Friday, December 29, 2006

Yuletide Carol-Singers Arrested, Church Burned in India

Christmas Eve services disrupted in several states.

NEW DELHI, December 27 (Compass Direct News) - Hindu extremists burned down a church in India on Saturday (December 23), arrested carol-singers on Christmas Eve and disrupted yuletide services in several states. One Christian suffered a fractured hand, and another lost his hearing.

Extremists burned down a thatched church in Boriguma area, Koraput district of Orissa state on Saturday night (December 23), preventing church members from celebrating Christmas there. The congregation had already decorated the building for Christmas festivities, but everything was destroyed in the fire.

Asit Kumar Mohanty, state representative of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), said GCIC was investigating the incident to determine who was responsible.

On Christmas Eve, about 45 jeeps full of Dharma Sena members circled through the streets of Raipur, the capital of Chhattisgarh state, announcing that they would close down all church services held on Christmas Day.

"Dharma Sena is a Hindu fundamentalist group supported by the VHP and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party state government," Arun Pannalal, general secretary of the Chhattisgarh Christian Forum, told Compass.

"They had already carried out several attacks in the week before Christmas," he added. "These public threats are just another step in their campaign to rid the state of Christians."

Carol-Singers Arrested

Later on Christmas Eve, Pastor James Ram and 10 other Christian missionaries were beaten and arrested after singing carols in Jalampur, a remote shanty town in Dhamtari, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of Raipur in Chhattisgarh.

Members of the Hindu extremist Bajrang Dal attacked about 20 Christians who had gathered in a church in Jalampur; they stormed into the church, beat some of the Christians and destroyed hymnbooks and Bibles.
Five Christians were injured in the attack; one suffered a loss of hearing due to a blow to his head, while a Bible school student’s hand was fractured, according to a GCIC report.

"The missionaries were caught bribing poor Hindus in a slum colony to convert to Christianity," the Times of India reported, quoting Bharat Singh, superintendent of police in Dhamtari. "They were promising people economic help and jobs in exchange for conversion."

Pannalal told Compass that the charges of forced conversion were false: "The Bajrang Dal members were simply annoyed by the chanting of Christmas carols."

Ram was released by about 10:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve, and the other believers were released by 6:30 p.m. on Christmas Day.

The arrests have heightened communal tension in the Dhamtari area; in the past few days, Dharma Sena and Bajrang Dal members have been out patrolling the streets, according to Pannalal.

Prayer Service Disrupted

Hindu extremists also prevented tribal Christians in Tilonda village, Thane district of Maharashtra state, from celebrating a joint Christmas prayer service on Christmas Eve.

Over 400 Christians had gathered for the event.

Before the service could begin, however, a large mob from the local Vanvasi Kalyan Parishad barged into the assembly, shouting slogans against Christianity and driving the Christians away from the prayer hall.

Fearing further violence, church officials canceled the event.

According to Dr. Abraham Mathai, vice-chair of the Maharashtra State Minorities Commission, there were three other incidents of violence against tribal Christians in Thane district in the week before Christmas.

Mathai had written to local police asking for protection for the Christmas Eve prayer service.

"The police were present, but they did nothing when the extremists arrived," Mathai said.

'Reconverted' to Hinduism

The Hindu extremist group Dharam Jagran Samiti (DJS or Society for Religious Revival) yesterday (December 26) claimed it had "reconverted a large number of Christians" in Agra district of the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, Asian News International reported.

"Those Hindus who had converted to Christianity, or those who were lured into joining it by Christian missionaries, were called here to return back to the Hindu fold with respect and on equal terms," said Gajeshwar Singh, regional chief of the DJS.

On December 23, police asked the Good Shepherd Community Church (GSCC) in Agroha, Hisar district, Haryana state not to celebrate Christmas.

"Some people, seemingly belonging to the Bajrang Dal and VHP, lodged a complaint in the Agroha police station alleging that the curch was converting Hindus," the Rev. Reginald Howell of the GSCC told Compass.

He said the complaint was filed when the church members were singing Christmas carols in the church.

Following the compaint, the police summoned seven Christians, including the pastor of the church, identified only as Romi, and interrogated them. They were released after the village head requested the police.

"The Christians were called to the police station against on December 24 and ordered not to conduct any service on Christmas," Howell said. "However, after representatives of the Christian Legal Association of India intervened, the police allowed the church to celebrate Christmas," he added.

Police Prevention

In the only positive report, officials prevented an anti-Christian rally in Dangs, Gujarat, on Christmas Day, heading off further violence.

The All India Christian Council (AICC) has thanked the chief minister of Gujarat state, Narendra Modi, for preventing anti-Christian violence in Dangs district during Christmas.

AICC Joint Secretary Samson Christian said the heads of both Dangs and Bhavnagar districts refused permission to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council) and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh to hold a massive rally in the region on Christmas day.

The rally was announced after eight statues of local gods were desecrated by unknown persons on December 14. Hindu extremists blamed Christians for the sacrilege and announced plans to hold a rally in the area on December 25.

Christians asked local authorities to ban the event, since previous rallies in the area at Christmas time have resulted in violent attacks. In a rally held during Christmas week 1998, Hindu extremists destroyed several Christian churches and institutions and attacked many individuals.

"Tight police security was maintained in the Christian-dominated areas, particularly the tribal district of the Dangs, which has a history of Hindu-Christian clashes during Christmas celebrations," The Hindu daily newspaper reported.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Inter-religious marriage stalled in Madhya Pradesh by VHP

Submitted by kashif on Sun, 2006-12-24 15:56.

Bhopal, Dec 24 (IANS) A government official in Madhya Pradesh has allegedly refused to allow an inter-religious marriage between a Christian man and a tribal woman at the behest of a Hindu group, triggering a political controversy.
Meena Gond (36), a polio-afflicted tribal girl and Peter Abraham (38), a Christian rickshaw-puller, were not allowed to tie the nuptial knot by a marriage official following opposition by Dharam Sena, an offshoot of Vishwa Hindu Parishad. The Sena said such a marriage would boost "conversion" in the state.

The couple had applied for marriage in the Jabalpur district marriage office in October. The mandatory 40 days notice period - during which objections, if any, could be filed - expired on Nov 13 but the official, Deepak Singh, refused to solemnise their marriage because "the groom is a Christian while the bride is not".

"Peter is a Christian. And he lured the tribal girl by offering her money. Sooner or later, she will be forced to change her religion," maintained Sudhir Agrawal, convener of the Sena in Mahakaushal region.

"We have specific knowledge that some Christian missionaries are doling out money to people like Peter to influence tribal people to convert their religion," he said.

The opposition Congress party has threatened to launch an agitation if the poor couple was not allowed to marry by the year-end.

"We conveyed our protest plans to the district collector," said Jabalpur district Congress president Naresh Saraf.

Madhya Pradesh Christian Association president Indira Iyengar has condemned the Sena's attitude saying, "How does the Dharam Sena come into picture when both the bride and groom are adults?"

"Even the government provides incentives for marrying a tribal girl. The law enforcing agencies should deal with the matter strictly," she said.

Meanwhile, Meena's brother Radhey Gond has denied the Sena's allegation.

Radhey said: "How can a daily wage earner afford to entice any woman by providing money?"

Peter, on the other hand, is running from pillar to post to convince the officials that there was nothing fishy about his marriage.

Click here for source

Monday, December 25, 2006

Atmosphere tense for Christians in Chhattisgarh as Christmas approaches

According to reports from the Chhattisgarh Christian Forum, the Christians of the state of Chhattisgarh are facing engineered communal attacks in a pre planed manner for the last seven days. Here are some of the incidents:

1. One Hindu teacher has been falsely implicated in distributing Bibles in her school; she was badly beaten up by Hindu extremists groups. She has been arrested by the police whereas the perpetrators of violence against this lady are still at large and scot-free because of protection by the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) Government and support by bureaucracy.

2. One pastor of a Church has been accused of distributing toffee (Candy) to Sunday school students and on this pretext was badly beaten up police is trying to frame false charges against him. Chhattisgarh Christian Forum (CCF) when tried to obtain bail as per legal procedures 'Dharam Sena' activists using violence threatened CCF members not to seek bail, and virtually took complete charge of the police station for three hours. Democratic rights of citizens, especially of Christians have been thrown to the winds.

Dharam Sena is a hindu fundamentalist group supported by the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangah (RSS) and the ruling BJP government, and is notorious for and perpetrating extreme violence especially on Christians.

3. Today on the Christmas Eve while we are preparing to celebrate, one Christian Pastor is being beaten up badly at 'Dhamtari' district headquarters 80 Km from the State Capital town 'Raipur' for the simple crime of distributing sweets and putting on a dress of Santa clause, the police has thrown him behind bars with the accusation of disturbing communal harmony.



Sunday, December 24, 2006

Hindu Extremists in India Beat Christian Couple, Pastor

Church leader accused of 'forced conversions,' held in police custody.

NEW DELHI, December 21 (Compass Direct News) - Hindu extremists launched two known attacks against Christians this week, beating a couple in the northern state of Haryana yesterday and assaulting pastor in the central state of Chhattisgarh on Sunday (December 17).

