching the police station however the Christians found themselves behind the bars. Hukum Chand Sharma, the Assistant Sub Inspector of the Maloud Police station, was drunk and started beating the Christians mercilessly. In the course of the beating, Gurdev Singh and Amar Singh received grave injuries.

Not satisfied with this Hukum Chand Sharma sent police force to arrest Pastor Swarnjit Singh of Maloud who was also present in the prayer meeting. Pastor Swaranjit Singh had just left his home to visit a few believers to pray for the people in jail and hence was unavailable. The police then arrested Pastor Sukhdev Singh, a guest at the house of Pastor Swaranjit. Sukhdev Singh had attended the meeting too.

They took Pastor Sukhdev and Hukum Chand Sharma beat him as well in the lockup. Pastor Sukhdev is aged nearing sixty years and he sustained grievous wounds.

Pastor Swaranjit told us, "The police was hand in glove with the Bajrang Dal even before they attacked our meeting. They only pretended taking Christians to the police station for investigation. The real motive was beating them up."

"Hukum Chand Sharma was fully drunk and he would hit the Christians again and again, saying to them the entire time, 'Call you Jesus now and let me see how he saves you from the wrath of Hukum Chand Sharma." Pastor Swaranjit reported.

The Christians were kept in custody till next evening i.e. the 26th September 2005 and then let off. According to the Indian law a person cannot be detained in police custody for more than 24 hours and has a right to know the offence alleged to have been committed by him. ASI Sharma took advantage of this and beat them up to his heart’s content and released them before 24 hours.

"The pastors and the three others were in a bad shape when the police let them off next evening. They were not even treated for the wounds that they had received and so we had to admit them in the hospital straight away." Pastor Swaranjit said.

Two persons Gurdev Singh and the elderly Sukhdev Singh continue to be in the hospital with serious injuries. Till three days after the incident, the police had not taken them for a medical check up. It was only at the third day that an X- ray for both was taken. At the time of writing this report the results of the X- ray are still awaited.

When Christian leaders of Maloud reported this to the SSP (Senior Superintendent of Police), he at first did not pay any heed to the matter. But after being confronted by the facts given by the Christian delegation, he asked for 2 days for an investigation to be conducted in the matter. The report of the investigation is still awaited.

Assaulted Christians Pressured in Maharashtra, India

Radical Hindus beat Christian visitor to village, demand that others renounce faith.

NEW DELHI, September 29 (Compass) – Radical Hindus of Jamanya village, in Maharashtra state's Jalgaon district, remain hostile to Christian families who were attacked on May 16 - threatening to beat them if they refuse to renounce their faith, detaining and beating a Christian visitor, and attacking the house of another believer.

Pastor Sarichand Chauhan, area coordinator of the Indian Evangelical Team (IET), told Compass that Gulab Barela, the village head of Jamanya, asked all believers to come for a "conflict resolution" meeting from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on September 25. About 20 believers showed up at the meeting.

"Initially, the believers were asked to renounce their faith in Christianity," Chauhan said. "But when they strongly refused to do so, the leaders of the village asked them at least not to allow any Christian from outside to enter their village."

The believers, however, did not agree to the ban on Christians from outside the village either. They said that they needed Christian teachers to come and teach them about their Scripture, he added.

"Finally," Chauhan said, "the leaders left the meeting, saying that if Christians from outside the village were beaten up, they [the leaders] would not be responsible."

The meeting was allegedly led by a local strongman known only as Mangilal, of Talalvi village in the Malkhera area. Also presiding over the meeting was the sub-head of Jamanya, Pratap Deeta Barela, and officials from nearby villages.

Afraid to Go Home

On September 23, Neta Gyansingh, a 25-year-old Christian from the neighboring Sirval village who was also one of the victims in the May 16 attack, was detained and beaten by radical Hindus.

"When I went to Jamanya village to visit a believer's family at 6 p.m., a few villagers came to me and forcibly took me to the Panchayat [community] room," Gyansingh said. "They handcuffed me for five minutes and then made me sit on a cot. Later, they punched me in my face, chest and back, and hit me with sticks on my hands before locking me up in the room."

At 3 p.m. the following day, Hindu extremist Kuchriya Patel and another Jamanya resident came and took Gyansingh to his village, Sirval. They presented him before Pandya Patel, the village head. "Before Patel, the two warned me that I should never visit Jamanya again or they would chop off my hands and legs," Gyansingh said.

A day before the September 23 incident, the house of a local Christian, Saimal Mohan Singh Barela, had been attacked by three men allegedly sent by Hindu extremists.

"On September 22, three men armed with sharp weapons came to the house of Barela to attack him," said Chauhan. "But, fortunately, Barela had fled away with his family as he had learned about the intended attack."

The three men, however, broke the lock and entered the house, he said. They ransacked Barela's kitchen and destroyed two stoves made of bricks and soil.

"Barela has not yet returned to his house and is living in his relative's house with his wife and children for fear of his life," Chauhan added.

When Compass spoke to S.P. Naik, police inspector of Jamanya village, he initially said the situation was peaceful. "The situation is normal; my policemen go to the village every night on patrol," he said.

When told about the three recent incidents, however, he said, "I will go to the village personally and see the situation."

Referring to the September 23 attack on Gyansingh, Naik said, "The attackers were drunk, and it was not because of the religion of the victim. They had some personal enmity."

He added, "I will arrange a meeting between the Hindus and Christians in the village to sort out the problems."

Radical Hindu villagers had attacked 11 Christian families, sexually molesting the women, in Jamanya village on May 16, when they refused to give up their faith. These families were later ostracized by their fellow Hindu villagers. (See Compass Direct, "Christian Families Attacked in Maharashtra, India," May 20. See also "Christians in India Accuse Hindu Villagers of Sexual Assault," June 21.)

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Christians Beaten in Madhya Pradesh, India, in Incident with Idol

Extremist Hindu group interrogates and threatens villagers, assisted by police.
by Vijayesh Lal

NEW DELHI, September 27 (Compass) – Hindu extremists on September 22 attacked and threatened several Christians in the Jhabua district of Madhya Pradesh state, accusing them of desecrating a Hindu idol.

