Friday, October 28, 2005

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.