Friday, October 28, 2005

Hindu Extremist Attacks Curb Christian Festival in India

Revival meetings in Rajasthan cancelled after more than 50 attacks on Christians.

NEW DELHI, October 27 (Compass) – For nearly two weeks, Hindu extremists have been attacking Christians in the Banswara district of Rajasthan state, resulting in the cancellation today of the last day of a revival festival.

The violence accelerated on Tuesday (October 25), when the Tribal Christian Welfare Society's Christian revival meetings began in Sagwa village. At least 50 incidences of beatings have occurred since then. Late yesterday, government officials ordered the Society to cancel the remainder of the three-day festival because of escalating violence.

The Society annually organizes the festival, known for miraculous healings, with as many as 15,000 people usually in attendance. Only 5,000 managed to attend this year, as the Christians closed the festival this morning with a prayer for victims of the attacks.

In anticipation of the festival, the Hindu extremist group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) issued a call for a meeting of its own in the same area, according to a Society official.

"They then went on to bring many volunteers from different places and tried to disrupt the meeting by pleading to authorities to cancel the event as they were alleging conversions," he said.

Superintendent of Police Sanjeev Kumar Narjari confirmed the RSS activities, saying the group and its affiliates had alleged "forcible conversions" and had asked the government to stop the festival.

"At the behest of the RSS and its affiliates, the government authorities had demanded in writing from the Christian leaders that no 'forcible conversions' would take place in the meetings, and that the Christian leaders had given this to the authorities in writing." Narjari said. "The police would be videotaping the whole meeting to make sure that the people are not influenced in the 'wrong way' so that they may be converted by the Christians."

Blocking Roads

Nonetheless, the RSS and its affiliates targeted participants going to the festival, placing members on all approach roads to the venue, beating them, and sending them back.

As a result, only 3,500 people arrived the first day of the festival.

"The RSS people are everywhere, blocking roads, staging protests and beating up our people," said the Society official. "Many teams coming from distant areas have been beaten up and forced to turn back. Our only contact with the teams coming now is through phones, as the RSS is inflicting heavy violence."

He added that the RSS is rummaging through the baggage of all persons arriving in Sagwa. If RSS members find a Bible, they beat the owners of the baggage and order them back.

A team from Dahod (Gujarat) was en route to attend the meeting, but the conductor of the state-owned bus in which they were traveling informed the RSS. The Christians were dragged from the bus, beaten, and forced back.

"The police are present at each place where our people are being beaten up, but they do nothing to stop the RSS people," the Society official said. "Even if we plead with them, they ignore us."

Asked about the police's inaction, after much hesitation Superintendent Narjari acknowledged the violence against Christians but maintained that these were small incidents.

After the beatings, many participants tried to contact the nearest police station but were turned away. One committee member of the Society said the situation is "is quite hopeless."

"Since the police had to protect us at the venue, they gave the RSS a free hand on the approach roads to the venue," he said. "The aim of all of this is to spell trouble for Christians, one way or the other."

Nuns Attacked

The latest spate of violence began on October 16, when the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP or World Hindu Council) and its youth wing, the Bajrang Dal, objected to a Roman Catholic program in Rajasthan to mark the end of the Eucharist year celebrations. The Hindu extremist groups said the program was meant instead for conversion purposes.

The activists blocked roads and beat participants on their way to the program. The Catholic Bishop of the Udaipur diocese, Joseph Pathalil was not spared, as the extremists stopped and stoned his vehicle.

Elsewhere in Banswara District, VHP workers in Kushalgarh subdivision severely beat five Catholic nuns after boarding a bus for Udaipur.

A young man from the Sangh Parivar, a Hindutva (Hindu nationalism) institution, spotted the nuns waiting at the bus stop. He left and returned with a dozen more youths, all carrying bamboo poles. By this time the nuns had boarded their bus, but the Hindutva group dragged them out of the bus and beat them.

The most severely beaten was a 68-year-old nun known as Sister Rosario. The attackers fled when bus passengers intervened.

An official from Gayatri Rathore area said that the youths apparently believed that Christian groups were holding events to convert tribal peoples. "Various Christian groups have now given it in writing that conversions are not on their agenda," she added.

Banswara District in Rajasthan has long been a place of turmoil for Christians. In April 1997, VHP General Secretary Giriraj Kishore threatened to make Banswara "Christian-free" within three years, according to Asian Age newspaper. In other incidents, Christian worshippers were forced to bow down and worship Hindu idols.