One Christian was admitted to hospital with grave injuries following the incident, while another was detained at the Kalyanpura police station for over 32 hours.

An extremist Hindu group, the Vanavasi Kalyan Parishad (VKP), had been carrying out a Shiva idol installation drive in the Jhabua area to reinforce the status of Hinduism. One of these idols was placed next to Prakash Ninama’s field in the village of Hira Khadan.

According to Compass sources, Ninama was working in his field when a bull strayed onto his property. He threw a stone in order to drive it away – but because he was drunk, he missed the animal and hit the Hindu idol of Nandi (Shiva's Bullock) at the edge of his field. The impact broke one of the idol’s horns.

Ninama is a Hindu, although he had attended Christian worship services from time to time.

He apologized for his mistake, but the VKP took issue over it, citing his "Christian" past. The police arrived and interrogated several Christians – who were then beaten mercilessly by the VKP activists.

One of those beaten was Hawa Ninama, who was also working in his field when several policemen approached him and said the chief inspector wanted to talk with him. When he reached the roadside, VKP activists were waiting along with the police inspector.

When Hawa Ninama denied breaking the idol, the VKP activists struck him and verbally insulted him. The police inspector then motioned for him to get into the police jeep. He was taken to the police station where he was beaten again, this time by the police.

Later that day, Hawa Ninama was taken to hospital with serious injuries. He was put on an intravenous drip and was left in a corridor for two days, until fellow Christians arrived and helped him to secure a room.

When Compass spoke with the victim at the hospital, he said members of the VKP had repeatedly asked the police to beat him, saying, “If you don’t beat him, we’ll have to do it.” He also claimed that about 150 VKP members had descended on the village with the police, interrogating and threatening Christians following the damage done to the Shiva idol.

The inspector in charge of the Kalyanpura police station initially denied any knowledge of the incident. When Compass supplied evidence, however, he admitted that the VKP had politicized the issue and that the Christian community was not at fault.

By this time, Prakash Ninama been held at the police station for over 32 hours. The law requires the accused to be placed before a magistrate within 24 hours or released. When confronted with this fact, Kalyanpura police replied that Ninama had been presented to a magistrate on September 23 and was already in Jhabua district jail.

Officials said Prakash Ninama had been charged under the Indian Penal Code, Section 295, for defiling an object of worship. Offenses under Section 295 are non-bailable, meaning that bail cannot be secured for Ninama while the case is pending.

Christian leaders in the area said the incident had divided the tribal community along religious lines. On September 24, six VKP members threatened Christians who were holding a prayer meeting in Jhabua district. The extremist group told believers to stop meeting together or face dire consequences. The attackers allegedly extended the threat to all other churches in the district.

Several attacks against Christians have occurred in Jhabua district since 1997. Tensions were further highlighted following the release of the controversial Narendra Prasad Committee report in May. (See Compass Direct, "Indian State To Tighten Control on Conversions," July 26.)

Prasad's report claimed the Christian population in Madhya Pradesh had grown by 80 percent from 1991 to 2000. Prasad blamed Christian missionaries and government laxity for the "huge" numbers of conversions.

The Madhya Pradesh government is revising the Dharma Swatantraya Adhiniyam (Freedom of Religion) Act of 1968, in an attempt to stem conversions in the state.

Christians account for just 170,381 of 60.3 million residents in Madhya Pradesh, according to 2001 census figures.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Hindu Mob Again Attacks GEMS Compound in Bihar, India

Newlywed man's spine injured; three other Christians admitted to hospital.

NEW DELHI, September 26 (Compass) – Hindu extremists returned to the Gospel Echoing Missionary Society (GEMS) compound in Rohtas district, Bihar state on Sunday, September 25. As in a previous attack on August 31, they severely injured several Christians.

This time, one man received a spinal injury that left him partially paralyzed.

"About 16 people came from the nearby villages of Shankarpur and Bhedibigha at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday and broke open the gate of the compound," a representative of GEMS told Compass. "They pulled out some of the GEMS staff [from the compound] ... and brutally beat them. They also robbed them of their belongings before throwing them into the fields."

The mob hit a Christian doctor, Ambrose Christopher, around the head and hands, breaking one of his fingers. They took another man, Stephen Shankar, to nearby Bhedibigha village and brutally beat him before throwing him into a field. His motorcycle and other belongings were also destroyed.

Still another man was left with a serious nosebleed after being punched in the face.

The most serious injuries, however, were sustained by Kirupakaran Shankar, recently married.The extremists injured his spinal cord, resulting in the loss of movement in one leg.

At press time, all four men were receiving treatment at the mission hospital inside the GEMS compound.

GEMS, the largest indigenous Christian missionary agency in Bihar, is based in Sikaria village, Rohtas district, about 200 kilometers (124 miles) away from the state capital, Patna.

Around 100 families – and a total of 900 children – live at the compound, which contains a school, student hostel, orphanage, hospital and other social service facilities.

A mob that swelled to around 800 people had previously attacked GEMS on August 31, injuring at least 12 Christian residents and holding the compound under siege for three days. (See Compass Direct, "Hindu Extremists Surround Christian Compound in Bihar, India," September 8.)

In yesterday's attack, 16 men and women – including some who had participated in the August attack – forced the GEMS watchman to give them access to the compound on Sunday night, claiming they wanted to carry out a Hindu religious ritual at a river on the opposite side of the compound.

"When they turned back from the river, they found the gate was locked. It is normally locked at about 6 p.m. every day for security reasons," Pastor E. C. Johnson, regional coordinator of GEMS, told Compass. "Then they broke open the gate and launched an attack on the Christians."

This morning about 250 people protested outside the GEMS compound, blocking the traffic on the main road and puncturing the tires of the GEMS school buses, he said. "They also attacked a vehicle belonging to a police official."

The mob later damaged two other police vehicles, including a riot control vehicle, and broke a policeman's jaw.

GEMS has submitted a letter containing the names of the 16 attackers to the superintendent of police in Rohtas district. Policemen were called to the compound earlier today to record an official complaint.

District Magistrate Vivek Kumar Singh and Police Superintendent Batchu Singh Meena were not available for comment.

