Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Christians Attacked in Chattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh

New Delhi, December 4, 2005: In two separate incidents in the states of Chattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, Christians were attacked and harassed while participating in Sunday worship service. At the time of writing this report 2 Pastors are reported to be in police custody.

Raipur Chattisgarh: A Church in Sarora Industrial Area was attacked by Dharma Sena activists. The House Church has been functioning since three years in the home of one, Kanhaiya Lal Sharma. This particular Sunday i.e. the 4th December 2005, two speakers, Masih Das Rai and Anmol Kamble from Raipur had gone to worship with the congregation. The worship started at 10:30 and was almost over when at about 12:00 the Dharma Sena activists attacked.

"25 – 30 people suddenly came and attacked the fellowship which was going on the first floor of the house of Kanhaiya Lal Sharma. As they started beating Masih Das Rai, Anmol Kamble, Kanhaiya Lal Sharma and Ram Vilas Yadav panic spread throughout the congregation of about 30 people for there were many Children present too." Akhilesh Edgar from Milap Mandali told us.

The Dharma Sena had planned this event for long it is learned by us for according to sources they had been threatening the Christians for some time. Edgar also told us that while there were about 30 people beating the Christians, the Dharma Sena had about 200 more people gathered in front of the house so that no one escapes.

"When the Sena activists had beaten the 4 Christians to their satisfaction they tore their clothes and paraded them in the entire area still beating them. While doing this they dragged Ramesh Das Manikpuri from his house and also started to beat him. Manikpuri is a Pastor living in the same area but he was not part of the worship that morning. They also treated him in the same way." Edgar told us further.

By this time some Christian leaders in Raipur had got to know about the incident as some young men had managed to escape and call them from a public phone. Akhilesh Edgar, Arun Pannalal, Rakesh Jaiaj and a few others with them went to Sarora Industrial Area to help. But when they got there the Christians and the attackers could not be found. So they went to the police station of the area instead to report the matter.

It was later learned that the Sena activists took the 5 Christians to a temple where they forced them to bow down to the idols and to shout "Jai Shri Ram". "The Christians flatly refused", Edgar told us, "Masih Das Rai, even went up to the extent of saying, 'you can kill me but I will not bow down to the idol,'" Rai has been attacked and framed by Sena men earlier too.

"The Sena activists had a document with them which they had prepared already. The document stated that the signatory deals in forced and fraudulent conversions and the Sena activists forced the 4 Christians to sign the document. Anmol Kamble and Kanhaiya Lal Sharma signed the document, while M D Rai and Ramesh Das Manikpuri did not." Arun Pannalal of the Chattisgarh Christian Forum informed us.

At about 1:30 in the afternoon the Dharma Sena activists brought the Christians to the Urla police station where the Christian leaders were also present. Out of the 5 Christians only 4 reached the police station, the 5th i.e. Ram Vilas Yadav was let off by the Sena people. M D Rai and Ramesh Das Manikpuri were sent by the police for medical examination as they had received the maximum beating. Anmol Kamble and Kanhaiya Lal Sharma were let off after questioning and were threatened again by the Sena activists as they were returning from the police station.

Last heard M D Rai and Ramesh Das Manikpuri were detained by the police for questioning. No FIR (First Information Report) against the Dharma Sena was filed by the police despite the persistence of Christian leaders present to do so.

The Dharma Sena led by Leela Dhar Chandrakar has been very active against Christians in the recent past.

Bhabhra, Jhabua, Madhya Pradesh:

In another incident in Bhabhra, Jhabua District, Madhya Pradesh, Pastor Anil Mehda working with the Indian Evangelical Team was attacked while conducting Sunday worship service by the fundamentalists.

According to reports received by the Madhya Pradesh Minority Commission, Pastor Mehda was allegedly beaten up and then handed over to the police. The police had registered an FIR (First Information Report) against him under IPC (Indian Penal Code) Sections 151 and 101.

Section 151 states, "Whoever knowingly joins or continues in any assembly of five or more persons likely to cause a disturbance of the public peace, after such assembly has been lawfully commanded to disperse, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine, or with both."

At the time of writing of this report, because of the intervention of concerned people and the Madhya Pradesh Minority Commission, Pastor Mehda was set free although he is still not discharged of the charges against him. He is summoned again to the police station on the 12th December 2005, according to sources from the Indian Evangelical Team.