Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Govt sheltering fundamentalists in Madhya Pradesh

By Our Staff Reporter

Bhopal, Feb 26 Ms Indra Iyengar, member of the State Minorities Commission has alleged that the BJP-led Government in the state is trying to undermine the role of the minority commission at the behest of RSS. She also charged the Shivraj Singh Chouhan Government of harbouring what she described as fundamentalists.

At a press conference here on Sunday, Ms Iyengar expressed deep concern over the state of anarchy, which has totally paralysed the administration and police by submitting before the communal designs of RSS and its frontal organisations as Bajrang Dal and others, she alleged.

Quoting a survey conducted by the Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh Christian Forum, she said that about two dozen incidents of attacks on Christians including the incidents of arson have taken place this year since January 25.

Khoom Singh Maharaj along with 150 people forced the Jhabua police on the behest of the local administration and BJP leaders in a way that the police barged in a private house at Chhapri village, where the tribal Christians were holding a prayer meeting.

Two priests were mercilessly beaten and taken to jail for no crime of theirs. Khoom Singh is the person, who was largely responsible for the Jhabua communal roots in 2004.

Bajrang Dal activists attacked a prayer meeting at Bhopal and mercilessly beat the priests and others. After making a lot of hue and cry by the secular organisations and political parties, the police could arrest only five accused persons on the third day of the incidents.

The Kukshi Police played havoc on 12 poor innocent Christians at the Nonpura village in Dhar district, where they implicated them in the false charges of abduction and rape of a minor on the instance of RSS activists, said Ms Iyengar.

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Minority panel member lashes out against MP Govt.

Bhopal, Feb. 26 (PTI): Accusing Madhya Pradesh Government of providing political shelter to Hindu fundamentalists acting against Christians, a member of the State Minority Commission today asked the Centre to take a serious note of the state administration's functioning and take steps to stop the alleged practice.

"The BJP government in the state is trying to undermine the role of the Minority Commission at the behest of the RSS," Commission member Indira Iyengar alleged at a press conference here.

Accusing the government of providing shelter to Hindu fundamentalists who have been wreaking havoc on minorities, mainly Christians, she said that there was 109 per cent rise in incidents of violence against Christians in January-February 2006 as compared to the same period in 2004 and 2005.

Iyengar appealed to the Centre to take serious note of state government's functioning and take necessary steps to safeguard interests of the minority community.

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Monday, February 27, 2006

Three Christian priests injured in attack in maharashtra

Kishore Rathod

Monday, February 27, 2006 00:04 IST

Three Christian priests associated with a local charity organisation in Nere village near Panvel were allegedly attacked by Bajrang Dal activists on Sunday.

All three - Rev K M Philip, Rev Biju Samuel and Rev Reggie Thomas - sustained injuries and have been admitted to MGM Hospital, Kamothe, where they are also undergoing tests to rule out internal injuries.

The incident occurred around 6.30pm on Sunday, when the three missionaries attached to Social and Evangelical Association for Love (SEAL), were leaving the premises for a prayer meeting.

"The attack was pre-planned and the mob mercilessly beat them up with crow bars, inflicting injuries on their head, shoulders, back and legs," alleged Abraham Mathai, general secretary, All-India Christian Council, who visited the priests in the hospital late in the evening.

Mathai said the local volunteers of Bajrang Dal had been harassing the priests ever since they set up the charity organisation two years ago for destitutes and the downtrodden in the rural area.

"Despite attacks in the past, the Bajrang Dal activists have been getting away in the past because the police do not apply sections like 153 (a) for causing enmity between two communities, which will attract harsh punishment," said Mathai.

The Bajrang Dal representatives claimed that the Christian priests had got into the habit of blaming the Hindu group for anything.

"Even if a priest gets a stomach ache, he blames the Bajrang Dal for it," said Shankar Gaikar, state convenor of Bajrang Dal, adding that the incident could be a sporadic reaction of the local community which was affected by the activities of the missionaries.

Meanwhile, the police are yet to register a formal complaint.

"The priests were rushed directly to the hospital and we have sent our officer to there to file the complaint," said in-charge PI Pradeep Mane.

