NEW DELHI, November 8 (Compass) - Hindu extremists disrupted a large prayer gathering in the house of a Christian family in Pratapgarh district, Uttar Pradesh state, on Sunday (November 6).
Confining 200 people in the house's prayer hall for hours, the extremists threatened to kill the members of the family if any "Hindus" were seen "again" at such meetings.
Allegedly members of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM), the youth wing of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the extremists accused the Christian family of converting Hindus to Christianity.
Prem Prakash, superintendent of police of Pratapgarh, has promised to provide police protection to Pastor Tarun Khosle and his wife, Asha Khosle, said M.D. Jose, public relations officer of the All India Christian Council (AICC).
Jose, who was with the Khosle family at press time, said eyewitnesses reported that the extremists belonged to the BJYM, which was formed in 1980 by the BJP and its parent organization, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.
The prayer meeting, known as Satsang, is held every Sunday in the house of the Khosle family in Pratapgarh city, about 60 kilometers (37 miles) from Allahabad city.
"The BJYM has warned [local authorities] that if all the members of the Khosle family are not arrested within 72 hours, its members would come on the streets to protest," Jose said. "However, the superintendent of police has assured us that the BJYM will not be allowed to organize any protest."
When the extremists stormed the prayer meeting, Pastor Khosle was away and his wife was leading the gathering.
"At about 12:30 p.m., when I was leading in praise and worship, I noticed that about 10 people had intruded into the prayer hall, and they were standing near the door disturbing some people in the gathering," Asha Khosle said.
Asking someone else to lead worship, she immediately left to see what was happening, she said.
"When I went nearer, I heard the intruders asking some people if they were given any money to attend the meeting," she said. "Soon they became louder and started telling the gathering that, being Hindus, they should not attend the religious program of a foreign religion."
Shortly after, another 150 people came and gathered outside the house, protesting against the Khosle family.
In the meantime, extremists began locking up the prayer hall from inside, saying, "No one will leave the hall before we investigate to see how this family is converting Hindus."
Asha Khosle assured them that no one would leave before the extremists were satisfied that conversions were not taking place in the prayer meeting.
"They [the extremists] began interviewing everyone individually," she said. "They warned them not to come again to the prayer hall again."
The crowd accused the Khosle family of converting Hindus in the guise of social service, as the family runs a sewing machine center and a charitable medical clinic.
Local Hindi newspapers - Dainik Jagran, Amar Ujala and Aaj - reported today that, according to their respective investigations, the Khosle family was not converting Hindus to Christianity.
The newspapers said the Christian family was only offering prayers for the healing of the sick.
Khosle said that her family did not convert anyone. "We just want others also to receive the blessings of God that we ourselves have received," she said. "If they choose to believe in Jesus, they are free to do so."
According to the 2001 census, there are only 212,578 Christians in Uttar Pradesh state out of a population of more than 166 million.