About 50 Bajrang Dal extremists attacked the Christian couple, Rakesh Sen and Suman Sen, at about 8 a.m. yesterday at their home in Lakarpur, Faridabad district, Haryana. The attackers were upset at the couple for regularly allowing their New Life Fellowship church to meet in their home for Sunday worship.

The extremists warned them against holding church services at their home and said they would organize a program on Saturday (December 24) in which all the church members would have to chant the names of Hindu gods.

Police accepted and registered a complaint against the Bajrang Dal, and the village head of Lakarpur has apologized for the attack, according to Cinderella Lal, the pastor of New Life Fellowship.

"The village head gave us an assurance in writing that no one will trouble us in the future," Lal said. "So it seems we have reached a compromise with the attackers."

A representative of the Christian Legal Association of India said the Bajrang Dal extremists had cancelled the program planned for December 24.

Haryana state has one of the lowest percentages of Christians in India. According to the 2001 government census, only about 27,000 of the 21 million residents of Haryana are Christians.

Pastor Assaulted
In Raipur, the capital of Chhattisgarh, a group of about 50 extremists from the Dharam Raksha Sena (DRS or Army for Religious Protection) beat an independent pastor on Sunday (December 17) and accused him of forced conversions.

They attacked Philip Jagdalla as he returned to his home after teaching Sunday school at his church, according to a statement released by the Chhattisgarh Christian Forum (CCF).

The mob then dragged Jagdalla to the police station in Pandri and accused him of forced conversions. The police lodged a complaint against Jagdalla under Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code for "hurting the religious sentiments of Hindus." Jagdalla was then held in police custody.

When representatives of the CCF reached the police station on Sunday afternoon, they found a mob of DRS extremists surrounding the station and shouting slogans against Christians.

"They knew we were going to the police station to bail out Pastor Jagdalla, and they did not want the police to release him," the CCF said in a statement.

Police sent the pastor to a hospital for medical examination - which the CCF lauded, as police in India rarely do that for Christian victims - and registered a counter complaint against the attackers. The CCF criticized local newspapers for publishing false allegations against Jagdalla.

Chhattisgarh also has a population of about 21 million, out of which only 401,000 are Christians.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Pastor beaten mercilessly in Raipur, Chhattisgarh

December 17' 2006

Pastor Philip Jagdalla resides and works in Bilaspur (CG). Bur for last one month he was working with Jehova Pentecostal Church, Mova, Raipur (CG), for assisting the local pastor, Jebastin. His wife is in Bilaspur with 2 weeks baby girl. Jehova Pentecostal Church has been conducting regular Sunday worship in a rented house of a Christian family in Dubey Colony of Mova area, Raipur since last one and a half years.

Two Christian children, who are relatives of Pastor Philip Jagdalla regularly attends Sunday school run by this church. Six children from non-Christian background also started attending Sunday school with these two Christian children, with the consent of their families, since last two weeks. After closing Sunday school at 10:30 AM, Pastor Philip Jagdalla went with these eight children to drop them to their houses in an auto. All of them reside in the same place in Pandari, about 3 kilometers from the place of Sunday school and worship. After dropping the children to their houses, the moment he reached Mandi Gate, Pandri, to take an auto to go back to he worship place, not far from the houses of these children, about 20 youths belonging to Dharm Sena led by Keshore (Mahendra) Kothari started beating the pastor mercilessly accusing him of conversion. Kishore Kothari is the president of Raipur unit of Dharm Sena, an extremist outfit affiliated with RSS. Dharm Sena has been primarily responsible for atrocities against the Christians in and around Raipur for more than a year.

They produced the pastor to Mova police station while beating him along the way. Pastor Jebastin came to know about the incident at 11:00 AM through some residents of the colony, while he was conducting regular Sunday worship. He immediately contacted Chhattisgarh Christian Forum. About 40 pastors and leaders of the Christian community immediately reached the police station to express their solidarity and concern. Dharm Sena people in more number also reached the police station and started abusing and threatening the Christians and forced them to go from the police station. By this time Pastor Philip Jagdalla had already been taken to the hospital for medical checkup by the police. When Pastor Philip Jagdalla was taken back to the police station, about ten pastors and leaders of the Chhattisgarh Christian Forum also reached the police station to stand with this humble, innocent pastor. Chhattisgarh Christian Forum insisted for fair conduct by the police. The police registered an FIR against Kishore (Mahendra) Kothari and his aids under IPC Sections 506, 323, 341 and 294. Dharm Sena people again started abusing and severely threatening the Christians, in spite of huge police presence and forced the Christians to leave the police station.

Later Pastor Jagdalla was released from the police custody at about 8 PM. Two leaders of the Forum went to the police station to bring back the pastor safely.

As per reports of local news papers an FIR has been registered against Pastor Jagdalla under IPC Section 295A and Section 4 (Freedom of Religion Act of Chhattisgarh). This is because of a false complaint of conversion by force and allurement against Pastor Jagdalla, presented to the police, maneuvered by the Dharm Sena.

Mr Arun Pannalal, General Secretary of Chhattisgarh Christian Forum has demanded an immediate action against the accused ones otherwise Forum would go for statewide protest.

Pastor Jagdalla has incurred injuries on many parts of the body , and it is suspected that his his left hand or shoulder has got fractured. Please uphold Pastor Philip Jagdalla & family along with pastor and other believers of the church.

Reported by,
A. Edgar
19 December, 2006

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Furore over Rajasthan's 'saffron' syllabus

NDTV Correspondent

Tuesday, December 12, 2006 (Jaipur):

Politics over the school curriculum is once again creating a huge controversy in Rajasthan.

The recently revised social studies and political science textbooks for class 10 and 12 students in the Rajasthan board read more like the manifesto of the RSS and the BJP.

A chapter on terrorism states:

The Jammu and Kashmir government works under the pressure of terrorists, many of the political leaders in the state are hand and glove with terrorists
Article 370 should be abolished to prevent terrorism and the armed forces be given sweeping powers to wipe out terrorism

On Rajasthan, the textbook says that certain minority groups living in the border districts of Barmer and Jaislamer, who have relatives in Pakistan are engaged in anti national activities, should be monitored carefully.

On Mahatma Gandhi, the political science textbook says that at first he was a supporter of the British. It was only later that he turned against the empire.

Educationists, quite clearly, are not amused by the controversial syllabus.

"It ignores the complexity of an average Rajasthani classroom, it does not address Muslim and Christian children," said Apoorva Nand, Reader, Delhi University.

Caught on the backfoot, the BJP government has now promised to look into the matter.

Click here for source

Friday, December 01, 2006

Pastors beaten up by RSS activists in Jhabua, Madhya Pradesh

By Vijayesh Lal

30th November 2006:

Jhabua: Pastor Hatey Singh Gundiya and Pastor Gokul Gundiya were attacked and beaten up by a mob of RSS activists at about 10:00 in the morning.

This took place at Bus stand Khardu near Umria village where the Pastors had come to take a bus to Jhabua. They were going to Jhabua to sell peanuts in the market as part of their family responsibility. Jhabua is about 15 kilometers from this place.

When the pastors were waiting for the bus to arrive, suddenly Karmu Damor and Mukesh Nath from that area and active RSS members arrived at the scene along with 6 – 7 more people and started abusing the Pastors for they knew that Hatey Singh and Gokul had been Christians for about 10 years now.

They questioned them as to what the pastors were doing in their area. When the pastors said that they are not here to preach but to go to Jhabua to sell peanuts, suddenly Karmu Damor and Mukesh Nath attacked them without provocation with big bamboo sticks. They beat them while around 10 of their friends around surrounded the Pastors.

Hatey Singh has been badly hurt on his hands and feet as a result of the stick wounds, while Gokul has been hurt on his eyes. His eyes have swollen as a result of the beatings, but he is still able to see.

Only when the people in the bus stand who also knew the pastors objected to the beatings did the RSS activists stop. But they were still threatening them when the Bus arrived. As soon as that happened Gokul and Hatey Singh climbed on to the bus to escape but the RSS activists not only pursued the bus but also made it stop in order to beat them again. But they were unable to enter the bus because of the fear of passengers and the staff.

Local pastor friends took Hatey Singh and Gokul to the police station in Jhabua where an FIR has been lodged against the attackers under sections 323 and 504 of the Indian Penal Code. The police also sent them for medical examination.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Christian leader killed by militants in J&K

Christian campaigner shot dead in J&K

Rashid Ahmad

Mamoosa (Pattan), November 21, 2006

A prominent Christian campaigner Bashir Ahmad Tantray was shot dead by unknown gunmen in full public view at Mamoosa village in northern Barmullah district on Tuesday.

Local residents said that the gunmen fired three pistol shots at Tantray from a close range at 10:30 am, killing him on spot. The villagers made no attempt to capture or chase the assailants, who escaped from the scene with quite ease and comfort.

Engineer by profession, Tantray had reneged from the Islamic faith and adopted Christianity in 2000. Since then he had emerged as a great evangelist, working for the spread of Christianity across the valley. He had reportedly influenced a large section of his village population with his new faith.