Bihar state is under federal rule, with state assembly elections scheduled from October 18 to November 19.

Two coalitions will contest the vote – the United Progressive Alliance, led by the Congress Party, and the National Democratic Alliance led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.

Election results will be announced on November 22.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Christians attacked in Jhabua again

Christians attacked and beaten up: Charged with hurting religious sentiments of Hindus.

Victims of the Shiv Idol Installation Drive

By Vijayesh Lal

22nd September 2005: Christians were beaten up and threatened in Loharia, Hira Khadan Village in Jhabua district of Madhya Pradesh following allegations of hurting the religious sentiments of Hindus and desecrating their idol. At the time of writing of this report, one man was admitted in the hospital with grave injuries while another is detained in the Kalyanpura police station for more than 32 hours.

According to reports received, Prakash Ninama, a Hindu by birth who also attended Christian worship in the past, was working in his field when a stray bull trespassed his boundary. He threw a stone at the animal in order to drive it away but because Prakash Ninama was drunk, he missed his aim and his stone ended up at the Hindu idol of Nandi (Shiva's Bullock), breaking one of the idol bullock's horn.

The Vanavasi Kalyan Parishad has been carrying out a Shiva idol installation drive in the Jhabua area, in order to Hinduise the tribal population in the region and in the course of this many Shiva idols had been installed in the Village Hira Khadan too. One of these idols was placed right next to the field of Prakash Ninama and this was the idol that he hit by mistake.

Even though Prakash Ninama apologized for his mistake, the Vanavasi Kalyan Parishad made a communal issue out of it, citing his Christian past. Soon the police was brought in from the Kalyanpura Police station and Christians were interrogated by the police and activists of VKP.

According to reports received many Christians were also beaten up mercilessly. Hawa Ninama is one such innocent man.

He was working in his field when police constables came and summoned him, saying that the police inspector was calling him. As soon as he reached the spot, he found activists of the VKP waiting along with the police inspector of the area. They questioned him about the stoning incident.

When Hawa Ninama denied knowledge of it, they started beating him and hurling abuses. The police inspector motioned for him to get into the police jeep which he did and was taken to the police station where he was beaten again, this time by the police. He is hospitalized now, with grievous wounds.

For two days he was lying outside the hospital with drips being given to him, but no room or a bed was assigned to him, till some Christian leaders turned up at the spot and helped him secure a room.

When we spoke to Hawa Ninama he told us that the VKP activists kept pressurizing the police to beat him, saying, "If you do not beat him, we will have to do it." He informed us that about 150 activists of the VKP and its affiliates had descended in the village in no time in order to interrogate and threaten Christians.

We spoke to the TI (Thana In charge or the Inspector) of the Kalyanpura police station, Mr. Bhuria about the incident and he at first denied any knowledge of the incident. It was only when we supplied him with some information that we knew about the case that he accepted that there was an incident like this.

Mr. Bhuria clearly said that the VKP had communalized the issue and politicized it. He said that the Christian community was not at fault in this and that the incident was a mistake caused by a drunken man. Still the religious sentiments were hurt, he commented.

When we questioned him about Prakash Ninama’s detention in the police station for more than 32 hours, which is illegal for the law provides that the accused be placed before a Magistrate within 24 hours, he denied it and provided us with the information that Prakash Ninama is already in Jhabua jail after being presented to a magistrate yesterday i.e. 23rd September 2005. The Christians in Hira Khadan however deny this, saying that Prakash is still in detention at the Kalyanpura police station.

Mr. Bhuria also denied having any knowledge of attacks against Christians and at first said that he did not know any such incident with a person called Hawa Ninama. It was only later when we pressed him for the facts that he acknowledged that Hawa had been jostled with and that there was no injury. He denied any knowledge of Hawa Ninama being in the hospital, where he is for the past two days and that too in a serious condition.

We were informed by Mr. Bhuraia that Prakash Ninama had been charged under IPC 295, which states, "Whoever destroys, damages or defiles any place of worship, or any object held sacred by any class of persons with the intention of thereby insulting the religion of any class of persons or with the knowledge that any class of persons is likely to consider such destruction, damage or defilement as an insult to their religion, shall be punishable with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both." IPC 295 is a non bailable offense, which means that there can be no bail available for the accused as long as the case against him goes on.

We managed to speak to Christian leaders in the area and one of them reported that the incident has succeeded in communally dividing the tribal community, which is animistic in the first place.

He said that the repercussion for the Christian community is already showing. Today i.e. 24th September 2005, six people belonging to the VKP threatened a Christian prayer meeting with dire consequences if they continued their prayers and worship services in the region. The attackers allegedly issued a threat to all the Christians in the region to stop all Churches and worship services in the region.

Situation is tense in the area and more violence against Christians is expected tomorrow which is a Sunday as many Christians will gather together for worship services despite warnings against it.

Jhabua district has been in focus for the crimes against the minority Christian community since 1997. The region has also been in the news following the controversial Narendra Prasad Committee report which cited census data from 1991 – 2000 and showing that the Christian population in the district had registered an 80 % growth. The report blamed Christian missionaries and government laxity for the huge numbers of conversions besides blaming Christian missionaries for last year’s confrontation between Christians and Hindu Fundamentalist groups opposing conversions in the district of Jhabua. There have been reports that the Madhya Pradesh government is considering strengthening the Dharma Swatantraya Adhiniyam (Freedom of Religion) Act of 1968.

Christians account for just 170,381 of 60.3 million residents in Madhya Pradesh according to the 2001 census.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Preacher arrested in Faizabad, Uttar Pradesh

20th September 2005: Om Prakash Pandey, an evangelist was arrested and detained at Bikapur Police station, Faizabad district, Uttar Pradesh.

He had gone to the village to preach but was arrested and detained by the police following complaints against him by the locals. The police confirmed that some locals had also tried physically harming the evangelist.

The SSP of Faizabad reported that Pandey was arrested under section 151 of the Indian Penal Code, which says, "Whoever knowingly joins or continues in any assembly of five or more persons likely to cause a disturbance of the public peace, after such assembly has been lawfully commanded to disperse, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine, or with both."