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Murdered RSS man gains martyr status


BHOPAL, FEBRUARY 26: Arjun Pal's name rings few bells in Madhya Pradesh, but his death in a communal fray was enough for the Sangh Parivar to put him on par with the likes of Bhagat Singh and Subhas Chandra Bose.

Two years after he was allegedly shot dead by Christians in Jhabua, Pal features in a poster titled 'Bharat Mata Ke Shahid Saput' (The Martyred Sons of Mother India). Bhabra, where he was born, will even see a statue of its shahid saput, if things go according to plan.

"He is a martyr who gave his life for the cause of Hindutva," asserts BJP MLA from Jhabua, Kal Singh.

Pal was killed on January 16, 2004, a few days after tension between Hindus and Christians rose following rumours that a Christian was behind the rape and murder of a nine-year-old girl. A Hindu was later found to be responsible for the crime, but that did not help improve matters. While 14 Christians are in jail in connection with Pal's death, relations between the two communities are far from good.

The poster was first displayed on Pal's second death anniversary in Jhabua and again during the recent Shabari Kumbh in the Dangs district of Gujarat. It was also on display in Indore.

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Friday, February 24, 2006

Rajasthan plans to ban conversions

Special Correspondent

Expected to target Christian missionaries

JAIPUR: The Bharatiya Janata Party-led Government in Rajasthan is planning to introduce a Bill during the budget session of the Assembly starting February 28 outlawing religious conversions.

The proposed Bill is expected to target Christian missionaries even as some radical organisations have launched a major offensive against Christian organisations across the State.

At a press conference here on Saturday Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria said the draft Bill was being given final touches. "We are trying to table it in the Assembly's Budget session and get it passed into legislation as soon as possible."

Activists of the Bajrang Dal, Shiv Sena and other bodies affiliated to the Sangh Parivar have been attacking churches and mission schools, especially in southern Rajasthan, for several months now alleging that they were enticing tribals and poor Hindus to convert to Christianity.

Attacks on Christians have intensified after the publication of a book "Haqeeqat" (Reality) which allegedly derided Hindu and Jain deities. Miscreants vandalised two mission schools in Jaipur.

Asked about the steps being taken to protect the lives and properties of Christians, Mr. Kataria said the book had hurt the religious sentiments of Hindus with its "objectionable and provocative contents" and had since been banned. Action would be taken against those promoting communal tension, irrespective of their religious persuasion.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Hindu activists attack Immanuel Mission in Kota again

The Sangh Parivar activists are at it again! In a well-planned move, though apparently under the pretext of some anti-Hindu references contained in a book sold from the book stall at Immanuel Mission International in Kota, Rajasthan, the activists have gone berserk, destroying the properties of the mission. Much more appalling is that they have managed to get three people of the mission arrested and kept in police custody. Now they are after the director of the mission with a non-bailable warrant.

The arrested persons are: the Administrative Officer, the translator of the book and the book stall in-charge. The hooligans have destroyed the book stall, the hospital and the school – all run on the campus of the mission. That Mission Director Bishop MA Thomas and his family are out of station on a trip has saved the mission from further embarrassment.

It is an exact replay of what happened in 2005 when the Sangh Parivar activists attacked the employees and destroying the properties of Immanuel Mission International in an effort to stall its annual convention. Still the mission went ahead to hold the programme, defeating the evil designs of the attackers and their god-fathers.

This time, in order not to be browbeaten again, they have sent decoys to buy two books sold from the book stall run at the mission. One of the books is a translation of Hakkihat with comments on Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) leader Golwalker and his ideology. The comments allegedly contain unpleasant references to Hindu gods and goddesses. This has become the rallying point for the anti-Christian elements, who want to stop the forthcoming convention at any cost.

All India Christian Council (aicc) is making all-out efforts to save the director of the mission. Its lawyers have already applied for anticipatory bail in Kota district court. By chance if the bail is denied, aicc plans to move the higher courts.

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Pastor goes missing in Hyderabad

From our correspondent

Pastor K Chandra Paul (48), who went missing 19 days ago, was in the habit of calling up his family members every hour whenever he went out.