The village hit the newspaper headlines in March 2003 with the reports of mass conversion to Christianity by the residents. The villagers however denied the conversion to the new faith but some village elders privately admitted that several families had converted to Christianity. They said that monetary benefit was the main motivation for them to take to new religion.

With the outrage from various quarters over the conversions, Tantray, a resident said, ran away from the village and settled in Srinagar. Sources said that he continued to remain the part of Christian machinery, and shifted his area of activity to southern Pulwama district. Tantray had come to the village on Monday evening to see his ailing father.

"We were just outside our house. Two young boys passed by us. One of them asked about the timing of the bus. Another took out a pistol from his jacket and fired three rounds on Bashir Ahmad," said Ghulam Rasool Tantray, a cousin of the slain Christian campaigner. He died on spot.

Kashmir has been witnessing a discreet spurt in conversion from Islam to Christianity over the past 15 years. Sources say that some 15000 Muslims across the valley have converted to Christianity during this period. Around a dozen Christian missions and churches based in the US, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland have sent evangelists to the Valley and are pumping in money through intermediaries based in New Delhi, sources.

Parts of Pulwama, Uri, Karnah, Baramullah and outer areas of Srinagar and Kangan are reported to be main centers of Christian missions.

Observers say that the missionaries are getting immediate attention because they reach out to the poor, needy and those affected by continued violence, offering them a lot of money.

Though conversions have not encountered any major resistance from Muslim organisations, it has led to tensions among common people, who are increasingly getting vocal against the Christian missionaries. Hundreds of residents gathered outside a missionary school - Good Shepherded School - in Pulwama, holding demonstration against the school management and staff for "converting Muslim students to Christianity". The protestors attacked the school building causing damage to the building.

Government had to order temporary closure of a missionary school in September this year and ordered probe into the allegations. The school was also target of a grenade attack by militants.

The role of Christian machineries had come under scanner in earthquake-affected areas of Uri also when allegations of luring the quake-affected people to Christianity by offering monetary incentives surfaced. The missionaries, claiming to be members of the Bible Society of India, had to shut their relief business in the area after the government took note of these allegations.

Click here for source

Christian convert killed in J&K

Tuesday, November 21, 2006 23:50 IST

SRINAGAR: Unidentified militants on Tuesday killed a junior engineer of J&K Power Development Department, (PDD) Bashir Ahmad Tantray, who had converted to Christianity ignoring threats from Islamic radical groups.

Tantray was shot dead in his village Mamoosa in Pattan tehsil of Baramulla district. "Two militants enquired about the public transport system. After that they fired at my cousin," said Ghulam Rasool Tantray, cousin of the slain.

Bashir Tantray had migrated from his village, years back after he received threats from militant groups. He was staying in Sonawar but he returned to his village on Monday to visit his ailing father.

Deputy Inspector General of Police, north Kashmir range, Mohammad Subhan Lone said they had received reports that Bashir had converted to Christianity in 1995 or 1996. "As far as the motive is concerned, it is being investigated," he said. Lone said Bashir was buried in his village with Islamic rites. "People offered Nimaz Jinaza. There was no problem," he said.

This is the first time that a Christian convert has been killed in Kashmir, though there have been attacks on Christian missionary schools in the past. Militants had attacked a Christian missionary school with grenades at Pulwama a few years ago.

Militants triggered a car bomb explosion outside the Burn Hall School in July last year. It was followed by a grenade attack outside the Biscoe School at Lal Chowk in which two women died and several students suffered injuries.

Click here for source

Militants Kill Prominent Christian Worker in India

Convert from Islam shot dead on busy road in terrorized state of Jammu and Kashmir.

NEW DELHI, November 21 (Compass Direct News) - Two unidentified militants today killed a Christian convert from Islam on a busy road in Mamoosa village, Barmullah district, in the terror-stricken state of Jammu and Kashmir .

"Bashir Ahmed Tantray, a 50-year-old engineer working with the power department of the state government in Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir, was shot dead seemingly by Islamist militants while he was standing at a busy bus stand near his parents' house in Mamoosa," a local Christian source told Compass.

According to eye-witness accounts, two young men came to the bus stand on their motorbike at about 10:30 a.m. today and started inquiring about the timing of the buses. One of the militants took a pistol from his jacket and fired three rounds at Tantray.

Shot at point-blank range, Tantray died as the militants fled the scene.

Tantray, who had received Christ about a decade ago and had been an active Christian worker ever since, is survived by his wife, two daughters and two sons.

Tantray, who worked as a volunteer with various Christian organizations including the Global Council of Indian Christians, was one of the most prominent Christians in the Kashmir valley, he said.

"There is no doubt among the people, both Christian and Muslim, here that he was killed because of his identity of a Christian worker," the source said. "We fear that we will be killed one by one. However, if we are to be killed, we would like to be killed together at one go."

The slain Christian had come to Barmullah yesterday to visit his extremely ill father.

The people of the village arranged for a funeral according to Muslim rites, fearing further tensions if they buried him according to the Christian tradition, said the source, who added that they respected Tantray.

"There were very few Christians [at the funeral], as an atmosphere of fear gripped the miniscule Christian community of the area after they heard about the killing," he said.

Outrage over Conversions

The source added that The Indian Express daily and a few local newspapers had mentioned Tantray's name in "false and exaggerated reports" relating to "conversion activities" by Christian organizations in 2003.

National daily The Hindustan Times also attributed Tantray's killing to his "Christian activities."

Tantray was "a great evangelist, working for the spread of Christianity across the valley," the daily reported. "He had reportedly influenced a large section of his village population with his new faith."

It added that the village made headlines in March 2003 with reports of mass conversions to Christianity by local residents. The villagers denied conversion to the new faith, the newspaper reported, adding that some village elders privately admitted that several families had converted to Christianity.

The elders claimed that monetary benefit was the main motivation for them to take to new religion, the newspaper reported.

"With the outrage from various quarters over the conversions, Tantray, a resident said, ran away from the village and settled in Srinagar ," the newspaper reported. "Sources said that he continued to remain part of the Christian machinery, and shifted his area of activity to southern Pulwama district."

According to the 2001 Census, there are only 20,299 Christians in the state, which has a total population of more than 10 million.

Jammu and Kashmir has long been hit by the confrontation between militant separatists and Indian Armed Forces, which has resulted in the deaths of thousands of people since 1990s. The Indian army maintains a significant deployment of troops to maintain law and order in the state.

The northern-most state lies at the heart of a bitter territorial dispute between India, Pakistan and China . India has fought three wars with Pakistan in 1947, 1965 and 1999, and one with China over Kashmir. India, which considers the entire state as its sovereign territory, has control of about half the area of Jammu and Kashmir.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Attack against Carmelite sisters in Bangalore, statue of Our Lady desecrated

The church condemns in no uncertain terms the incident, the latest in a string of violent episodes that is sweeping the whole of Karnataka.

Belgaum (AsiaNews) - The attack against Carmelite sisters and the desecration of the statue of Our Lady in Karnataka are acts of violence that "the Church firmly condemns"; they are "new signs of anti-Christian hatred that must be stopped," said Mgr Bernard Moras, archbishop of Belgaum, who spoke to AsiaNews about the violent aggression perpetrated last Sunday against the women religious from the Carmelite Seminary Campus, in Carmelaram, a suburb of Bangalore.

A group of Hindu fundamentalists attacked the seminary run by the sisters. After smashing their way into the premises through a window, they reached a small grotto dedicated to the veneration of Our Lady. Here they desecrated and then destroyed the statue of Our Lady, eventually fleeing after a student sounded the alarm.

For the bishop the attack and the desecration "are very serious deeds and show the hatred against out faith. I have sought out state authorities, explaining to them that the spiral of violence is getting worse and must be stopped."

"Violence," Mgr Moras said, "is taking place in every corner of the state. Attacking our images is a way of attacking us and our faith".

Click here for source

Monday, November 20, 2006

Karnataka Church leaders appeal for police protection after sectarian attacks

Representatives from several Christian organisations last week urged Deputy Commissioner of Police, MS Srikar to provide urgent security to Christians, in the wake of rising attacks on them in Hubli-Dharwad in Karnataka State in Southern India.

In a memorandum submitted to the DC, Christian leaders listed several incidents that had occurred in the last few days.

Nirmal Nagar Catholic Church at Kalyan Nagar was set on fire at night, parish priest Father Fidelino Araujo reported.

A church in Hubli shut down its Sunday worship service within the city limits after receiving threats.

The Rashtriya Hindu Sena activists threatened a pastor not to visit the Christians at Revadihal Village in Hubli Taluk.

Militants attacked a person and a prayer hall, and desecrated Bibles, at Sangolli Rayanna Nagar in Dharwad.Witnesses allege that the police were present but did nothing.

The leaders have called for an enquiry into the police conduct. They have also demanded that police provide security for all the churches in the twin cities at night.

Mr Srikar assured them that an inquiry would be conducted into the incidents.

Father Fidilino Araujo, Rabort Dadapuri, Father Diric Fernandes, Father Moris Muskaranas, Father Philip Kutti, Father Pramod Dhalabhanjan, Sister Irin and others led the delegation.