Source: Compass Direct

Pastor, Wife and Driver Attacked in Gujarat, India

Hindu extremists stop vehicle and leave couple, driver with internal injuries.

NEW DELHI, October 27 (Compass) - About 30 Hindu extremists attacked a pastor, his wife and their driver in the western state of Gujarat on October 23. The three sustained internal injuries.

The Rev. Arthur Jebaraj and his wife, Nyana Sundari Jebaraj, and their driver, Dattu Daulat, all belonging to the Friends Missionary Prayer Band (FMPB), an indigenous Christian organization, were assaulted in Kaparada Taluka, in south Gujarat state.

The attack took place at about 11 p.m. on Sunday as they returned from Garma village, where they had conducted a thanksgiving prayer meeting, to their home in Chempa village.

As a supervisor of FMPB churches in the area, Rev. Jebaraj regularly visits congregations in different villages.

"On our way back, we saw a jeep parked on the road with about 30 people armed with sticks standing in front of it," he said.
"As we approached them, they stopped our vehicle. Moti Ram Choudhary, a supporter of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), came to us and asked who we were and where we were coming from."

Rev. Jebaraj reminded Choudhary that he knew him and that he went regularly to several villages every week for prayers. "I requested him to allow us to go," he said. "But he said, 'Christians campaign for the Congress Party, and you too visit villages for such campaigns.'"

Rev. Jebaraj told Choudhary that they never discuss politics at the prayer meetings. "I also told him that we had gone to Garma village to conduct a thanksgiving prayer for a couple that, through prayers, was blessed with a child after seven years of their marriage."

The driver, fearing the crowd, rolled up his window, and immediately the mob attacked him. Then they beat Rev. Jebaraj and his wife before vandalizing their vehicle.

The attackers tore Jebaraj's upper garment and hit her on the chest, arms, and back. Similarly, they hit the church official on his arms and back, causing pain in his spinal chord.

"On October 26, I went to a hospital in Nasik district in neighboring Maharashtra state to see a doctor, as my spinal chord is still in pain," Rev. Jebaraj said.

He was able to identify three more attackers besides Choudhary: Gakal Gounda, allegedly a leader of the BJP of Kaparada Taluka; Vidhyabhai Bikabhai; and Kalubhai Bikabhai.

Rev. Jebaraj and a few more Christians approached the Kaparada police station to lodge a complaint the following day. The police, however, refused to file their complaint, saying it had no substance.

Doing Justice

The police filed a First Information Report (FIR) only after numerous Christians from different churches in the area went to the police station to express their concern.

"The FIR was lodged at 8:45 p.m. on October 24," said Assistant Sub-Inspector Babu Bhai. "The accused are yet to be arrested." he added. The FIR carries the names of the attackers identified by Jebaraj.

If police act, charges that would be filed against the extremists include violating the modesty of a woman by assault or criminal force, robbery and causing injury, and causing financial loss or damage.

Police Inspector Jhala was not available for comment.

Later, villagers identified four more attackers: Bhagwanbhai Arjunbhai, Devibhai Balubhai, Devubhai Raghubhai, and Kishanbhai Kalubhai.

Rev. Jebaraj said trouble began when the FMPB started its work in Chempa village 15 years ago. At the time, Choudhary, who allegedly led the October 23 attack, threatened FMBP workers and lodged false complaints against them.

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the parent organization of the Hindu nationalist BJP, has been operating in Valsad and other districts of south Gujarat for several years.

According to the Indo-Asian News Service, the RSS was preparing for a rally of more than 500,000 people in the nearby Dangs district, to be held in February next year to counter alleged conversion of tribal people to Christianity.

Dangs witnessed a spate of anti-Christian violence in December 1998 following a similar rally. Numerous churches and Christian institutes were destroyed in the attack.

According to the 2001 census, there are only 284,092 Christians in Gujarat, which has a total population of more than 50 million.

Source: Compass Direct

Christians attacked in Rajasthan, Situation Tense

Christians attacked in Rajasthan, situation tense as Christian meeting goes on

By Vijayesh Lal

26th October 2005: According to reports received activists of the VHP and the Bajrang Dal have been attacking Christians in the Banswara District of Rajasthan since a fortnight. The violent incidents against Christians have increased since the Tribal Christian welfare Society organized a Christian festival from the 25th October 2005. At the time of writing of this report physical violence against Christians coming to attend the Christian festival were still on. It is reported that nearly 50 incidents of beatings have occurred in the past 24 hours.