After setting out on his motorcycle on 28 January 2006 from his house in Papireddy Colony of Chandanagar in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, Paul was in touch with his wife Kumari and sons - Adam and Anand - for two days. "We have not heard from him from 30 January 2006. His mobile phone becoming inaccessible is making us nervous," Adam, working as a sales officer with a private firm, said.

Paul had told his family that he was going out to offer prayers. They were not sure where exactly he went. Adam was with his in-laws at Rajahmundry on 28 January 2006 when his father rang up on his mobile saying he was going out.

On the following morning, when Adam arrived in the city, his father called up again saying he was in Secunderabad on some work and would reach home in a day or two. Since he was available on phone, they were not worried. However, the mobile link went off from 30 January 2006.

After waiting for four days, Adam approached the Chandanagar police. "On the suggestion of some police constables familiar to me, I began to check up with my father's friends and our relatives," a worried Adam said.

Finally, he lodged a complaint with the police on 13 February 2006 who booked a case of missing person. "So far, the pastor's vehicle and mobile phone have not been traced. According to his family members, he doesn't have enemies," Balanagar ACP Satyanarayana Reddy said.

Hailing from Tenali in Guntur district, Chandra Paul earlier worked with the Forest Department before joining the Andhra Christian Theological College. He was appointed pastor of Girinagar Church in Jeedimetla five years ago.

Apprehensive of some mischief, All India Christian Council (aicc) sent a fact-finding team headed by its Andhra Pradesh state coordinator Rev Satyam Yellasari. An FIR was subsequently registered at Chandanagar police station. The Christian Council's prompt action came against the background of the brutal murder of two pastors Daniel and Isaac Raju in Hyderabad in the recent past. Incidentally Pastor Chandra Paul is also associated with the same Pastors fellowship "Inter Denominational Pastors Association" which operates under Cyberabad Police commissionerate limits.

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Monday, February 20, 2006

Tribal Christians Withstand Insults, Threats To Continue In Faith

February 18, 2006

JARSOL, India (UCAN) -- Dawood Devaria and other tribal people who are not Hindus have to take insults, and sometimes assert their religious identity, as was evident during a recent Hindu fair in his village in western India.

"Get out from here now or I will push you out," Devaria, a Protestant, shouted to a right-wing Hindu activist who asked him to leave Christianity and join Hinduism.

Satyanand Gamit, the Hindu activist, had used crude language to accuse Devaria and other tribal Christians of converting in exchange for free medicine and food from missioners. Alongside Gamit stood a group of people from Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS, national volunteer corps), wearing saffron headbands.

They came to Jarsol village in Gujarat state to participate in a three-day Hindu fair that ended Feb. 13. The RSS, an umbrella body of Hindu nationalist groups, was among the organizers of the fair, called Shabari Kumbh, in a remote tribal area in Dangs district.

The group is accused of perpetrating anti-Christian violence in various parts of India, including Dangs. In several violent incidents in 1998, Hindu activists attacked Christians including priests and nuns.

But such violence seems to have hardened the faith and minds of tribal people against Hindu militancy.

Devaria shot a volley of questions toward Gamit and his group: "It is my right to do whatever I want to do. Who are you to question me? Are you from this area? Who are you to inquire about my ancestry?" The activists, like most of the 200,000 people who attended the fair, came from outside the district. Faced with uncomfortable questions, they began to retreat.

Devaria continued to shiver in anger, which also made him stammer, as he continued to shout. His wife, Fulnaben, and friends stood by him to protect him in case of a fight. But he cooled down after Gamit started to back away.

Life as a Christian has been tough, Devaria admits. At least nine of the 12 Christian families in Jarsol temporarily moved to relative's houses in neighboring villages as the fair approached, fearing violence, he said in an emotion-filled voice. He and the others who refused to move were given armed security by the administration. He told UCA News that he refused to move out because he doubles as a pastor for the Pentecostal Church in his compound when regular pastors cannot come.

His church was completely destroyed during the 1998 violence. It was rebuilt a year later and was among the first places given security cover after the Hindu groups announced plans for their fair.

Devaria's house and the church stand opposite Shabari Dham, a reservoir built for Hindus to take a ritual bath to wash away sins, a feature of the mela (festivals) held at regular intervals at pilgrimage sites (dham) along holy rivers. The fair site is not among these. Devaria said part of his land was "forcibly taken away" by Hindu groups as they prepared for the event.