Rev Paul Ciniraj,
Salem Voice Ministries

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Himachal to introduce anti conversion law soon

Shimla: Chief Minister, said that the State Government would be exploring the possibilities of bringing about a legislation, after examining all related aspects and in consultation with the legal experts, aimed at banning the forcible conversion of the people in the State. He was discussing the issues relating to the welfare of minorities in the State with Shri Harcharan Singh Josh and Lama Chosphel Zotpa, Members of the National Commission for Minorities, who called on him here today.

Chief Minister said that the Constitution of India provides freedom to its citizens to follow any faith or religion of their choice to uphold the secular character of the nation and it had followers of almost every religion, faith and sect followed in different countries of the world which speak of the religious freedom to the people of the country. He said that people who convert to other faiths willingly and of their own choice were free to do so but no person should be forced to follow one or the other religion by force and through unfair practices which was contrary to the Constitutional Rights of the people. He said that the country was religiously harmonious and every citizen was required to honour the secularity of the nation in right perspective. He said that the religion should not be the means of obtaining benefits and incentives.

Shri Virbhadra Singh said that Himachal Pradesh was known as the land of Gods and Godesses and people had immense faith in the devotional powers and any hindrance by any mean in performance of their devotional duties required to be checked for which the government would be initiating effective steps. He said that the State had devotees of all religions, faiths and sects coexisting harmoniously. He said that the peace and communal harmony of the State would not be permitted to be disturbed at any cost and the State shall continue to remain the land of Gods and Godesses by extending full protection to the religious freedom of the people.

Chief Minister reiterated the resolve of his Government to safeguard the interests of the minorities and provide them equal opportunities to progress and prosper. He said that his Government had constituted the Minorities and Other Backward Classes Development and Finance Corporations which were helping the minorities and deserving sections of the society liberal financial assistance to start their self-employment avocations besides organizing training and awareness camps for their benefit from time to time.

Shri Virbhadra Singh said that Himachal Pradesh was the perfect example of religious and communal harmony and people of every faith had regard for the faith of other people which had made the state most peaceful. He said that however strict vigilance was being kept over the people attempting to disturb the religious harmony and peace of the state and strict action taken against all the anti-social elements.

Shri Harcharan Singh and Lama Zotpa thanked the Chief Minister for the best policies and programmes aimed at safeguarding the interests and upliftment of the minorities in the state and hoped that the other states would get inspiration from the State in this regard.

Click here for source

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

NCM sending team to Himachal

New Delhi, Nov 14: The National Commission of Minorities (NCM) is sending a delegation to Himachal Pradesh to discuss various issues including harassment of Christian community and implementation of Punjabi and Urdu languages.

"H S Joshi and Ven Lama Chosphel Zotpa, honorable members of the commission, will be on an official tour to Shimla from November 15 to 18 to discuss the issues with the government," an NCM release said.

"The issues include implementation of Punjabi, Urdu and Bhodi language, harassment of Christian community, allotment of land to Gurudwara Singh Sabha, issue of domicile certificate to minorities and the formation of State Minorities Commission ," the release added.


Local Politician Incites Attack on Christians in India

Pregnant woman in Chhattisgarh state among six beaten for their faith.

MUMBAI, India, November 13 (Compass Direct News) - During a panchayat or village council meeting convened last Thursday (November 9) to address threats against Christians in a village in Chhattisgarh state, a local politician and his associates attacked six believers, including a pregnant woman.

The incident took place in Bamhni village, in Bastar district. Puran Patel, who has strong connections with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the state, has subjected Christians in the village to harassment and humiliation for more than a year, according to local sources.

"The believers in Bamhni have been terrorized by Patel for the past year," Pastor Pramod Paul of the local Brethren Assembly said. "He has threatened me, too, and warned me to keep away from the village."

The council meeting was convened after Christian residents appealed to panchayat members for protection.

A week earlier, on November 3, Patel and a few other Hindu associates had confronted 27-year-old Ashok Baghel, an evangelist from neighboring Mardapal village, as he waited at the bus stop. Baghel was returning home from a prayer meeting in Bamhni.

"They had rods in their hands," Baghel explained. "One of them raised his hand clutching a bicycle pump. He was ready to strike me, saying 'Stop coming here to spread your faith among these villagers!'"

Baghel's bus arrived at that moment, and he was able to jump on and escape harm.

On November 5, Patel and his associates gathered around the prayer hall in Bamhni village as the Christians assembled for Sunday worship and verbally abused them. The frightened Christians appealed to the village council for protection, with little response.

On November 8 (Wednesday), the Christians wrote a letter to the village council, asking members to address the threatening situation.

Attacked Instead of Protected
The village council called both parties to a meeting at 3 p.m. on Thursday (November 9). When all had gathered, the council chief read out the complaint letter submitted by the believers.

Witnesses said Patel then stood up and shouted at the Christians, using abusive and derogatory language.

He then walked over to them and began slapping them. His associates joined in, hitting both men and women in the group.

The village council remained mute as they watched the attack.

Patel and his friends severely beat Anup Mandavi, Mani Korram, Jaisingh Patel and Krishna Patel. They also pushed Havan Patel, the wife of Krishna Patel, against a wall - and kicked Sukbati Mandavi, the pregnant wife of Anup Mandavi, in the stomach.

When the Christians fled to nearby Kondagaon police station, the policemen refused to help them. "Even though the marks of the beatings were clearly visible, the police would not file a complaint," Arun Pannalal, general secretary of the Chhattisgarh Christian Forum, told Compass.

On Friday (November 10), Pannalal called the police station and asked why the police had refused to listen to the Christians’ complaint. He also said the Christian Forum would hold demonstrations throughout the district if the complaint was not treated seriously.

In response, officer-in-charge G. S. Johar filed a formal complaint against Patel. Johar also told Compass that investigations were underway and said the Christians had been sent for a medical examination.

At press time, however, no arrests had been made.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Villagers in India Forced to Bow to Hindu Deities

Christians terrorized in same Karnataka state district where recent incident took place.

MUMBAI, India, November 7 (Compass Direct News) – Hindu extremists yesterday forced Christians in the remote village of Bevainahalli, in the southern state of Karnataka, to bow down before Hindu deities and applied the vermilion mark to their foreheads. It was the second such incident in Chitradurga district in a little over a week.

At about 5 p.m. on November 6, two Hindu priests accompanied by a group of 20 to 25 Hindu extremists from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and its youth wing, the Bajrang Dal, entered Chitradurga district’s Bevainahalli village and knocked on every home’s door.

Leaving Hindu residents untouched, the extremists shouted threats at those in Christian homes, ordering them from their houses to a site near the village temple. Christians who questioned why were slapped and ordered to start walking.

When the Christians were gathered together, one of the Hindu priests, or Swami, began speaking against Christianity and told them to “reconvert” to Hinduism.

The extremists then marched the Christians off to the village temple, forcing them to bow down before the Hindu gods and goddesses. As a mark of acceptance of the Hindu faith, the Hindu priests applied the kumkum or vermilion mark on the foreheads of the men and women and compelled them to eat the Hindu offering called prasad.

Police Spectator

Police Inspector K.L. Krishna only watched as the Hindu extremists violated the Christians’ constitutional right to freedom of religion with this “initiation rite.”

“I ensured the safety of the Christians and personally made certain no violence took place,” Krishna told Compass.

The Rev. Samuel Jacob, a pastor of Harvest India who ministers in Bevainahalli, told Compass that this was the second time Hindu extremists had targeted Christians in the village.

“Last month, the Bajrang Dal held a huge meeting in this village, where the fundamentalists berated Christianity as western and alien to the Indian people and its rich culture,” Rev. Jacob said. “These right-wing fundamentalist also told the villagers that Christianity was corrupting the Hindu faith. Later, they had played a CD denouncing Christianity.”

Rev. Jacob said the poor and illiterate Christian villagers were terrified by the aggression and threats of the Hindu extremists.

Also in Chitradurga district on October 29, Lambini tribal villagers in Kurumaradikere prohibited Pastor Revanna Naik and his congregation from worshiping and forced them to worship Hindu deities (see Compass Direct News, “Christian Villagers Forced to Worship Hindu Deities in India,” November 1).

In that case, three of 11 Christian families at a church in the village refused to bow before the idols or partake of the prasad offering, and the local council chief ordered the community to ostracize them.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Arrests of Christians Continue in Karnataka, India

Hindu extremists get four youths detained for 'forcible conversion.'

NEW DELHI, November 3 – Police in the southern state of Karnataka have arrested four more Christians on charges leveled by Hindu extremists.

Police in Udupi district on October 27 arrested four Christian youths, including three girls, for forcibly converting Hindus.

According to Dajiworld News Network, the Christians, identified only as Robin, Karen, Asha and Flavin, are from the Mabukal area near Brahmavar.

Police made the arrests after Girish Kundapur, the leader of a Hindu extremist organization, filed a complaint with police alleging they were "visiting the houses of Hindus and misleading the people."

Kundapur also accused the Christians of forcibly converting people to Christianity. The youths refuted the allegation, saying they were not encouraging conversion but only preaching their beliefs.