Unconfirmed reports say that Pandey has been released on bail on the 21st September morning.

Christian preacher arrested in Indore

19th September 2005: Deda Ram, a Christian preacher was arrested in Indore after Hindu extremists accused him of trespassing and suspicious movement in the Jeet Nagar area of the city.

He was taken to the Bhawankuan police station where he was confined for a couple of hours and later on arrested under section 109 of the IPC (Indian Penal Code). Section 109 of IPC is a bail able offense and states, "Punishment of abetment if the act abetted is committed in consequence, and where no express provision is made for its punishment".

The police reported that one of the residents' of Jeet Nagar had complained about his suspicious movement and did not like him frequenting the house of Bhagwanti Bai, a converted Christian from a Hindu background.

Town Inspector of Indore, Mr. Parihar said "The neighborhood complains about his whereabouts and that he does not reveal his address". He further stated that the two addresses that they have at the SDM (State District Magistrate) office are both incorrect.

Deda Ram is an evangelist from Rajasthan and is new to Indore. He had gone for prayer and tract distribution to Jeet Nagar, which is a sensitive area and his leaders do not dismiss the RSS and VHP activists' involvement in his arrest.

On the 20th evening, Deda Ram was finally granted bail but he had to spend the night in the prison as it was late in the evening for all the formalities to be through. He was supposed to be released on the 21st September morning.

Grace and Jagdish Nayak from the same area of Jeet Nagar are facing much opposition and pressure from the government authorities and Hindu extremists for the last 2 months.

VHP for common civil code in country

Tuesday September 20 2005

MYSORE: All India Secretary of the Vishwa Hindu Parishat (VHP), Mohan Joshi said on Monday that the VHP would launch a massive campaign against religious conversion across more than two lakh villages.

"Educational institutes and orphanages run by Christian organisations has become big business in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and other states," Joshi alleged.

Addressing the media here, he noted that conversions were against the sovereignty of the country, and Parliament and State Assemblies should soon effect a law to ban it.

Criticising American evangelist Benny Hinn's convention held in Bangalore recently, Joshi said that such events gained momentum after the UPA coalition took charge at the Centre.

More than 4,000 foreign Christian missionaries are involved in conversion activities across different states.

He said that according to a 2001 census, there were about 2.34 Christians in India. They had been given adequate representations as five chief ministers in Nagaland, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh belonged to the community, he said, ridiculing the demand for more representation.

He came down heavily on Union Human Resource Development Minister Arjun Singh for his proposed move declaring 50 per cent reservation for Muslim students in Aligadh University.

The AP Government had also declared 5 per cent reservation for Muslims in education and services.

The UPA coalition is planning to extend such steps throughout the country, and such measures would create more caste divisions, he warned.

He urged the Centre to abolish the minority commission and effect the Common Civil Code law.

No democratic country in the world had ever given special rights to minorities, he added.

Persecution in Junnardeo, MP, Prayers needed

Note: This is a letter recieved and is being reproduced exactly as it is for prayer.
The evangelical Christian Ministry of Junnardeo (Chhindwara Dist.) in many senses was pioneered and established by Pr. Jacob George some 10 years back. The circumference of Junnardeo city has very less native Christians. This areais known for its coal mines.

Pr. Jacob George also a Junior leader of IET worked very hard and tirelessly inthe city of Junnardeo and in the remote suburb. He covers a wide range of more than 50 kms for evangelism and establishment of the church of Christ traveling through cycle, trucks, buses and scooter. In the consequence of his efforts a huge church in this city has come into existence as well as many daughter churches.

Three more missionaries are assisting him from some time. Sister Usha Gaidhane and Pr. Vinay Kumar David are helping him for the last 3 years. And recently Pr. Joby Joseph a fresher has also joined him for 2 months. They are sincere workers committed to the gospel ministry.

We need prayer: The ministry over here is going beyond the climax these days. Even the severe persecution is coming from the police officials the ones who are regarded as the protectors of the citizens.

On 31st August 2005 the two brothers, Bro. Vinay and Joby were witnessing at the railway station of Junnardeo in the afternoon. They were making personal communication and distributing the tracts and gospel packets among the public. The people were very receptive. Mean while the Railway Protection Force personnel watched it and blamed the evangelists tat they persuading the people to change their religion. They took them to the police office.

Junnardeo has a very small railway station. Only two up and down trains makethe arrival and departure over here. The time the two brothers were ministering was not a train arrival time. The police just misused their authority against Christianity.

The police harassed and tortured them very badly. They used every kind of vulgar words speaking against Christianity. They imprisoned them in the cell for many hours on the pretext that they are making the investigations. They were so harsh and were not willing to listen to the any requests of the brothers. After many hours of torture they sent them to Bhopal jail. Bhopal is at a distance of overnight journey from Junnardeo. When they were carried away their hands were tied with fetter like the culprits.

After a long time Pr. Jacob George came to know about this incident through some resources. By that time they had been sent to Bhopal. He had to go Bhopal for their acquittal. Even in Bhopal Pr. Jacob George and the two brothers were treated badly.

Both the brothers had been imprisoned in jail without any charge. When Pr. Jacob George tried to contact the senior officer of the jail he was forcibly prohibited. After great efforts, heartrending request and after paying a penalty of Rs. 1200/- they were relieved from the prison. Even the receipt of Rs. 1200/- was not given. When asked they were threatened of a more bigger punishment.

It is very tough to think why such kind of persecutions and harassments arehappening off and on. Perhaps because the whole state is under BJP's rule.

In this regard the earnest request is made to kindly uplift us in prayer.

Pr. Shaji Varghese
Co-coordinatorBhopal Division.

Sangh's new Kumbh to take Hindutva offensive to the Dangs

To tackle threat of conversions, says Sangh; five lakh people expected, activists say it will be threat to environment



Far away from the national limelight in this interior village in south-east Gujarat, the RSS and its affiliates are making preparations on a mega scale for the holding of 'Shabari Kumbh mela' early next year.

The mela—expected to be attended by around five lakh pilgrims from across the country - is part of the RSS offensive against Christian missionaries and an attempt to establish Hindutva in this adivasi-dominated district, Sangh activists at the site said.