"This is our land where we have been living for hundreds of years. But they encroached on it," he said, showing some land near the reservoir. "They have also succeeded in dividing villagers between Christians and Hindus," he said.

As Devaria's temper cooled down, Gamit came back but stood at a distance. The tribal Hindu from neighboring Nashik district in Maharashtra state said a Christian agency worked in the Jarsol area providing tribal people with material support. It later converted some of them, he claimed.

"If this is wrong, please tell me how these people became Christians?" he asked the onlookers in a soft voice, deliberately avoiding Devaria.

But Devaria came rushing at him. "Mind your own business. You have no business to question me. Who are you?" he shouted. This time Fulnaben and a Christian neighbor, Janu Ramu, held him back.

Gamit continued from a safe distance. "I admit these people have been neglected for a long time. But that doesn't mean they should convert to whosoever offered them money," he insisted, moving nearer to a security guard.

M.R. Khushwah, the police constable posted to guard the church, told UCA News there has been "a regular flow of people" asking Devaria to become Hindu. "The conviction by which he resists such attempts -- monetary offers and physical threats -- is exemplary. I might have fallen for such traps," the policeman said. Observing that Christians become offended when they are accused of accepting money to become Christians, Khushwah said he was witness to their simple life and hospitality, despite their being poor.

For example, Fulnaben borrowed wheat and maize flour and made bread for the police, who find it difficult to obtain food while being posted in the village, even though they get a food allowance.

Fulnaben challenged allegations that the Christians took money to change their religion. "If we had money as alleged by this guy, we would not have gone begging to feed these policemen. It pains when donkeys like this make such allegations," she said, pointing to Gamit.

Janu Ramu said the Christians in the village are "made of steel and will not succumb to pressures." The shabbily dressed tribal man continued: "We know this is only a beginning. But we are ready for a fight, not with weapons but psychologically. Let us see whose willpower will succeed."

Devaria's encounter is something faced by "each and every Christian in the area in the past two decades," says Father Anthony Myladumpura, who has been working in the area that long. "I must admit these poor Christians are not only committed but they have successfully withstood the onslaught of these groups," the Jesuit priest told UCA News after hearing of the incident. "That is why, when I see them, I see the Kingdom of God. I see myself as a humble worker at their service," he said.

Many tribal people such as Motilal Bhoi, who follow their own tribal religion, have been approached to take a symbolic bath at the newly built dham and become a Hindu. Bhoi refused, however, saying they have their own "mountain god."

"They put vermilion paste on my forehead and said I am the follower of (Hindu god) Ram. They also asked to me hail him. When I refused, they abused me saying I was acting on behalf of the Christian priests," Bhoi, a daily wage laborer, told UCA News. He admitted he was a beneficiary of social development projects undertaken by a Christian agency, but he asserted that nobody had asked him to convert to Christianity.

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Friday, February 17, 2006

Persecution does not stop the Gospel

The team of Gospel for Asia Bible college students and staff was on evangelistic outreach when the trouble came. People opposed to the Gospel approached them, grabbed one of the GFA staff members and locked him in a room for three hours. There, they forced him to pronounce names of their gods. After torturing him, they released him.

On another occasion, anti-Christian elements disrupted a prayer meeting, beating pastors and believers very severely. And in another recent incident, stones were pelted at a GFA Believers Church leader and others.

Also recently, a local government official contacted area Christian leaders for information about the work of missionaries under them. And, as a GFA leader reports, anti-Christian groups are paying some of their people to report back to them with such information as well. Their intent is to create problems for the work of the Gospel.

Such opposition in this area is part of a rising tide of persecution in India's central region. A GFA leader there writes that "our people [in this area] are facing considerable pressure and difficulties in the ministry."

"Our prayer is that the Lord may give grace and power to them to stand firm in the faith," he adds. "For as Paul said in Romans 8:35, 37, 'Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.'"

Please pray for GFA missionaries and Believers Church congregations in this area. Many have come to Christ through their witness. Let us pray that even more will—especially their persecutors! These missionaries are prepared to endure such opposition for the sake of Christ and reaching the lost He died to save. But as they face it, they draw strength and comfort from the Lord through your prayers for them.