"We have not forced anyone to get converted - we do not believe in forceful conversion," Dajiworld quoted one of the arrested as saying.

Police are investigating the conversion charges against the accused.

Udupi district has a strong presence of Hindu extremists. The September 2006 issue of a monthly journal, Communalism Combat, said that anti-Christian incidents had occurred in several places across the Udupi and Dakshina Kannada districts.

"At some places, huts belonging to Dalits have been destroyed, photographs of Christ have been burnt and Hindutva activists have attacked prayer meetings, all on the pretext of stopping forcible conversions," it stated.

Karnataka police had earlier, on October 14, arrested eight Christian workers at a home for the destitute in Thyagarathi village, near Sagar, on charges of wrongful confinement and abduction after 500 villagers stormed the facility following false television news reports. (See Compass Direct News, "Police in India Arrest Workers at Home for Destitute," October 17.)

After the arrest, the workers at the Lourd Matha Seva Ashram home for the destitute were remanded to judicial custody by the Shimoga district court for "unlawful assembly, wrongful confinement, abduction and cheating."

On August 4, 15 Hindu extremists of the Bajrang Dal entered a district jail in Mardala and attacked Chetraven Rajan, a Christian businessman who had been falsely accused of compelling his wife to commit suicide. Prison authorities made no attempt to protect Rajan, nor did they file a case against the attackers. (See Compass Direct News, "Hindu Extremists Attack Jailed Christian," August 14.)

Many Christians say anti-Christian attacks and arrests have increased in Karnataka since the government of the Janata Dal-Secular party, in coalition with the Bharatiya Janata Party, took power from the Congress Party in February.

Most recently, Lambani tribal villagers in Karnataka's Chitradurga district prohibited Pastor Revanna Naik and his congregation from worshiping on Sunday (October 29), instead forcing them to bow down and worship Hindu deities. (See Compass Direct News, "Christian Villagers Forced to Worship Hindu Deities in India," November 1.)

Three of the 11 Christian families at the church in the remote Kurumaradikere village refused to bow before the idols or partake of the prasad offering that would indicate allegiance to the Hindu deities. The local council chief ordered the village to ostracize those families.

On September 3, extremists attacked a 60-year-old evangelist in Guttigar village in Subramanaya district, Varghese Thomas, and his wife. (See Compass Direct News, "Hindu Extremists Trap, Beat 60-Year-Old Evangelist," September 8.) On his way to a meeting, the couple saw the apparent victim of a motorcycle accident lying in the middle of the road, and Thomas left his car to assist the victim.

As soon as Thomas bent over the victim, however, the man threw red chili powder into his eyes, temporarily blinding him. A group of around 15 extremists hiding in the bushes nearby then jumped out and assaulted Thomas, accusing him of tricking people into coming to prayer meetings.

On August 20, about 10 extremists of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh disrupted a Sunday service of the Good Shepherd Community Church in Kolar district. On August 15, a police inspector and a large crowd of Hindu extremists disrupted a prayer meeting in Ambedkar Beedhi, Malur town, in the same district. Inspector Shiva Kumar stormed the house of David Narayanaswamy, where the prayer meeting was going on, along with extremists.

They dragged guest speaker Rev. Peter Muniappa, Narayanaswamy and a few others outside and punched them in the face. The officers and Hindu extremists then took the Christians to the police station, where they severely beat Rev. Muniappa. (See Compass Direct News, "Extremist Attacks Against Christians Mount," August 28.)

Amit Kumar Released

Amit Kumar Roul of Kandhamal, Orissa, who was arrested on the 26th October on charges of selling religious books, was released on bail by the Sessions court on the 3rd November 2006, GCIC reported.

He was selling the books in order to save up some money for the upcoming marriage of his sister.

His bail application was initially rejected by the Judicial Magistrate (First Class) - Trial Court on 1st November 2006. However he was able to secure a bail and be released on the 3rd November 2006 at about 6:30 in the morning. According to GCIC, their people accompanied him to his home and while they were on their way the Sangh Parivar also tried to kidnap him.

Please keep him in your prayers.

Village Leader in India Seeks to Demolish House Church

Gujarat High Court to hear tribal Christians' complaint on Monday.

NEW DELHI, November 2 (Compass Direct News) – The high court of the western state of Gujarat on Monday (November 6) will hear a complaint by tribal Christians of Surat district that their village head has ordered them to demolish their house church.

Vasantbhai Somabhai Chaudhary, head of Hindoliya village in Surat district's Bardoli Taluka area, on October 4 sent a notice to Rameshbhai Chaudhary accusing him of forcible conversion and ordering him to demolish his house where Christians meet for prayer, Bible study and worship. Along with the complaint against the village chief, Rameshbhai Chaudhary also accuses local police of harassing him.

At a hearing on October 12, Justice S.R. Brahmbhatt asked the police department to inform the court should the Christian complainants be subjected to further harassment from local police and villagers in Hindoliya village.

Rameshbhai Chaudhary and a guest, Bipin Joseph Mehta, a non-resident Indian from the United Kingdom, on October 6 filed a complaint in the high court against the Bardoli police station and the village head of Hindoliya after the police refused to file their complaint, according to Samson Christian, joint secretary of the All India Christian Council (AICC).

The AICC leader explained that the trouble started on September 28, when two officers of the Bardoli police station barged into Rameshbhai Chaudhary's house during a Christian meeting. The police arbitrarily searched the house to see if any "conversion activity" was taking place, Christian told Compass.

Those attending the four-day meeting, which started on September 26, were Rameshbhai Chaudhary, Mehta, another guest from Italy (a Catholic identified only as Luigi), and 28 local tribal Christians. After the meeting was over, the policemen took Mehta and Luigi to the police station; there Hindu extremists and some media representatives also arrived.

A police inspector identified only as Chavda accused the two visiting Christians of coming to India to convert Hindus. He also threatened that he would stop them from leaving the country, Christian said, and confiscated their passports.

The extremists and reporters interrogated the Christians and took their pictures before allowing them to leave the police station, he added.

Conversion ‘Deplorable'

The following day (September 29), local newspapers repeated the accusation of forcible conversion against the two visiting Christians, but Mehta and Luigi attended a meeting at Rameshbhai Chaudhary's house as scheduled. At about noon, inspector Chavda and other officers stormed the meeting – ordering Mehta and Luigi to stand on a table – and searched through all literature in the house, said Christian.

"Soon after this, about 15 people, including extremists and reporters, also arrived and told the tribal Christians that their conversion out of Hinduism was deplorable," Christian said. "They also threatened them."

Police again took the two Christians to the police station, where they told them that they should not leave the village without permission. The extremists also followed them to the station and again threatened them, Christian said.

The inspector called the 28 tribal Christians to the police station and took their statements, "which created a sense of insecurity among them," he said.

After the intervention of the AICC, the inspector returned the passports to Mehta and Luigi on October 2.

"AICC demands legal action against the police officials who harassed the Christians of Hindoliya village and the village head who ordered demolition of the house church," Christian said.

He added that apparently the minority Christian community has become the target of the Bharatiya Janata Party government in Gujarat, which is preparing to incite Hindu sentiment against Christians before state assembly elections in November 2007.

Fabricating of conversion cases rampant in Gujarat

In a significant development, the High Court of Gujarat has issued notices to the Government of Gujarat, Director General of Police, District Superintendent of Police in Dahod, Inspector of Police of Devgarhbaria Police Station and others in the case of allegedly fabricating a firing case against a Christian priest in Divya village of Dahod district.

According to sources, the Gujarat Government has become active in fabricating cases of conversion by force and threat with the help of the police. In fact a First Information Report (FIR) was filed by the police in Dahod against the Christian priest for allegedly opening fire at the Inspector of Police of Devgarhbaria Police Station and eight other people.

In a press release issued in Ahmedabad on 31 October 2006, National Executive Member and Joint Secretary of All India Christian Council (aicc) Samson C Christian said Pastor A Arul Daniel, the manager of a hostel for poor children and priest of a local church run by the Indian Mission Society at Vankadi village of Limkheda taluka in Dahod district, was a victim of police duplicity.

According to him, Gujiben, the widow of Lulabhai, had arranged the inauguration of her new house in Divya village on 20 September 2006 with a prayer service, followed by lunch. The priests of the Indian Mission Society and their family members from the neighbouring villages were among the invitees. Soon after the ceremony and lunch, Pastor Arul Daniel, his wife and their daughter started off on their motorbike, along with other Christian leaders in toe, for Vankadi village.

A little ahead they found the road blocked with branches of trees and stones. As they slowed down their vehicles, around 10 people rushed towards them, carrying sticks and lethal weapons. Pastor Madhubhai of IMS Church was the first one to be attacked. They took away his mobile and other personal belongings. Then they attacked Pastor Arul Daniel. They put a sharp knife on Pastor Arul Daniel's neck and threatened to kill him if he resisted. They took away his mobile and cash worth Rs 3500. They also took away his wife's gold chain worth Rs 6000. Another worker Valabhai, a tribal Christian missionary, was also beaten up and looted.

