Saturday, January 28, 2006

Capital Shame: Christian meeting attacked and participants assaulted in Bhopal

By Vijayesh Lal and Rahul Pant

28th January 2006: A Christian retreat was disrupted and Christians beaten up on Saturday morning in the state capital of Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh.

The incident occurred when an all-day prayer retreat and training organized by the Hallelujah Church had just begun. The trouble began at 10:30 a.m. when miscreants belonging to the Bajrang Dal, the militant wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) forcefully entered the house of Freddy Prasad in Govindpuri area where the retreat had been organized and began beating the Christians who had gathered for the meeting. Before beating the participants, the goons pelted stones from outside and shouted anti-Christian slogans and accused the organizers of indulging in “forced conversions”.

Thereafter, the mob which consisted of around 60 Hindu fundamentalists, a number of whom were clad in saffron clothing and were wielding rods, lathis (sticks) and other sharp-edged weapons assaulted the Christians and ransacked the room in which the meeting was going on injuring at least 17 Christians.

While 6 Christians have sustained serious injuries and had to be rushed to the Kasturba hospital in Habibganj where they have been admitted, other Christians present at the venue of the meeting at the time of the attack have also been injured. The meeting was being conducted at the house of one Freddy Prasad who is a local Christian.

Pastor Sam Francis who was coordinating the all-day meeting and training was hit badly and has received fractures in his hands and legs. The RSS activists also damaged his vehicle, a Toyota Qualis, completely while Freddy Prasad's scooter was also damaged by the attackers and the window panes of his house smashed.

Kishore Sadhwani, a Sindhi background Christian, who had been invited as the main-speaker to address the gathering has also received a fracture in one of his hands and eight stitches on his head. Reportedly he is also suffering from a blood clot because of the beatings and has been vomiting blood.

The others who have sustained serious injuries in the attack include Majit Masih, Lal Chand and Ivan Pereira all of whom are evangelists.

While the leader of opposition and others have visited the injured in the hospital, no one from the ruling Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janta Party has bothered to enquire about the condition of the Christians who were attacked.

The regional media has reported the attack on Christians as a case of personal rivalry between two groups and the Superintendent of Police (SP) has issued a statement in the media saying that there have been only minor injuries to those who were attacked.

The very fact that such an attack has taken place in the State capital raises concerns over the rapidly deteriorating situation of law and order in the state and the complete failure on part of the state government to protect the minorities in the state. The local Christians have condemned the incident and have demanded that the state government provide adequate security to the Christian community all across the state.

This is the third recorded attack on the Minority Christian community in the state of Madhya Pradesh within the past three days.