At least 5,000 three-pronged spears distributed after ban repealed.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