Courtesy: GFA

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

More "re-conversions" in Orissa

by Nirmala Carvalho

A new ceremony was held which "allowed 25 tribal Christians to re-embrace the true faith". John Dayal: "The law should be the same for all, but when it is Hindus who convert, no one utters a word."

Rourkela (AsiaNews) - The Viswa Hindu Parishad (VHP, a youth paramilitary movement of nationalist Hindus) yesterday organized a "re-conversion" ceremony in Rourkela village in Orissa. In this ceremony, at least 25 tribal people of Christian faith "returned to Hinduism". Around 500 residents of Sundargarh district participated in the function; Mitrabhanu Panda, VHP president for the district and Gadadhar Sahu, national secretary, were present.

"This defies logic," John Dayal, president of the All India Catholic Union, told AsiaNews. "The VHP and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS, paramilitary, nationalistic organization) want a ban on conversions, but they turn a blind eye when it comes to 're-conversions' to Hinduism."

The activist said "the scorn these organizations have for the law is evident: if they believed in the equality of the law for all, they would also call for the arrest of Hindu activists and not only arrest and molest priests and pastors regularly because of their work."

Fr Babu Joseph, spokesman of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India, said: "These acts of re-conversion are suspect; tribals are often intimidated by diverse forms of violence and they have neither the preparedness nor the means to ask for help."

He added: "The authorities should help them in some way."

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Monday, February 13, 2006

Hindus transform church into temple

Vijay Upadhyay / Etah

An 18-year-old church in village Bhojpur in Etah district was finally transformed into a temple by Hindu activists and 300 dalit Christians given "Yagyopaveet". According to sources in the Hindu Jagran Vibhag (HJV), despite regular re-conversions by Hindu organisations in rural India, the number of Christian convertees is growing, especially in the rural parts of western Uttar Pradesh.

Rajshwar Singh, provincial head, HJV, said his outfit had set up a team of 600 Hindu activists to investigate into the reasons for the growing number of dalit Christians in the region. This team recently submitted a report that pointed out the existence of a number of churches without a single Christian around.

Accordingly, he said, a campaign was designed by Hindu organisations to wipe out these churches neutralise their effect, some of which came up 15-20 years ago. He said the presence of these churches was having a serious impact on the dalit community, which was being mistakenly seen as dalits embracing Christianity.

The HJV arranged for a re-conversion function in Bhojpur village about 15 km from Etah, where a church was being operated by the New Apostle Church organisation of Canada. According to Mr Singh, Vijay Maseeh, the church priest, agreed to give away the possession of this church to the village when contacted.

Mr Singh said on Wednesday, a function was held in the church premises by the Vibhaag and 300 dalit Christians, frequenters to this church, were especially brought for reconversion along with Vijay Maseeh who gave the first offering in the yagna held inside the church. After the ceremony, the church was "purified" by Hindu priests, the cross removed from the apex of the building and replaced by the Hindu symbol of Om and idols of Durga were placed.

After the ceremony, the Vibhaag declared a grand temple shall soon replace this building that has been used as a church for a very long time.

Notably, Etah has been the centre of conversions and re-conversions scuffle between Christian and Hindu organisations.

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Sunday, February 12, 2006

Christian Couple sent to Jail in Kukshi, Madhya Pradesh

According to reports received, a Christian couple in the Dhar district of Madhya Pradesh have been arrested and put to jail in the morning of the 12th February 2006.

Mr. Rajendra Nehemiah and his wife Vineeta Nehemiah, both government servants, have been charged with assisting in the crime of abduction and rape of a minor about 4 months ago. The couple denies any involvement in the act but have been booked under IPC 120 (D), 376 and 393.

About 4 months ago a young boy called Abhishek went missing with a 12 year old girl called Hemlata and resurfaced after 20 -25 days. According to the girl's testimony Abhishek had kidnapped and raped her, while Abhishek claimed that he had taken the girl to get her admitted in a school.

The parent's of the girl filed a complaint and Abhishek and 2 others were put behind bars. The Nehemiah's did not figure in the FIR or in the 161 statement till then.