25th October 2005, Banswara - The Tribal Christian Welfare Society, an organization representing the tribal Christians in the Banswara (Waghad) Belt had organized revival meetings for Christians in the area. The meetings are held every year and are focused mainly on Christians as the emphasis is on revival. Usually the meetings are heavily attended with attendance escalating up to 15000 people. A few non Christians also attend the meeting in the hope of healing and miracles, which do take place.

This year too the Society after taking due permission from the administration had organized the meetings from the 25th – 27th October 2005. Pastor Benjamin a member of the society informed us, "The permission had been given and all the necessary paper work was done, but the RSS knowing that a Christian meeting was taking place issued a call for one of its own meeting just a week or two before this event in the same town."

"They then went on to bring many volunteers from different places and tried to disrupt the meeting by pleading to authorities to cancel the event as they were alleging conversions." Pastor Benjamin said.

When we spoke to the Superintendent of Police Mr. Sanjeev Kumar Narjari, he confirmed the information saying that the RSS and its affiliates had alleged 'forcible conversions' in the meeting and had asked the government to intervene and stop the meeting.

"At the behest of the RSS and its affiliates, the government authorities had demanded, in writing from the Christian leaders that no 'forcible conversions' would take place in the meetings and that the Christian leaders had given this to the authorities in writing." Mr. Narjari further informed us. He also told us that "the police would be videotaping the whole meeting to make sure that the people are not influenced in the 'wrong way' so that they may be converted by the Christians."

But in spite of all this the RSS and its affiliates were not satisfied. They started targeting the participants coming for the meetings. According to information received they placed their activists on all approach roads to the venue and whenever participants for the meeting came the Hindutva activists would beat them up and send them back. Within 24 hours nearly 50 incidents of violence against Christians have been reported from Banswara and reports are still trickling in.

This affected the participation in the meetings and only 3500 people could arrive the first day which was very less than anticipated according to the organizers. "The RSS people are everywhere, blocking roads, staging protests and beating up our people. Many teams coming from distant areas have been beaten up and forced to turn back. Our only contact with the teams coming now is through phones as the RSS is inflicting heavy violence." Pastor Benjamin told us.

He further added, "The RSS is checking baggage of all persons arriving in Sagwa (venue of the meetings) forcibly. If a Bible is found in their baggage they are beaten up and sent back. A team from Dahod (Gujarat) was coming to attend the meeting but the conductor of the State Transport bus, in which they were traveling, informed the RSS about the group. They were then dragged out of the bus and beaten up and sent back forcibly. The police are present at each place where our people are being beaten up, but they do nothing to stop the RSS people. Even if we plead with them, they ignore us"

When we spoke about this situation to the SP, Mr. Nirjari, he acknowledged the violence against Christians after much hesitation, but maintained that these were small incidents and that the police was able to handle these.

But the ground reality is far removed from this. After the beating many participants tried to contact the nearest police station to register their complaints but they were all turned away. The situation as one Committee member of the Tribal Christian Welfare Society says "is quite hopeless. We are safe in the venue for security arrangements are good here. But the RSS had a different game plan. Since the police had to protect us at the venue they gave the RSS a free hand on the approach roads to the venue. The aim of all of this is to spell trouble for Christians, one way or the other."

As the RSS was busy beating up the participants in Sagwa Village, else where in the Kushalgarh Subdivision also in Banswara District, five Catholic nuns were attacked and beaten up. They were attacked by VHP workers while they were waiting to board a bus for Udaipur.

A young person from a Hindutva run institution spotted the Nuns waiting at the bus stop. He soon left and arrived with a dozen more youths who were all carrying lathis (bamboo poles). By this time the Nuns had boarded their bus, but the young Hindutva brigade dragged them out of the bus and beat them severely. The most severely beaten up was Sister Rosario, 68 years old. The attackers fled when the passengers agitatedly objected to the nuns being beaten up. The Collector of area Gayatri Rathore said that 'the attacks were seemingly provoked by a notion that Christian groups were holding programmes to convert Adivasis (Tribals).' "Various Christian groups have now given it in writing that conversions are not on their agenda." she added.