The Dangs had hit the headlines following attacks on churches and missionary schools in December 1998. Since then, no open violence has taken place but the RSS and its affiliate organisations-notably the Hindu Jagran Manch and the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram-have been steadily working to "Hinduise" the Bhils, Konkanis, Varli and other tribes that live in the heavily forested Dangs region.

And just like the Ramjanmabhoomi movement in the 1980s, here too the legend of the Ramayana is being used to invent a new tradition. The RSS outfits have hit upon the figure of Shabari - the adivasi woman who offered 'ber' to Rama and Lakshmana when they were searching for Sita in the forest - to bring the adivasis into the Hindutva fold and counter - efforts at alleged "conversion" by Christian missionaries.

In October 2004, a grand Shabari Mata Mandir was inaugurated atop a hill near a place called Subir, 33 kilometres from the district headquarters of Ahwa. The temple supposedly commemorates the "exact spot" where Rama and Lakshmana met Shabari. Several top BJP and RSS leaders including RSS chief K.S. Sudarshan and Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi have been regular visitors to the temple.

To follow up on the success of the temple, RSS affiliates decided to hold a 'Shabari Kumbh mela' at a little natural pool formed by the Purna river which they claim is the same 'Pampa Sarovar' mentioned in the Ramayana.

The ideological 'guru' of the movement is Swami Asheemananda, a saffron-robed Bengali "saint," who arrived in the Dangs region in 1997. Speaking to The Indian Express outside the Shabari Mata Mandir, Asheemananda made no bones about the aims of the 'Shabari Kumbh Mela.'

"Hindu samaj faces two big challenges - Islamic jehad and Christian conversions. We need to confront both these threats on a global scale," he said. The four traditional kumbh melas (held at Prayag, Hardwar, Nasik and Ujjain) had begun when "Hinduism was under threat". "We thought it was time to start a fifth Kumbh to meet the threat posed by conversions in this region," Asheemananda said.

Proudly taking credit for inspiring the 1998 attacks, Asheemananda, who holds the post of Shraddha Jagran Pramukh of the All India Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram (the RSS affiliate which converts tribals to Hinduism), said over the last seven years, thousands of Christian converts in the region had "returned to the Hindu fold." The Shabari Kumbh Mela, scheduled to be held for the first time from February 11-13 and then every four years, would end missionary activity in the Dangs and establish it as a key pilgrimage centre of India, he maintained.

Activists belonging to the RSS, VHP, Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram and other affiliates are working round-the-clock to make that a reality. A camp site has been set up at a clearing in the forest, and a kilometre-long road is being constructed from the camp to the Pampa Sarovar site.

Busloads of Gujarati tourists as well as RSS swayamsevaks have already started coming to Pampa Sarovar. At the camp site, a meeting of 'karyakartas' was being held when the Express team visited the spot. The model of 'nagars' (townships) that will soon be constructed to house the kumbh mela pilgrims is ready. A total of 40 nagars, each housing 5,000 persons, will be constructed. Apart from 'pucca' arrangements for two lakh pilgrims, tents and other facilities will accommodate another couple of lakhs, said local activist Shambhu Chavan.

Swami Asheemananda said while food and shelter would be "provided by us", the government would help in transport, medicine, water and electricity.

While Christian missionaries are keeping silent about the RSS' "peaceful offensive," adivasis in the villages around the temple and mela site as well as local activists are far from happy.

Laxman Bagul, who lives in Kangariyamal village opposite the Shabari Mata Mandir, said the villagers had already suffered because of the temple. The Kumbh Mela would make things much worse. "We are harassed by forest officials even if we cut a single tree. But over 700 trees were cut to build the Shabari temple. And thousands more will be destroyed to build the 'nagars' near the Pampa Sarovar."

Ghulabbhai Pawar of the Dangi Lok Adhikar Sangh said the Kumbh Mela posed a threat not just to the indigenous beliefs and lifestyle of the adivasis but also spelt an ecological disaster. "The entire population of the Dangs is just 1.86 lakhs. The biggest mela we have is the Dangi darbar (when the five traditional Bhil rajas are given government pension every March) which is attended by just around 10,000. A Kumbh mela with lakhs of pilgrims will completely destroy the environment of this region."

The adivasis of the district, activists said, are too poor and ignorant to resist the Hindutva offensive. And though the Dangs is dominated by the Congress - the MP, MLA and majority of sarpanches belong to the party - there is no political movement yet against the long-term implications of the Shabari Kumbh Mela on the culture and ecology of the Dangs.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

VHP alleges child traffic by Christian missionaries

Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) on Monday demanded that the State government order an inquiry into the functioning of children’s homes and orphanages run by Christian missionaries, who are allegedly indulging in “child trafficking”.

Addressing mediapersons in Mysore, VHP All India Secretary Mohan Joshi alleged that Christian missionaries were misusing orphan children and indulging in child trafficking in the name of running orphanages and children’s homes. While Karnataka’s neighbour Andhra Pradesh had taken steps to control these activities, Karnataka had not done anything in this regard so far, he added.

Sonia blamed

Charging Congress President Sonia Gandhi of encouraging conversion across the country, Mr Joshi alleged that conversions has gathered momentum ever since Congress came to power.

Over 4,000 foreign missionaries were presently carrying out conversion activities across the country, he added.

Besides, the Centre has mooted a proposal to give reservation to Muslims in education and government services. “This will threaten the democracy and divide the country on religious lines,” he warned.

He demanded abolition of endowment boards, besides banning religious conversion by enacting a law. VHP was planning to hold public awareness programmes in two lakh villages. Also “Dharam Samsad’ would be organised in Haridwar, Allahabad, Puri, Gauhati, Ahmedabad and Tirupati, he said.

Christian Family attacked in Cuttack, Orissa

15th September 2005

A Christian family in Manglabag, Cuttack city, Orissa was attacked by the activists of the VHP around 11:30 am.

Mrs. Kuni Nayak from Cuttack was having a Prayer meeting at her place, which was being conducted by some staff of the Campus Crusade. Just when the meeting was about to conclude, a group of people, all VHP activists descended there and started shouting.