A few days ago however, the girl wanted to change her statement and filed a 164 statement before the magistrate in Indore also naming the Nehemiah's as co-accused.

Moving on this the police today arrested the couple on the pretext of investigation and quickly also presented them before a magistrate, thus moving them to jail by the afternoon.

The story however has another side. The Nehemiah's deny knowing Abhishek well enough. The chief cause of their arrest as put by local Christians is the conspiracy by VHP activists in the area.

According to information Abhishek is not even from Kukshi but from Jhabua and the only reason that the Nehemiah's have been targeted is because they have been conducting prayer meetings for Christians in their home for some time now.

Tribals urged to 'return home'

Manas Dasgupta

An estimated three lakh tribals turn up for 'Shabri Kumbh'

AHWA (DANGS): A call for "ghar wapasi," (return home) was issued to the converted tribals from the dais at the inauguration of the three-day "Shabri Kumbh" in the remote tribal-dominated district in south Gujarat on Saturday.

Led by the Chief Cinister, Narendra Modi, who inaugurated the event, prominent sadhus and saints occupying the dais ridiculed the Christian institutions and voluntary organisations for expressing apprehensions about the "safety" of the minorities in the district in the saffron surge and asked the "foreign religious leaders" of other communities to "stay away" from the tribals in the State.

No `force or lure'

Contrary to the earlier claims of the organisers that the "Shabri Kumbh" had nothing to do with re-conversion, the chief organiser of the event, Kailash Sharma, "appealed" to the "misled" tribals to "return home" and tendered an apology if Hinduism had ever "ignored" them in the past emphasising that the tribals were always "an inseparable part of Hinduism." Besides Mr. Sharma, other speakers also supported the call but made it clear that no amount of "force or lure" should be used to reconvert the tribals who had "gone astray."

Mr. Modi went to the extent of suggesting that he saw nothing wrong if even the State government extended support to the "reconversion" efforts pointing out that the country's Constitution had put an obligation on the governments to prevent religious conversions "by force or by lure." But, he said, he would be considered a "criminal" by the over-zealous voluntary organisations and enthusiastic foreign missionaries if he made any such suggestion as the Chief Minister.

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Modi Resumes Hindutva Chant

SUBIR (DANGS): "Aa laut ke aaja mere meet, tujhe mere geet bulati hai..," this soulful Mukesh number was no Valentine Day ballad, but Morari Bapu's chant asking tribal converts to return to the Hindu fold.

As two lakh people thronged the Pampa Sarovar at Shabri Kumbh in Dangs on Saturday, the motive behind the mela was clear — another reconversion drive.

Slipping back to his aggressive Hindutva mould, chief minister Narendra Modi joined religious leaders in exhorting 'converted tribals' to adopt their 'own religion.' Without mincing words, Modi, Morari Bapu and Asaram Bapu said that conversion would not be tolerated.

"Conversion of tribals by offering them medical services and providing food will not be tolerated and its time now to return home," was the common refrain.

The dais was cramped with Dangi tribal 'sadhus' and Bhil leaders posturing in front of a garish poster of Ram killing Ravana. Spewing sarcasm at the Congress and NGOs, Modi "thanked certain people" for making the event successful.

"First of all, I would like to thank Congress leader Arjun Singh who discussed the Shabri Kumbh with Sonia Gandhi and abused its organisers for almost half-an-hour.

I also would like to thank those 'jhola chhap' people for raking up the issue and bringing it to the notice of the rest of the world.

And finally I would like to thank the media which for a change has given positive reports on the event." "Whatever we have said and done in Kumbh was purely according to the Indian Constitution which clearly mentions that conversion by means of force or temptation is against the law.

Whatever is happening in Dangs is not good for the tribals and every effort to take them away from Ram will fail in the end." Morari Bapu, who mooted the idea of the Shabri Kumbh, began by quoting the Bible.

He said, "The Bible says that conversion by means of allurement is a sin and a person doing this and the person who gets converted would go to hell. I wish Christians follow the Bible".

Claiming that missionaries are luring people by offering medical services and food, Morari Bapu said, "A sick tribal goes to a doctor (missionary), they treat them and ask them to convert.