Banswara District in Rajasthan has always been a place of turmoil for the Christians. Whether it be declarations by the VHP's General Secretary Mr. Giriraj Kishore of "declaring Banswara Christian free in three years time" on April 27th 1997 as recorded by the newspaper Asian Age; or incidents of physical violence against Christians where in Christian worshippers were forced to bow down and worship Hindu Idols (as recorded by the PUCL, India), life has never been easy for the Christian community there.

A new chapter of violence is being written now as this report is being drafted. It all started on October 16th 2005 as the Sangh Parivar organizations namely the VHP and the Bajrang Dal objected to a program organized by the Catholic Church in Rajasthan to mark the end of the Eucharist year celebrations, saying that the program was meant instead for Conversion purposes.

The Hindutva activists once again blocked the roads leading to the venue and beat up the participants who were on their way to attend the program. Even the Catholic Bishop of the Udaipur diocese, Joseph Pathalil was not spared and his vehicle was forcibly stopped and stoned.


27th October 2005: The tribal Christian welfare society was ordered by the administration to cancel its meeting late on the 26th October 2005. This was done as situation was getting worse as far as law and order were concerned.

So even after having all the necessary permissions the Christian community had to cancel their program. According to reports received, the Christians held a brief prayer on the 27th October morning for the victims of the attacks and closed the meeting. The participants are now returning back. The meetings which used to gather crowds to the capacity of 15 – 20 thousands could only manage 5000 this time, because of the successful implementation of the RSS strategy that could rightly be called aided by the police and the administration.

Christians attacked, Panic in Banswara, Rajasthan

JAIPUR: A series of attacks on Christians, allegedly by Sangh Parivar activists, in Banswara district of Rajasthan during the past fortnight has created panic among the minorities there. Among those targeted are the Catholic Bishop of the Udaipur diocese, Joseph Pathalil, whose vehicle was stoned, and three nuns aged above 60, who were beaten up on Tuesday.

It is reported tension prevails in the area though Collector Gayatri Rathore claims that the situation is under control. "We have deployed 200 police personnel. All senior police officials of the localities concerned are camping there," Ms. Rathore told this correspondent on the phone from Banswara on Wednesday. "All Christians in the district are safe."

She said the attacks were seemingly provoked by a notion that Christian groups were holding programmes to convert Adivasis. "Various Christian groups have now given it in writing that conversions are not on their agenda."

In Tuesday's attack, youth from an "ashram" run by the Vanvasi Kalyan Parishad beat up the three nuns with lathis at Bhandaria in Kushalgarh tehsil. The nuns were then at a bus stop at 5 a.m. Sr. Rosaria (68) said a motorcycle-borne youth, who spotted them, rushed to the nearby hostel and brought lathi-wielding inmates.

Trouble started around October 16, as the Catholics announced a programme to mark the end of the Eucharistic year celebrations. The Sangh Parivar organisations objected, alleging that the programme was meant for conversions.

As the church authorities went ahead, the activists reportedly blocked the roads to the venue. They forcibly stopped the vehicle in which Bishop Pathalil was travelling from Udaipur. On his return, his vehicle was stoned. Bishop Pathalil has identified RSS leaders Moti Lal Patel and Rakesh Damor as having led the mob.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Christian Meeting Threatened in Kota, Rajasthan

Hopegivers Meetings to Be Held Despite Threats

By: John M. Lindner
Special to ASSIST News Service

KOTA, INDIA (ANS) - The fall conventions of Hopegivers in India are going ahead, despite threats by militant Hindus, and local authorities have promised extra security as delegates begin arriving here today.

Sunday, about 250 militant youths massed to oppose the annual pastor's gathering in Kota, a city in the north-Indian state of Rajasthan.

Founder and director Bishop M.A. Thomas told ANS, "These militants have already sent a letter to the city commissioner and local police saying that if the government does not stop our conference, they will."

Bishop Thomas said Rajasthan newspapers on Monday reported the militants were planning a big gathering outside the Hopegivers conference grounds in nearby Raipura, and they would stop every car attempting to enter.

"Today the city official called and asked us to stop the pastors' conference or postpone it," Bishop Thomas said on Monday, "but we told them that is not possible."

Dr. Thomas Samuel, President of Hopegivers International, met with police on Tuesday asking for extra riot police to be detailed to the railway station, intersections and approaches to the conference grounds.