The attackers collected the addresses of the IMS leaders. Then they led them to the main road, abusing and manhandling them all the way. By the time the pastors reached Vankadi village, it was very late and they preferred to file a complaint the following morning.

As they were preparing to go to police station in the morning, Police Sub-inspector Patel of Limkheda taluka arrived in the village with other policemen and inquired about the IMS Pastors. He took all of them to Devgarhbaria police Station. The Pastors pleaded with him to register their complaint and also give them medical treatment. Inspector of Police Devgarhbaria Police Station RS Sharma said since the Pastors were the accused, their complaint could not be entertained. Ignoring him, the Pastors prepared a complaint and handed it over to him. This time he asked them to delete the mention about the looting of money and mobiles. When they insisted on getting the complaint registered, the police officer threatened them with dire consequences.

Aicc leaders also contacted the police urging them to register the complaint but they refused to do so. They also did not allow them to have medical treatment. They were detained in the police station till late in the evening. Kanji Budha Nayak, a resident of Divya village filed false complaints against Pastor Arul Daniel and other workers alleging that Arul Daniel and other workers were indulging in forcible conversions. When he resisted, the Pastor opened fire at him.

On 22 September 2006, when Pastor Arul Daniel went to Godhra Civil Hospital for treatment, Resident Medical Officer Dr Anil Parmar said without the police list he would not give him any treatment. Then Pastor Arun Daniel proceeded to Ahmedabad on the same day and with aicc leaders’ help, got treatment from Vadilal Sarabhai Hospital, Ahmedabad under medico-legal case.

Since the police refused to file the complaint, the Pastor filed a Special Criminal Application (No 1628/2006) in the High Court on 28 September 2006. Justice SR Bramhbhatt issued notices to the Gujarat Government, Senior Police Sub-Inspector RS Sharma of Devgarhbaria Police Station, the Home Secretary of Gujarat, Director General of Police of Gujarat, District Superintendent of Police of Dahod district and others and ordered them to file their reply on 6 November 2006.

Earlier Devgarhbaria Police Station registered FIR No 142/2006 against Pastor Arul Daniel and other local Christian workers. In the said case, the Indian Penal Code Section 143, 307, 323, 504, 298 Arms Act had been applied wrongly against Pastor Arul Daniel and his people. They were arrested on 24 October 2006 and produced before the Judicial First Class First Magistrate of Devgarhbaria Court. The police sought five days of remand for them, which the court refused to grant. They were later released on bail on producing a security of Rs 5000 each. When they were in police custody, the police threatened them and took their signatures on blank papers.

Condemning the incident, All India Christian Council appealed to the Gujarat Government to follow raj dharma “as such incidents are taking place with the blessing” of the Government. “If the Government tries to get the Anti-Conversion Bill (Amendment – 2006) by registering baseless and fabricated cases against the minority community, the Christians would not sit quietly. We will organize mass agitations at the national level to draw the attention of the Central Government and the global community.”


Thursday, November 02, 2006

Christian Arrested at Healing Festival in India

Hindu extremists harass 25-year-old before he is detained for 'causing disharmony.'

MUMBAI, India, October 31 (Compass Direct News) - Police last Friday (October 27) arrested a 25-year-old believer for "causing communal disharmony" after Hindu extremists harassed him for selling Christian literature at an evangelistic event in the eastern state of Orissa.

Baliguda Police showed up to arrest Amit Kumar Raul of Sutahat, Cuttack, after a group of Hindu extremists harassed him at the booth where he was selling literature at the "Peace Festival and Healing Crusade" in Gudripadri village, near Udayagiri town, in Kandhamal district. More than 10,000 people attended the four-day festival.

As a healing service was taking place on Friday, the last day of the event, at about 3 p.m. a group of men from the extremist Hindu Jagaran Samukhya came to Raul's stall and looked through several books, paying particular attention to a book entitled, Oh, You Hindu, Awake.

The Hindu extremists began shouting and waving the book in the air. Using foul language, they hurled curses at Raul and repeatedly slapped him.

Soon after this attack, members of the Hindu extremist Sangh Parivar, who had filed a First Information Report, came to the book stall along with police. Officers arrested Raul under the Indian Penal Code, section 153(A), for "causing communal disharmony."

Asit Mohanty, state coordinator of Global Council of Indian Christians in Orissa, told Compass that Raul's bail plea was rejected by the Judicial Magistrate First Class Court
at Baliguda court on Saturday (October 28)..

"The complainants are backed by strong political influences of the state," Mohanty told Compass. "The area is currently very tense. The local Christians are terrified, anticipating an attack from the Sangh Parivar radicals."

Baliguda Superintendent of Police Satish Gojvie told Compass, "We arrested Amit Kumar Raul because an offensive book was being sold. The local Hindu leaders had lodged a complaint, and they had even demanded the arrest of the Christian leaders, but we arrested only him to prevent communal violence."

Two senior attorneys have been appointed to secure Raul's release from the Session's Judge Court of Kandhamal district headquarters, according to Mohanty, but at press time he was still in jail as the judge went on leave today for an unknown period.

Prior to the evangelistic rally, local Hindu extremists had issued threats to organizers of the festival, led by Christian Jana Kalyan Samaj. The organizers, however, had obtained permission from the state administration for the event.

Raul's was just one of many book stalls up selling Christian literature at the festival, where healings and decisions to receive Christ were described as "many." The rally featured as main speakers S.R. Manohar and his wife, Madhu, of Rays of Love Trust, along with Sam Taylor of Eternal Light Ministries.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Hindu leaders call for arrest and deportation of Christian missionaries

30th October 2006
Andhra Pradesh
The vice-president of the BJP - composed of nationalist Hindus - has accused 68 foreigners in the area of converting 6,000 tribals through fraud. He urged police to intervene instead of just looking on.

Hyderabad (AsiaNews) - The ruling party in the southern State of Andhra Pradesh, made up of nationalist Hindus, has accused missionaries coming from Canada and the United States of organizing conversions to Christianity through fraud among local outcastes, and has called for their arrest and deportation.

S.V. Seshagiri Rao, vice-president of the Bharatia Janata Party [BJP, India's biggest political party of nationalist-Hindu inspiration] made this allegation last week during a press conference in the capital. He said: "Teams of Christian missionaries have fanned out in various tribal areas of Nalgonda district and are forcibly converting tribals to Christianity."

The politician, who addressed the press conference together with the party's secretary and legal consultant, said the missionaries "promised those who converted free medical treatment, homes, education and 100 rupees per day".

The nationalists said that "according to information in their possession", already about 4,000 persons had converted to Christianity in 30 villages in Nalgonda and Guntur districts and a further 2,000 in Nidamanooru, Anumola and Gurrampodu.

Rao continued: "The 68 foreigners in the area divided into several teams that are visiting villages with the help of locals for their conversion work. The matter was reported to the Nalgonda police but no action was initiated."

Some experts say this last phrase is very dangerous because it often marks the prelude to attacks by fanatical Hindus who "feel duty-bound to intervene personally given the indifference of the armed forces".

The three leaders ended by urging "official action by the government who should arrest and deport the missionaries instead of remaining indifferent to the problem".

Click here for source

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Christians in India Beaten for Refusing to 'Reconvert'

Attackers remain at large despite being named in police complaint.

NEW DELHI, October 27 (Compass Direct News) - Ostracized by their village for the past year, two converts of a church in Madhya Pradesh state's Shahdol district have been beaten for their refusal to return to the Hindu fold.

Santu Prasad Barmaia and Kunjan Prasad Barmaia, both farmers and members of a Gospel for Asia church in Paralia village, were attacked by a group of 12 villagers on October 19.

The attack took place in the morning, when the two were on their way to their fields, a local Christian requesting anonymity told Compass. Both men suffered internal injuries.

Police have not arrested the culprits, the source said, in spite of the fact that the victims named them in a complaint filed at the Amarkantak police station.

Police officials could not be reached for comment.

The source explained that villagers were angry with the Christians for declining to participate in Hindu rituals since receiving Christ four years ago. "The villagers had been persistently putting pressure on them to 'reconvert' to Hinduism," he said.

He added that in the past year villagers have refused to allow the two men, the only Christians in the village, to take water from the hamlet's common well to pressure them to return to Hinduism. In spite of their limited resources, the Christians dug their own well.

"Earlier, some miscreants vandalized a Hindu temple in the village and the blame fell on the Christians," the source said. "Later, however, police investigation revealed that they had not done it. Yet the villagers continued to treat them with contempt."

Beaten Pastor Jailed
In Barghat village in Madhya Pradesh's Seoni district, Pastor Haroon Jonathan continues to languish in jail after police officials failed to fulfill a promise to release him on bail.

Jonathan faced charges of "hurting religious sentiments" and "forced conversion" after he was attacked by Hindu extremists in September. Still recovering from his injuries, he turned himself in to police on October 15 after officers promised that he would be bailed out the following day.

But submission of formal charges is a prerequisite for obtaining bail, and police did not file them before courts shut down for Diwali (Hindu festival) from October 18 to October 26, said another local source. At press time it was not clear when the charges would be formally filed.