They called out Amit Jena who is one of the staff of Campus Crusade and physically manhandled him. They dragged him and forced him to go with them to the VHP office. At that time 15 new believers strongly objected to this physical manhandling and protested . They informed the VHP group that , Mr. Amit Jena had come here to conduct prayer meeting as per the request of the local believers.

The VHP activists tried their best to coerce Jena out of the locality, but when they failed they threatened him that they will burn him like Graham Stain as he too is alleged to be engaged in converting people to Christianity. There after the VHP activists filed a complaint against the Christians, before the Manglabag Police Station of Cuttack city.

As a precautionary measure, 6 women who were all new believer's in Christ including Kuni Nayak went to the Manglabag Police Station of Cuttack city and filed an FIR. Though the police accepted the FIR, they did not acknowledged it. They were threatened by the police that , in the event they insist to register their case, their houses will be demolished as they are staying in the slum unauthorizedly.

There after the police had called Mr. Jena and threatened him not to go that area and allowed him to go back home. Probably non of the FIR has been registered so far. But it is anticipated that the police is gathering more information to book Mr. Amit Jena.

It is pertinent to mention here that, Mr. amit Jena is a convert from Hindu religion and he is the son of the Ex -MLA.

It is worth while to mention that , there have been 15 conversion in that slum in last 2 years. All of them had given affidavit before the Executive Magistrate prior to the conversion. But the priest conducted the baptism has not sent the Form -A to the District Magistrate as required by the Orissa Freedom of Religion Act. this amount to an offence under the said Act.

Now the Police is collecting the affidavits , most probably to book the pastor for non compliance of Orissa Freedom of Religion Act.

Situation in the area is tensed but under control.

We have been praying and we also thank God that so far He had taken control of the situation. Please continue to pray for Mr. Amit Jena and believers of Jaya Mangala Sahi, under Manglabag Police Station of Cuttack city, Orissa

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Priest killed during tribal clash in Jharkhand village

Manoj Prasad

RANCHI, SEPTEMBER 13 A day after Maoists killed 15 people in Bhelwaghati village in the Giridih district on Sunday, a Catholic priest was killed in a clash in neighbouring Simdega.

The clash occurred between a group of tribal protesters and some traders who had defied the tribal-sponsored bandh the previous day.

Father I Bara, who was taking part in the protest, had tried to intervene. "He was hit with an axe and lathis. He died on the spot," said eyewitnesses.

Three others, who were injured, are undergoing treatment at a local hospital, Simdega SP V K Pandey told The Indian Express.

Two persons, Rajesh Prasad and Saryu Prasad Yadav, have been arrested. "Some more arrests are going to take place soon," said Pandey.

CRPF forces have been deployed in the area.

On Tuesday, an uneasy calm prevailed in the tribal dominated villages in this Jharkhand district.

The trouble between the tribals and the non-tribals had started following a judgment by the Jharkhand High Court on September 2, which declared the clauses of the state government's Jharkhand Panchayat Raj Act, 2001 and the Union Government’s Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996, as illegal and led to the indefinite postponement of the panchayat polls.

The two laws had effectively reserved all posts of panchayat pradhans in Scheduled areas for the members of the Scheduled Tribes. There however, are pockets in the Scheduled areas, where tribals are a minority. Consequently, the verdict has left the state starkly polarised.

While non-tribal outfits like Sadan Adhikar Manch and Moolwasi Manch - which demanded the postponement of the poll till the laws were amended - are overjoyed, the Adivasi Adhikar Manch (AAM), which was formed after the verdict was issued, was up in arms.

On September 8, a bandh was observed. The next day, hundreds of tribals led by the AAM, the United Goan Democratic Party MLA Bandhu Tirkey and Jharkhand Mukti Morcha President Shibu Soren, had gheroaed the Raj Bhavan.

The state government is maintaining a studied silence on the issue. "We are not going to challenge the order," Chief Minister Arjun Munda has said. The AAM leaders, including Soren, however, have asked Munda to move the apex court.

Click to View Source (Indian Express)

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Mob Threatenes Two Christians in Madhya Pradesh

At least 5,000 three-pronged spears distributed after ban repealed.

September 8 (Compass) -- Police picked up two Christians attending a worship service at the home of Jagdish and Grace Nayak in Indore, Madhya Pradesh state, on September 4 and detained them for four hours. A Hindu mob also threatened Atul David and Antar Singh with death if they worshiped with the Nayaks again.

"A few policemen entered the Nayaks' house at about 10:30 a.m. while Sunday worship was underway and ordered David and Singh to come out and sit in the police jeep," Patras Habil, a member of the State Minorities Commission, told Compass.

About 40 policemen were deployed near the Nayaks' house after an attack on August 21, in which the Nayaks and their 2-year-old child were assaulted by members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). (See Compass Direct, "Mob Attacks Prayer Meeting in Madhya Pradesh, India," August 29.)

Questionable Police Behavior

Before allowing David and Singh to attend the worship service, the police had recorded their names and addresses.

"When the two came out, a mob of about 500 people were waiting for them," Habil said. After the police made them sit in the jeep, he said, a policeman asked the leader of the mob to come and speak with them.

"The mob leader warned David and Singh that if they came again to attend the worship, their bones would be broken and they would be burned alive," Habil added.

The police then took David and Singh to the local police station, on the orders of police inspector Mohan Singh Yadav.

At the police station, Yadav allegedly warned David and Singh not to attend the worship service again and informed them that Grace Nayak would soon be arrested.

Police released the men at 3 p.m. after Indira Iyengar of the State Minorities Commission intervened on their behalf.

Yadav has since denied threatening David and Singh. "I did not ask them not to attend the worship," he said. "And I kept them at the police station for their own security."

Yadav said that he had arrested the three people accused of attacking Grace Nayak on August 21, "but they were released immediately because it was a bailable offense."

The Nayaks are awaiting trial on charges of attempted forced conversion, brought against them by two Hindu villagers in July. (See Compass Direct, "Indian Couple Arrested for Attempted Forced Conversion," August 4.)