Every fall Hopegivers convenes several meetings for the local church leadership in different parts of India. These meetings always include a major gathering in Kota, where Bishop Thomas founded the ministry in 1960.

Kota has always been a hotbed of anti-Christian terrorism, and militant Hindus tried to halt the graduation of 6,300 Bible school students there last February. Trains and buses were boarded, students from satellite Bible schools coming for graduation were beaten, and hundreds were turned away in the presence of local authorities and police before federal authorities came and quelled the violence.Bishop Thomas' son, Dr. Samuel Thomas, also met opposition as he took two American visitors to a Hopegivers' school in Alwar on Monday. Alwar is where U.M. Dorai Raj became Hopegivers' first martyr in 1966. Being apprised of an imminent attack, Dr. Thomas notified the police chief, who sent 200 officers to the school. Dr. Thomas and his visitors were escorted in and out of the city without incident.

Bishop Thomas said the leadership convention will continue as scheduled October 27-30, and that families of American visitors should not worry. "Every precaution is being taken in lieu of these terrorist threats, evening meetings have been cancelled out of deference for safety, and we are expecting strong police protection."

Hopegivers has planted over 11,000 churches throughout India and maintains international offices in Columbus, Georgia.

Click Here for Source

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Why Can't Christians Adopt in India?

Supreme Court urges government to address void in adoption laws.

NEW DELHI, October 21 (Compass) - Article 14 of the India Constitution guarantees every citizen the right to equality before the law, but only Hindus can legally adopt in India. Christians and other religious minorities can only become guardians.

India's Supreme Court on September 26 issued a notice to the federal government asking it to respond to the absence of laws enabling religious minorities to legally adopt children.

The notice came in response to a petition by a social activist seeking a special law enabling people of all religious communities to adopt legally. The petitioner argued that the absence of such a law is one of the reasons why the average number of adoptions in India is low, reported the Hindustan Times on September 27.

According to estimates, India has more than 12 million orphaned and 44 million destitute children. Barely 5,000 are adopted each year.

The law that governs adoption in India is the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act of 1956, which allows only Hindus to adopt. Christians can become guardians under the Guardians and Wards Act (GAWA) of 1890. GAWA, however, does not give the child the status of the family’s biological children, and guardianship may be revoked in certain situations. Moreover, there is no legal relationship once the child reaches age 18 years.

A law passed in 2000, the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act (JJA) of 2000, allows Christians and other religious minorities to adopt, but confusion about the role of adoptive agencies has stalled implementation.

"My client could not adopt under JJA because Justice C.K. Mahajan of the Delhi High Court ruled that the members of the Delhi Juvenile Justice Board (JJB), constituted under the JJA, have not been empowered to deal with adoption matters," attorney Jagdeep Kishore told Compass.

Section 41 (3) of the JJA states that the JJB "shall be empowered to give children in adoption," implying that the state government must empower the adoption body and the JJB's adoptive powers are not automatic, Kishor explained. "In fact, no state government has notified the empowerment of its JJB," he said.

Aloma Lobo, chairperson of the Central Adoption Resource Agency, an autonomous body under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment set up to deal with matters concerning adoptions, concurred. "No child has been given in adoption under JJA so far, because the adoption process has not yet been initiated anywhere."

"It is unfair that my husband and I cannot give our adopted child the same rights as we could give to a biological child, just because we are Christians," said one of Kishor's clients, who took a child into her family under GAWA in Delhi this year. "It is frustrating we could not become adoptive parents under JJA despite waiting for one long year. At last, we had to take the child under GAWA."

Neglecting Orphans

Dr. John Dayal, secretary general of the All India Christian Council, said the government's reluctance to protect minority communities' adoption rights amounts to abdication of responsibility towards orphans and the destitute.

"Why should a secular country have communal adoption laws?" he asked. "Article 39 of the constitution states, 'The State shall direct its policies towards securing that childhood and youth are protected against exploitation and moral abandonment.' Given that, why should the state not ensure this protection to Muslim, Christian, Parsi and Jewish children?"

The right to adopt is an enabling provision, not a coercive one, Dayal said. "No one should have any problems with it, as there's no compulsion to adopt. But for those who want to do so, irrespective of community or gender, the option should be provided under a universal adoption law."

Christians have long been lobbying for the recognition of their adoption rights.

The Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI), the National Council of Churches in India, and the Evangelical Fellowship of India - under the banner of "United Christian Forum" - held several meetings with concerned ministers in 2004 to urge the government to enact a law enabling Christians to adopt.

"In a democratic country like India, laws should be framed keeping in mind the welfare of all sections of the society," Dr. Babu Joseph, spokesperson of the CBCI, told Compass. "Even if the minority communities would want to follow their own adoption procedures, it should be permitted in so far as such practices are not contrary to the existing laws and welfare of the adopted persons."

Christian and Muslim minorities in India have personal laws for matters related to marriage and succession according to their respective religious beliefs and practices.

Although there is no codified law enabling Christians to adopt, case laws in the states of Kerala, Maharashtra and Goa allow Christians who have taken a child in guardianship under GAWA to petition the courts for the adoption of the child.

Justice D. Sreedevi of the Kerala High Court ruled in 1999 that even in the absence of any specific law recognizing adoption by Christians, an adoption made by a Christian couple is valid, and the child adopted is entitled to inherit the assets of the couple.

Similarly, Justice F.I. Rebello held in the same year that since there was nothing in Christians’ religion that forbade adoption, then they could adopt.

Although Indian Christians cannot adopt legally, Christians from outside India can take Indian children under GAWA, and convert their guardianship into adoption under the laws of their respective countries.

Source: Compass Direct

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Parivar now plans a Kumbh in Rajasthan on Dec 6 to Counter Christians

Saturday October 22 2005

BANSWARA: The Sangh Parivar is quietly planning to take its Ram Temple offensive to the remote tribal areas of Rajasthan. The RSS-VHP combine will organise a huge `Hindu Kumbh' here on December 6, the day Babri Masjid was demolished.

Thousands of tribals from Banswara and adjoining Dungarpur are expected to attend the Kumbh, where Sarsanghkaryavaah Mohan Bhagwat will be the chief guest. ``We are expecting more than 50,000 people from these two districts alone to come for the gathering,'' said VHP Banswara head Ram Swaroop, who is in charge of the event.

Activists have begun fanning out in the area to spread the word. ``There will be no formal invitation for the Kumbh,'' Swaroop said. The day-long inaugural Kumbh, whose mainstay would be a show of strength in the local stadium, would be followed by bhajan sandhyas in local temples.

The Parivar, as reported first in this website's newspaper, is organising another Kumbh in the Dangs, Gujarat, where too it is involved in a battle with Christian missionaries to win over the tribals.

The twin-districts of Banswara-Dungarpur in south Rajasthan have a high density of tribal population and is the new battleground for the Hindutva brigade and the missionaries. The Kumbh here is seen as the Parivar's response to a three-day Christian gathering in the last week of October in Sagwa village of Banswara. Thousands of people are expected to attend this event, where preachers from across the country are scheduled to speak. The local VHP chief said their strategy had indeed been prompted by the missionaries in the area.

``The Christian missionaries are embedded deep in the villages of this area. Our effort is to check the conversions,'' he said.

``We do not believe in direct confrontation with them. Our strategy would be to interact with the tribals in the interiors and erase the influence of missionaries on them,'' he said. Sources, however, said its activists have begun protesting against the Christian gathering and are putting pressure on the administration not to allow it, alleging mass conversions.

Since the missionaries and the Sangh Parivar have a history of skirmishes in the area, the district administration is keeping a close watch on the developments. According to sources in the local administration, the missionaries too have been pumping in more resources and manpower in the Bhil-dominated villages over the past few months.

To counter the missionaries, the Bharatiya Jan Seva Sansthan, a Parivar affiliate, has opened 500 primary schools in the tribal belt. This October, the VHP would also organize Shishu Samagam, a special event for schoolchildren at 38 villages in the area.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Church Convention Attacked in Chattisgarh, India

Hindu extremists accuse Christians of kidnapping tribal people for conversion.

NEW DELHI, October 18 (Compass) - Hindu extremists stormed the annual convention of a church in Raipur on Saturday, October 15, alleging that organizers had kidnapped tribal people for conversion. Returning the next day, they manhandled Christians and shouted anti-Christian slogans.

The attackers belong to the Dharam Sena (Army of Religion), an offshoot of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP or World Hindu Council) formed by Dileep Singh Judeo, a local leader of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The Dharam Sena had earlier attacked two other churches in Raipur, the capital of Chattisgarh state, on September 11.