Jonathan and several other Christian family members were arrested on September 10 after some 70 Hindu extremists allegedly belonging to the Jagran Dharma Seva ("Service to Awaken Faith") burst into the house church and attacked the congregation. (See Compass Direct News, "More Christians Attacked in Madhya Pradesh, India," September 15).

They dragged Jonathan and his wife Anita out of the house, along with in-laws Sunil Prem and his wife Sunita.

The four were detained for hurting religious sentiments, promoting religious animosity and forced conversion under the Indian Penal Code and Sections 3 and 4 of the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, or "anti-conversion law." Police claimed to have a tape recording of Jonathan urging people to get rid of any idols or pictures of Hindu deities.

The Christians were released on bail, but two more cases were filed against Jonathan, and he was declared as "absconding."

On October 18, about 600 local Christians held a rally in Seoni district to protest the increasing attacks in Madhya Pradesh. Jonathan was supposed to have been one of the leaders of the rally.

New Believer in India Arrested, Urged to Frame Pastor

Local police under intense pressure to file charges against owner of prayer meeting home.

MUMBAI, India, October 26 (Compass Direct News) - Police this morning arrested a recent convert in Mayapuri, Madhya Pradesh state for the second time in three days in an apparent attempt to pressure him to give evidence that his pastor forcibly converted him. By nightfall in India, the new believer was charged with "insulting religious beliefs."

Dewas Gate police again detained Ramesh Thakur, 37, at 9 a.m. after having arrested him on Tuesday (October 24) and releasing him the next day after intense questioning. The pastor of his church in the Mayapuri area of Ujjain district, Jagdish Bharti, had been arrested last June on charges of "insulting religious beliefs" and is still fighting those charges, with his next hearing set for Monday (October 30).

R.R. Malvi, police in-charge of the Dewas Gate police station, told Compass that Thakur would continue to be detained while investigations are underway. When Thakur, his pastor and others were arrested on June 4, he was released the same day on bail after four hours of interrogation without being charged.
The church holds Sunday prayer meetings at the home of Thakur.

"On Tuesday the police barged into Ramesh Thakur's house and ordered him to produce all house documents," Pastor Bharti of the Bethel Fellowship Church told Compass. "However, since he did not have any papers on hand, they took him to the police station, where he was threatened with dire consequences if he were shielding me."

The pastor added that police officials inquired, in an intimidating manner, whether Thakur was given the house as an allurement to become Christian.

Though Thakur has not yet been baptized, he received Jesus as savior six months ago and has been praying and worshiping at the Bethel Fellowship Church since then. Bharti told Compass that since their arrest on June 4, the Hindu extremist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and its youth wing, the Bajrang Dal, have subjected them to insults, abusive language and threats.

Political Pressure to Charge Christians
Dilip Akodiya of the Bethel church told Compass that officer Malvi informed him that he was under tremendous political pressure to charge Thakur.

Viju Varghese, Global Council of Indian Christians coordinator in Madhya Pradesh, told Compass that the RSS had offered Thakur 25,000 rupees (US$552) to implicate Pastor Bharti in a charge of "allurement" to convert.

Indira Iyengar, a former member of the Madhya Pradesh State Minorities Commission, told Compass "The harassment of the Christians just keeps spiraling upwards. Pastor Jagdish and Ramesh Thakur have been continuously harassed by the police, as well as by the Bajrang Dal."

Bharti and 15 other Christians had been arrested on June 4 after a mob of Hindu extremists stormed their home prayer meeting in Mayapuri and dragged them to a nearby temple to force them to bow before local gods.

Pastor Bharti was charged with insulting religious beliefs "with deliberate and malicious intention of outraging” religious feelings. (See Compass Direct News, "Pastor in India Arrested after Attack by Hindu Extremists," June 7.)

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Christian hospital targeted in Chhattisgarh

The Chhattisgarh government is targeting a Catholic voluntary health service in Ambikapur diocese after some people charged it with illegal conversion activities, a Church official has said.

Since 1995, the Raigarh-Ambikapur Health Association has been functioning from Pathalgoan. The government of undivided Madhya Pradesh state had entrusted it with its Integrated Child Development Services program in one of the 19 Blocks in the district of Surguja.

"It has functioned wonderfully well. So much so in the years 1999-2000 this NGO had received state's Birsa Munda award. Satisfied with its works, the MP government had decided to entrust it with yet another Block namely, Odgi Block in Surguja, the same responsibility," a diocesan official said.

But "the picture is totally different" now because of motivated allegations of some fanatic groups that accuse the voluntary group of "conversion activities" in the villages where it works.

"Inquiries were made from Raipur and even from central government. But their report was in our favor. Accusations of conversions were proved baseless," the Church official said. However, the state government has taken some steps against the organization, the officials said.

Since April 2006 some 340 employees were denied of their salary. There are two Religious Sisters belonging to St. Joseph of Lyons Congregation working for of the program, appointed by the government. Seventeen supervisors work under them, who are in charge of 327 workers and co-workers spread out in villages.
The government has taken steps to terminate the two religious sisters and 17 supervisors saying that they are improperly appointed. However, the 327 village workers will not be removed from their job, diocesan officials said.

The diocese of Ambikapur was erected on December 14, 1977 by dividing Raigarh-Ambikapur diocese. The diocese is co-extensive with the present civil districts of Surguja and Korea in the northern part of the State of Chhattisgarh.

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Friday, October 06, 2006

Disinformation Campaign against Christians in Jaunpur

Disinformation Campaign against Christians in Jaunpur, UP

The Times of India (Lucknow) reported on 5 Oct 2006 at 0257 hrs on its online internet edition that “Over 300 villagers adopt Christianity” in Belhara village in Jaunpur district, Uttar Pradesh. The report further went on to mention that 350 men and women embraced Christianity in a conversation ceremony held on Oct 3rd. There could not be a worse misrepresentation of facts here.

The only iota of truth in the entire news report was that a gathering of a large number of people had taken place on the 3rd, in the home of Sanjay Singh. Some were Christians and some non-Christians who had voluntarily assembled from the nearby villages in Kudupur, who had come together for prayer. Some of them may have been first generation converts, but none of them had embraced Christianity that day in that particular prayer meeting held in the home of Sanjay Singh.

Distorted versions of similar news have been featuring everyday in the local edition of the Hindi newspaper, Dainik Jagran since October 3rd. This is inciting the radical Hindutva outfits such as the Vishva Hindu Parishad to take up the issue and with the help of the local authorities bully the local Christian leaders.

On October 4, a large team of 70 people including police and VHP personnel barged into Sanjay Singh’s home in order to question him and his involvement in the alleged ‘conversion’ meeting. Apart from the evangelist, Rajendra Chouhan who was leading the prayer meeting on the 3rd, Sanjay Singh was perceived as the ‘co-accused’ since the prayer meeting was being held in his home.  They went on to take Sanjay to the police station known as the Kotwali Line Bazaar. He was questioned extensively regarding the prayer meeting and his willful conversion to Christianity was raised up as a big issue. The officials threatened him to go back to the faith of his fore-fathers, and if he didn’t he may have to face ugly consequences. Further, bribe was demanded of him if he wanted to leave the police station that night.

The next day on October 5, another team of investigating officers landed up at Sanjay Singh’s home. They alleged to have proof regarding his involvement in forceful conversion of villagers of the area, and that they would check the water well since sources had tipped them off that statues and idols of Hindu gods had been thrown into the well. A thorough investigation by the police team revealed no idol in the well. Incensed at not finding anything, the VHP people present along with the investigating officers broke down portions of the wall of Sanjay Singh’s house.

The fact of the matter is that due to rash and biased reporting by a national daily, the lives of many Christians in Jaunpur district are in danger. There are several Christians who have been have been taken in for questioning on October 6, in an unjust manner in Badlapur Police Station, also in Jaunpur district. The four men: Rajesh, Sangram, Rajpath and Lalman were beaten up and interrogated as if they were hardened criminals. The only thing against them is that they are Christians who were present for the meeting on the 3rd at Sanjay Singh’s home.

At this moment, Sanjay Singh and his home need protection from Hindutva radical forces. Sanjay Singh was taken in for questioning again today, October 6th, and still hasn’t been released by the authorities.

At this moment evangelist, Rajendra Chauhan needs protection for his regular prayer meetings held on Saturdays (10 am – 4 pm) and on Sundays (10 am – 2 pm) held in Kudupur - Bagcha, of Jaunpur district. The VHP people have warned the Christians that they will carry out a re-conversion ceremony on October 8th, and bring back all the converted Christians residing in the area, back to the Hindu fold.

Vijayesh Lal
Associate Coordinator
Center for Human Rights
Evangelical Fellowship of India

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Christian forum cries foul over attack

HT Correspondent

Bhopal, September 22, 2006

THE CHRISTIANS in the state are facing increasing persecution with even indoor prayer assemblies not safe from attack of fundamentalist organisations, Madhya Pradesh-Chhattisgarh Christian Forum alleged on Friday.

Citing two recent incidents, the forum Chairperson Indira Iyengar alleged that innocent Christians are being targeted and implicated in false cases. A widow and a pastor, who claimed to be victims of alleged police excesses in Balghat and Seoni recently, narrated their plight at a press conference here.