Now the tribals have realised that it is not good to be in the hospital for long and they want to return home to Hinduism."

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Kumbh Day 1: Message for missionaries


Posted online: Sunday, February 12, 2006 at 0046 hours IST

SHABARI KUMBH SITE (DANGS) FEBRUARY 11: Quoting from the Bible and a Bollywood number, it was an open call from kathakar Morari Bapu to missionaries, asking them to stop conversions. Stressing his liberal credentials, he even asked them to cooperate in the ghar vaapsi programme of those tribal Christians who wanted to come back to their 'parent' religion.

Gujarat CM Narendra Modi, on the other hand, quoted Mahatma Gandhi to say it was his constitutional duty to see that no conversions took place. RSS chief K S Sudarshan, however, chose only to watch the proceedings from the dais with Asaram Bapu among others.

The inauguration of the Shabari Kumbh at the sprawling site in the forests of Ahwa-Dangs proved what it was supposed to: a show of Hindutva strength, and a warning to missionaries to stay away from conversions.

Supported by the state government, the religious heads wanted all induced conversions -poaching, as they term it - stopped. Calling the missionaries and their supporters pakhandis and hypocrites, Morari Bapu chose to remind them of the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Addressing a crowd of more than two lakh devotees, Morari Bapu quoted from the Gospel of Luke in the Bible to say that even Christ's word forbade conversions. "It is hypocrisy to not follow what you preach. When the Bible says do not convert, please don't. It is great that you are good doctors, and have the money to help poor and ailing. But once they have been healed, let them go back home (re-convert) as good doctors do."

Raising the rhetorical pitch, Morari Bapu went on to ask, "Are induced conversions are good but is coming back home bad? Plane-loads from the Vatican can come here and carry out conversions, but if we organise a ghar vaapsi, it is bad. Let everyone be clear that this programme is about peace and tolerance as characterised by the Hindu ethos. No one should be scared of it," he said.

Modi for his part ridiculed those who opposed the Kumbh as "Macaulay's sons". "Mahatma Gandhi fought conversions," he said. "Our Constitution disapproves of them, and yet some people turn a blind eye."

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Kumbh's agenda: Anti-conversion

Rathin Das

Subir (Dangs), February 12, 2006

Confirming the apprehensions of Christian and human rights organisations, the first-ever 'Shabari Kumbh' began with a tirade against alleged conversions of tribals in the district. Speeches of organisers, religious leaders and the chief minister left no one in doubt that the real purpose of the congregation is to kick start a campaign against conversions by missionaries. The practice of conversions had been the bone of contention in the district for nearly a decade now.

The tone and tenor of the three-day session was set by Satyamitranandgiri Maharaj of Bharat Mata temple in Haridwar when he told the locals to accept milk, food and medicines (from missionaries) but "do not agree to change your religion". "Medicines, education and clothes are welcome but not your religion, the missionaries should be told," the saint warned the crowd of nearly a lakh. Urging the people to stay clear of allurements, the saint asked them to 'keep the pollution of conversion away from India'.

Chief minister Narendra Modi had a dig at secularists, NGOs and the media by saying that by crying hoarse about 'Shabari Kumbh' for weeks, they gave enough publicity to it. The Kumbh wouldn't have got more publicity even if formal invites were sent to the media, Modi said. He ridiculed the "Macaulay children" and NGOs for what he called 'defaming Hindutva abroad'.

Ramayana narrator Morari Bapu, who had originally floated the idea of Shabari Kumbh during a discourse in 2002, even quoted from a version of the Bible to drive home the point that conversion was a sin. "They are violating their own religion by converting people with the lure of medicines and money," Morari Bapu said without naming the missionaries. Justifying the re-conversion campaign by the Vanvasi Kalyan Parishad, Morari Bapu said there is nothing wrong if some one returns home after being cured through medication.

The saffron surge in the dry forest area spread over several square kilometres was apparent with small saffron triangular flags hoisted atop non-descript tribal huts as security forces guarded all Christian institutions in the district.