The October 15-16 attacks took place during the last two days of the "Gospel and Revival Convention" of the Church of God in Raipur’s Raja Talab area. About 150 people were attending the convention, held from October 11 to 16.

The Church of God has been organizing its annual convention for the last 47 years. The church was established in 1948.

"A group of extremists from the Dharam Sena broke into the hall at about 1:30 p.m. on October 15 when prayers were being offered for the sick," said Arun Pannalal, an eye witness and a local Christian leader belonging to the Church of North India. "As soon as they entered, they accused the organizers of kidnapping tribal people to forcibly convert them to Christianity."

Tribal people are India's original and most impoverished inhabitants.

"As soon as the police arrived on the scene, the miscreants pointed towards three women on the stage alleging that they were kidnapped by the Christians for conversion," said Pannalal. When the organizers asked the police to register their complaint, they replied that the complaint would be registered only after the three women were interrogated.

Police took the three women to the Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM) for their statements. "The SDM videotaped the interrogation of the three women," he said, "but the women clearly denied that they were under duress or that they were lured by the organizers."

Attackers Return

Nevertheless, on Sunday about 70 extremists returned to the convention at about 11 a.m. and again shouted anti-Christian slogans at the gate of the church, Pannalal said, charging that two more persons were kidnapped by the Christians for conversion.

"They also beat up an unidentified man who fled from there – we don't even know if he was a Christian," he said. "They also slapped and manhandled several Christians using abusive language, but no one has been hurt."

Seeing that the extremists were not listening to the police, the SDM ordered them not to gather at the church. "However, instead of arresting the miscreants, the police asked them to sit in a bus and took them to Moti Bagh, a place the district administration has designated for demonstrations and protests," said Pannalal.

The police had not filed charges against the extremists at press time.

Kaviraj Lal, a local member of the Christian Legal Association of India, said state home minister Ram Vichar Netam told media that no charges will be filed before police investigate.

"It is unfortunate that, although the local newspapers have carried the story about the disruption of a peaceful Christian meeting and manhandling of Christians on their front pages, the administration has not even registered a formal complaint yet," Lal said.

The Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPI (M), denounced the attack on the church, accusing the ruling BJP of causing division through its affiliates, reported Hari Bhoomi, a local daily in Hindi, on October 18.

The CPI (M) also said that Christians and other religious minorities in Chattisgarh were not safe under BJP rule, while the religious extremists were gaining ground.

Christians in Raipur organized a rally in September to protest increased attacks on churches in the state. The rally came in the wake of the September 11 attacks on two churches in Raipur in which extremists destroyed property and struck worshipers (See Compass Direct, "Christians Protest Church Attacks in Chattisgarh, India," September 20).

A delegation of local Christians has submitted a memorandum of protest to the state home minister, who gave assurances that he would promptly look into the complaints of Christians.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Pastors beaten badly by Hindu Extremists in Delhi

Delhi, October 14: A group of 10 Hindu extremist attacked a prayer meeting which was going on at a community hall located at Dayal Pur, Karaval Nagar Road, Delhi.

A group of 10 people entered the community hall at 5:00 pm and started beating Pastor K Y Babu of Indian Pentecostal Church, Pastor Victor Masih of Compassion for India, Pastor Justine and Pastor Robin Masih. The main speaker Ps. K. Y. Babu was injured badly during the attack. He rushed to hospital where he got stitches on his head. Hindu miscreants also broke PA system; drum set which they were playing for the worship and other equipments. The meeting was started at 2:00 pm.

When believers went to the local police station to lodge a FIR, they met a local BJP MLA Mr. Mohan Singh along with a group of 150 people out side the police station. They threatened them to kill them if they continue to conduct prayer meetings at this locality. However, they managed to lodge a FIR at the local police station.

The meeting was organised by a Pastor Robin Masih. 2000 believers were present at the prayer meeting when the incident took place.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

3,500 Christians embrace Hinduism in Etah

Monday, 03 October, 2005, 09:20

Etah: As many as 3,500 Christians from 81 villages adopted Hinduism in Etah on Sunday.

After a 'yagna', the converts had food together and vowed to serve the Hindu community at a programme organised by the Dharm Jagran Samiti.

Yogi Aditya Nath, MP, who was also present at the function, said those who have converted to Hinduism should be given proper regard by the society.