The Forum earlier submitted a memorandum to the Governor in this regard. Iyengar alleged that Bajrang Dal activists stormed into the house of Rekha, resident of Balaghat, who had invited pastors for prayer on September 10.

"The Bajrang Dal activists had brought idol of Goddess Durga with them and smashed it in the house and later charged the pastors of converting Hindus", she said.

Rekha was forced to sign on blank papers by police. The pastors have been denied bail ever since. "I was threatened that they would kill my child, set my house ablaze and lock me up if I did not sign on blank papers", said Rekha, a Hindu, who insisted that they were never coerced for conversion.

She said her husband used to call pastors for prayer but the family was never offered any money or enticed for conversion. The other incident occurred the same day in Seoni. Harun Jonathan, a pastor, alleged that they were praying in a house in Barghat (Seoni) with other Christians when the police conducted a raid at night on the pretext of 'information regarding conversion activity'.

"The activists of an organisation Jagran Dharam Seva were with the police and they beat those in the assembly, abused all and dragged us to the police station where we were asked to leave the place immediately", said Harun, who has been living in Barghat since 22 years. "A false case was registered against us and we were forced to sign on the papers", he alleged.

"However, no action was taken on our complaint against the Jagran Dharam Seva activists", he further said. Vijayesh Lal, Associate Coordinator, Centre for Human Rights, Evangelical Fellowship of India, charged the police with openly supporting the Bajrang Dal. He said even the lawyers and notaries associated with Bajrang Dal tried not to let the victim, Rekha, present her affidavit regarding the incident.

The forum memorandum to the Governor Dr Balram Jakhar alleged atrocities on Christians in the state. "The hate-ideology has permeated deep in the system", said Indira Iyengar, who demanded urgent action to stop such actions.

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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Gujarat Anti-conversion amendment

Amendment to Gujarat Anti-Conversion Act passed

Gandhinagar, Sept. 19 (PTI): A bill to amend Gujarat's anti-conversion law to allow conversions between different sects of the same faith as well as between Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism was today passed in the state assembly by a voice vote amidst protests by the opposition Congress.

The Gujarat Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Bill 2006 also clarified the meaning of "forced conversion" and to whom the anti-conversion law should apply.

The amendement said "to convert means to make one person renounce one religion and adopt another; but does not include one who renounces one denomination and adopts another denomination of the same religion".

This implies there would be no government intervention in case of conversion from Shia to Sunni or from Protestant to Catholic.

Significantly, the same yardsticks will apply to conversions between Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism as the government considers these religions as a whole.

Under the amendment to the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act of 2003, a person does not have to seek permission to convert from one sect to another of the same religion.

The opposition protested over the bill considering Buddhism and Jainism as being part of Hinduism.

The anti-conversion law was passed in 2003 by the assembly, but was not implemented as the government could not frame rules. Under the law, Hindus cannot convert to Islam or Christianity without permission from authorities.

Opposition leader Arjun Modhvaida accused the government of trying to play politics on the issue.

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Gujarat clubs Jains, Buddhists with Hindus

GANDHINAGAR: For three years, the Narendra Modi government sat over a Bill seeking to regulate religious conversions, even after it was passed by the Assembly and had the governor’s consent.

Nothing came in the way of the law, apart from the chief minister’s own inhibitions to figure exactly how he could further consolidate his image as the Hindutva mascot.

Finally, on Tuesday, the Gujarat Assembly passed the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Bill (Amendment) Bill, 2006, with the amendment, coming after three years of conflicting legal opinion being balanced with political and ideological motives.

Amid protests by an outnumbered Opposition, the Bill went through, along with an important newly added clause which clubs Jains and Buddhists with Hindus, in the same manner as Shias and Sunnis on one hand and Protestants and Catholics on the other.

It virtually means conversions between Jains and Hindus, Buddhists and Jains, and Hindus and Buddhists can happen easily, without government’s permission.

More importantly, a Hindu who decides to become a Buddhist, would not be called a convert. Ditto for a Protestant seeking to become a Catholic, or vice versa, and a Sunni becoming a Shia or vice versa.

The curbs are on crossing the faith-lines between Hinduism, Christianity and Islam. Surprisingly, Sikhs are not even mentioned in the draft.

But if a Hindu wants to become Christian — the main target for Modi — the district magistrate has to be informed first. Christian community leaders are livid that the law is now on the verge of being enforced.

"The Bill is extremely draconian and unconstitutional," said Jesuit-activist Father Cedric Prakash, Minister for state for home Amit Shah, who introduced the Bill, said Jainism and Buddhism were "construed as parts of Hinduism".

During the discussion on the Bill, an appeal was made by a hardline BJP MLA and former state for home Gordhan Zadaphia, to also club Sikhs with Hindus.

It is learnt that the government had indeed toyed with the idea of describing Sikhs as "part of the Hindu family", but dropped the proposal fearing protests.

Shah refused to comment on the issue. Arguing that the amendment would not stand legal scrutiny, leader of opposition Arjun Modhvadia said: "Buddhism was given the status of a separate religion by the National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992. As for Jains, they were given the same status by a division bench of the SC in 2004."

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In Gujarat, convert within 'your family'

GANDHINAGAR: The Gujarat assembly on Tuesday passed the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Bill (Amendment) Bill, 2006, as the Narendra Modi government courted controversy by clubbing Jains and Buddhists with Hindus, in the same manner as Shias and Sunnis come under Islam and Protestants and Catholics under Christianity.

Despite the Governor's approval to the Bill in 2003, the law was never enforced as the government took time in framing rules centred around who should be called a convert and who should not.

If the 2003 Act, seeking to stop coercive conversions, had broadly defined conversion as "renouncing one religion to adopt another", Tuesday’s amendment seeks to classify the conversions and exempt from its ambit those who switch from "one denomination to another within the same religion".

Minister Amit Shah, who introduced the Bill, said Jainism and Buddhism were construed as parts of Hinduism and that persons of these denominations do not need to take an official permission to convert to Hinduism and vice-versa.

During the discussion on the Bill, a fervent appeal was made by BJP hardliner Gordhan Zadaphia to club Sikhism also with Hinduism.

The government indeed toyed with the idea of describing Sikhs as "part of the Hindu family", but dropped the proposal fearing large-scale protests.

The debate, peppered with the BJP benches frequently shouting "Vande Mataram", "Bharat Mata ki jai" and "Hindu virodhi hai hai", saw Congress MLA and ex-minister Babu Meghji Shah, a Jain, regretting that his religion was deprived of the minority status.

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Gujarat's Anti-Conversion Act amended


The Gujarat Assembly has passed amendments to a state law, allowing conversion between different sects of the same faith and between Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.

The amendment is made to the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act of 2003, which awards three years' imprisonment and a fine of up to 100,000 rupees for anyone converting a person "by use of force or any fraudulent means."

The law also says that if the converted person is a minor, a woman, a dalit or a tribal, the jail term can be up to four years.

But the amendment that the legislators passed re-interpreted the meaning of conversion in the law.

It said conversion means "to make one person renounce one religion and adopt another; but does not include one who renounces one denomination and adopts another denomination of the same religion".

It would mean the law would not object conversion from Shia to Sunni or from Protestant to Catholic. It also thus allows conversions between Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism as the government considers these religions part of the same religious system.

Opposition leader Arjun Modhvadia protested considering Buddhism and Jainism as part of Hinduism.

He opposed the government stand that Jainism and Buddhism are denominations of Hinduism just as Shia and Sunnis are of Islam or Catholicism and Protestantism are of Christianity.

Modhvadia alleged that whenever elections were due, the Government came up with such bills. Before the Lok Sabha elections (2004), the Government brought the Anti-Conversion Bill. ‘‘Now the government is targetting 2007 Assembly elections,” he said.

Although the law was passed in 2003, it was not promulgated since the government could not frame rules. Christians leaders had opposed it saying it was aimed at harassing missioners working interior villages of the state.

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Conversions among sects of same faith allowed in Gujarat

 No intervention for conversion from Shia to Sunni
 Bill clarifies "forced conversion" and to whom law will apply

Gandhinagar: The Gujarat Assembly on Tuesday passed by voice vote, amid Congress protests, a Bill to amend the law to allow conversions among different sects of the same faith as well as among Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.
The Gujarat Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Bill 2006 also clarified the meaning of "forced conversion" and to whom the anti-conversion law would apply.
The amendment said: "To convert means to make one person renounce one religion and adopt another; but does not include one who renounces one denomination and adopts another denomination of the same religion."
This implies there will be no government intervention in case of conversion from Shia to Sunni or from Protestant to Catholic.
Significantly, the same yardstick will apply to conversions among Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism as the Government considers these religions as a whole.
Under the amendment to the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act of 2003, a person does not have to seek permission to convert from one sect to another of the same religion.
The Opposition protested against the Bill, which considers Buddhism and Jainism as being part of Hinduism.
The anti-conversion law was passed by the House in 2003, but was not implemented as the Government could not frame rules. Under the law, Hindus could not convert to Islam or Christianity without permission from authorities.
Click here for source