Tridents Are Back

Meanwhile, on September 3, chief minister Babulal Gaur of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party revoked a state ban on carrying or displaying tridents (also known as trishuls) - - a three-pronged spear regarded as a Hindu religious symbol.

Some trident prongs are more than four inches long and are sharp enough to kill. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP or World Hindu Council) had previously distributed tridents at public functions throughout the state, accompanied by inflammatory speeches against minority religious communities.

Digvijay Singh of the Congress Party banned the distribution of tridents in August 2002 in an effort to reduce communal tensions.

Gaur revoked the ban on Saturday night, clearing the way for a trident distribution program planned by Praveen Togadia, general secretary of the VHP.

On September 4, hours after the ban was revoked, the VHP distributed as many as 5,000 tridents to its supporters in Jabalpur city, Madhya Pradesh, according to a report in the local Pioneer newspaper.

Christians fear the distribution of tridents will incite further attacks on religious minorities in the state.

"Look what has happened just a few days after the governor assured me [on September 1] that Grace and other Christians would be allowed to worship in the locality and not be harassed," Iyengar, of the State Minorities Commission, told Compass. "How can Christians trust the assurance of the administration?"

Thursday, September 08, 2005

India's first Christian University vandalised, worshippers attacked

From our correspondent

India's first Christian university in Uttar Pradesh remains closedafter 15 Hindu militants attacked worshippers on its campus on 4September 2005, injuring several Christians and damaging more than Rs10 million worth property.

The management of the Allahabad Agricultural Institute in Allahabad,a 95-year-old Christian institute of higher learning, said theuniversity would "remain closed for an unlimited time till normalcyis restored."

"On September 4 when the Sunday worship began, there were more than7,000 believers gathered," Mani Jacob, general secretary of the AllIndia Association for Christian Higher Education, said. "As soon asthe worship began, about 15 outsiders suddenly trespassed into theworship place, mounted the platform where the leader of the worshipwas praying and started destroying the objects on the platformespecially the Holy Cross and musical instruments among otherthings," he added.

Mani Jacob said several worshippers were injured in the attack andproperty worth Rs 10 million (about US$ 229,000) was damaged. Theattackers also burnt down one ambulance and one jeep belonging to theuniversity.

During the attack, the militants shouted anti-Christian slogans andbegan attacking worshipers who tried to restrain the attackers fromdestroying sacred objects on the stage. "It is difficult to say howmany worshipers were injured, as there was a total chaos at the timeof the attack, following which all returned to their homes. However,one person fainted after he was attacked. He was later taken to anearby hospital," Jacob added.

Ironically the police arrived at the venue and arrested Christianbelievers for the attack. "The police filed charges against theleaders of the worship service," RB Lal, Vice Chancellor of theuniversity, said. Lal accused the Bajrang Dal, a Hindu extremistgroup, of organising the attack and misguiding the police.

The Hindu group and the police had not yet reacted to the claims.However human rights activists said the Institute had been attackedby "anti-Christian forces" ever since it started organising worshipservices in 1998 amid accusations of converting people toChristianity. "There is no question of conversion here. We are merelysharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ as He has commanded us. People getpeace in life and are healed of their diseases when they listen tothe Gospel," Lal explained.

However the protestors, including violent mobs had attacked theuniversity property, destroyed vehicles, looted the hostels andattacked the staff members and even exploded bombs on the campussince 2000. "This is an attack on religious freedom of the minoritiesand all secular values upheld by the citizens of India. If suchattacks on the Holy Cross, the Bible and worship services are allowedto go unpunished and if the police take no action against theoffenders, great damage will be done to the secular frame work of thecountry," Lal cautioned.

According to university officials, the latest attack was apparentlylaunched by a violent mob from outside the university campus.Referring to the protests held by some students demanding that theuniversity's courses secure recognition of the All India Council forTechnical Education (AICTE), they said," The Institute recognised in2000 as "a Deemed University" by the Indian Government does notrequire any approval from the AICTE to start Technical Degree/Diplomaprogramme. As a Deemed University the Institute enjoys all powers andprivileges of a university, including the right to frame and startnew courses and award degrees of its own."

Lal appealed to the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh and the UnionHome Minister "to take immediate action to apprehend the culprits andensure confidence and security to the Christian community ofAllahabad and also the campus community of the Deemed University."

The Institute was established by the Missionary Sam Higginbottom in1910 in Uttar Pradesh's Allahabad city to "feed the hungry, save theland." Thousands of agricultural scientists of several generationsand innovators have emerged from the first Christian university inthe country.

In keeping with the motto of the institute, Lal and his colleaguesstarted the "Yeshu Darbar" (The Court of Jesus) university programmeseven years ago. Under the programme, religious worship is organisedevery day on the campus and especially on Sundays attended bystudents, teachers, staff families and people living nearby.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Trident returns, lotus out

New Delhi/Bhopal, Sept. 5:

It's all right to flaunt your trident, but the lotus will have to take leave.

The lotus controversy that rocked Madhya Pradesh over accusations that the BJP-led regime was trying to pass off its election symbol as the national flower in school textbooks yesterday resulted in an Election Commission directive to remove it.

The poll panel ordered the state government to replace the relevant portions within two weeks. The order followed complaints from the Opposition Congress.

The commission, which had summoned the chief secretary and principal secretary (education) on August 24, also sought a compliance report within two weeks.

The controversy had stalled the Assembly last month as Opposition legislators staged protests and accused the Babulal Gaur government of "deliberate and gross misuse of official machinery" to "saffronise" education.

The exit order on the flower came barely a day after another symbol of Sangh parivar activists got a fresh lease of public life.

The Gaur government has revoked the ban on public display of small tridents, official sources said in state capital Bhopal. The order came a day before the VHP's "trishul deeksha" (trident initiation) programme in Jabalpur yesterday.

The sources said the chief minister had directed the home department to denotify the ban imposed in 2002.

View Source Here (Telegraph)

Murder in Assam Bishop House


Tezpur, Sept. 3: Assam today woke up to the brutal murder of a church leader in Tezpur. The body of the vicar general of the Tezpur diocese, Father Mathew Nellickal, was found this morning inside Bishop House near Chitralekha Udyan. The assailants, who are yet to be identified, killed him last night in the central Assam town.

