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.