The body of the 65-year-old priest, who had joined the diocese two months ago, was found inside a storeroom. As he had neither attended the prayers at 6 am nor had his breakfast at 8, a search was launched by the inmates. The door of his room was open. Not finding him inside, his attendants launched a hunt and discovered the body in the storeroom at 11.45 am, according to Fr Paul Dahangiya of Tezpur Catholic Church. He said Fr Nellickal - the administrator of Tezpur Catholic Diocese and former principal of Tezpur Don Bosco High School - had retired for the night after having dinner around 9.30 pm. All calls made to him this morning went unanswered. Sonitpur district additional superintendent of police (headquarters), R. Bhuyan, said preliminary investigations suggested that the priest, who hailed from Kerala, was killed by persons known to him.

The assailants may have escaped via the Brahmaputra, which flows along the northern side of Bishop House, he said. No one has been picked up so far. Doctors who performed the post-mortem at Kanaklata Civil Hospital said 10 to 12 "cut marks" were found on the body. The body of the vicar general was taken to Borgang, around 125 km from here, where it will be kept for a couple of days. Fr Cherian said whether he will be buried here or in Borgang or his home district of Kottayam would be decided by the Tezpur bishop, who is away in Rome on holiday. Fr Nellickal was in charge in the absence of the bishop.

Tension gripped Tezpur town as soon the news of the murder of the "man who had no enemy" spread. The town was already on edge following sporadic incidents of violence since the 12-hour bandh called by the Lok Jagran Manch on Thursday to protest the killing of an RSS leader of Nalbari by suspected Ulfa cadre. The Christian community, which comprises 15 per cent of Tezpur's population and three per cent of the state’s, reeled under shock.

A leader of the community urged the government, on behalf of the archbishop of Guwahati Thomas Menam Parampil who left for Borgang on receiving the news, to immediately arrest the culprits.

The government has directed the deputy inspector-general of police, northern Assam range, to conduct an inquiry and book the culprits. The deputy commissioner and superintendent of police of Sonitpur district, who are in New Delhi to attend a conference convened by the Prime Minister, have been asked to rush to Tezpur.


Sunday, September 04, 2005

Plans of bill against religious conversion in Rajasthan

From our correspondent

4 September 2005

JAIPUR — The Bharatiya Janata Party-led government in Rajasthan plans to bring a bill to check "forcible religious conversions".

According to Rajasthan Home (interior) Minister Gulab Chand Kataria, the bill to be introduced in the coming session of Rajasthan State Legislative Assembly will ban religious conversions induced by fear tactics, allurement or any other kind of coercion.

It may be mentioned here that since the BJP government came to power in Rajasthan, the RSS and other hardline Hindu groups have turned up the heat on Christian charity organisations accusing them of forcibly converting poor people to Christianity.

State Social Welfare Minister Madan Dilwar, a Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) supporter, has always accused a Kota-based Emanuel Mission International, which runs an orphanage, of converting poor children. Last year, the Hindu hardliners disrupted a function being held at Emanuel Mission saying that a large-scale conversion was taking place on the premises of the mission.

The State Government has become more vocal of activities of the Christian churches since a Vatican-appointed bishop arrived in Jaipur.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Hindu extremists against grants to missionaries, "it's only money to convert" they say

by Nirmala Carvalho (Asia News)

Fundamentalists launch a campaign in six regions of the country. People become suspicious when the money comes from Christians, but no one winks when money goes to Hindus and Muslims. We won’t stop our mission, says the Archbishop of Cuttack-Bubaneshwar.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) - The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), an extremist Hindu paramilitary organisation, has called for a public inquiry into the foreign funds sent to Christian missionaries.

An article published in the Daily Dharitri, a paper with the largest circulation in the state of Orissa, reports that the Church received 4.5 billion rupees (US$ 90 million) over the past three years to "finance conversions in the country". The same article did not however provide any information about funds Hindus and Muslims receive.

In an interview with AsiaNews, the Archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneshwar, Mgr Raphael Cheenath, said: "These are all strategies of the VHP; these are well-planned tactics of these right wing fundamentalist groups to discomfit Christian missions. There is a sinister plan in this article showing in detail what money Christians receive, whilst nothing about foreign funds to Hindu and Muslim agencies is mentioned at all. If we wanted details about Hindu funding, we would have to approach the Finance Department, whilst all contributions to Christian agencies are printed in details on the front page."

"The VHP is planning a 'Dharma Sansad" - a religious convention at a famous Hindu pilgrimage centre in the district of Puri, in Orissa - to mobilize public support for their cause against Christian missionaries. These people have the tacit support of the government, so there is nothing to stop them or their activities," the prelate said.

"But strangely," he added, "this does not intimidate us; we are not working for personal glory, we are on a mission here, and that's important. These are impediments to our missionary work, but it does go on. However, I am worried that this may cause dissention within the Church itself, because now people may feel that since the Church receives so much money from foreign agencies, they, too, must be beneficiaries of [some of that] money".

"These are well-planned strategies by the VHP as they continue their attacks against Christian missionaries," said Father Bernard, the Archdiocese’s financial administrator.

"These fundamentalists are convinced that all Christians do is proselytise and convert. Even humanitarian work by the Church is looked upon with suspicion. Social welfare programmes by the Church are seen as part of some ploy designed to convert people to Christianity," Father Bernard.

The VHP is organising Dharma Sansad in six places including Puri in Cuttack to highlight the conversion issue.

Central VHP Secretary Mohan Joshi said in a press conference that a major portion of the money missionaries receive from the government and abroad was "being used for religious conversion and creating disharmony".

He went on to demand a comprehensive law to ban religious conversions, arguing the laws already in force in some states, including Orissa, Madhya Pradesh and Chhatisgarh, "needed to be made more stringent".

According to Joshi, the law should impose a 10-year sentence on anyone charged with conversion and the government should amend those articles of the constitution that confer special rights to Christians and Muslims. He claimed that "the policy of appeasing the minorities create more disharmony and social injustice".