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Christian missionaries trying to end Hinduism: Togadia


The issue of religious conversion was in focus at the Shabri Kumbh mela for the second today with senior VHP leader Pravin Togadia accusing Christian missionaries of coming to Gujarat to "eradicate" Hinduism.

"Christianity is just 2000 years old while Islam came to India in the 14th century but Lord Krishna was born 5000 years ago and Lord Ram was born eight lakh years ago," Togadia told a mass gathering at the mela in this forest and tribal district.

"On an average, only three people go to the church at the Vatican and the same is the case with England where only seven per cent attend prayers," Togadia said in a mocking tone adding "the Vatican would be taken over by Hinduism if it did not mend its ways".

"In America, there are 50,000 yoga centres and people around Europe and America are embracing Hinduism," Togadia told the gathering.

He sad if Christianity wants to save itself from Osama Bin laden it will have to enter into a pact with Hindus to save Christians from terrorist attacks.

"The rate of religious conversions has increased after the UPA government came to power," Togadia charged.

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Missionaries booked for conversion


SRINAGAR, FEBRUARY 8: The J-K Police today swooped down on a Christian missionary group for using "earthquake relief as a means to convert people in far-flung villages along the LoC" and seized cassettes, Urdu-translations of the New Testament and other materials from the group. A case has also been registered against the Bible Society of India.

"Under the garb of relief, they (missionaries) were trying to convert people, promising them money and houses in Srinagar city in exchange for the change of faith," IGP, Kashmir, K Rajendra said.

"We will not allow it to happen. Instead of coming to the help of quake victims, they are making relief a bait for conversion."

The police said a group of missionaries from the Kashmir chapter of the Bible Society of India had been visiting Madian village in Uri sector. "On January 25, they had distributed gas cylinders, three water bottles, audio cassettes and a copy of the New Testament in Urdu besides other material to each of the 230 families of the village," Deputy Inspector General of Police, Baramulla-Kupwara, Mohammad Subhan Lone said.

Lone said the police had ordered a probe after the locals protested against the missionaries. "This could turn into a law and order problem. We have filed a case and are investigating the matter," he said.

It is learnt that Lone has submitted a report about the missionaries' activities in quake-hit areas. The Police said their probe has revealed that the group operates from Nishat, Srinagar, and that a local resident Mukhtar - who runs an educational institution - had been acting as their guide in the area."

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Thursday, February 09, 2006

Life in Danger for 'Friend of Outcasts'

To the "outcasts" of society, Believers Church Pastor Kawal has been a true friend. But today his life is on the line because of religious oppression, and he needs the prayers of his Christian brothers and sisters around the world.

Kawal serves the Lord in North India, reaching out to a community where many low-caste tribals live. In the system that governs their society, they are looked down on and trampled upon by those of higher castes.

With Christ's compassion for these oppressed people, Kawal began visiting homes with a listening ear, prayers, and the Good News of Jesus Christ. They marveled, because most people wouldn't even think about visiting their homes or associating with them!

Kawal gained their trust with his kindness, and they began to flock to his home as well, asking for prayer. Through such outreach, 50 precious souls were won for Christ-and a church was planted. New believers counted it a privilege to worship the Lord in the home of the kind pastor who called them friends. Then five people began to meet with Kawal for special training so they, too, could labor to reach the lost.

Kawal rejoiced. But like any pastor in his situation, he also saw the need for a more suitable building to accommodate his growing flock. That was when the trouble started.

A few days after the believers began constructing their church, local anti-Christian groups strongly vocalized their opposition, even monitoring outside visitors to the site. Despite such setbacks, the Christians slowly continued construction. They rejoiced to see all four walls come up . . . but more harassment came as a mob of 40 people surrounded the building, intimidating the workers and demanding they stop construction.

The believers were encouraged when Christians from other churches came out one night to help them complete the tin roof. But the word spread quickly in the village, and a mob came out the next day to threaten them yet again.

As the leader, Pastor Kawal was specifically singled out. Hearing of the mob's intent to harm him, many advised him to leave the area. It was an agonizing decision, but for his safety Pastor Kawal traveled to a temporary, undisclosed location.

Please pray for protection for this dedicated pastor and his wife, their four children, and this young Believers Church congregation. Pray that each person will stand strong for Christ and will be aware of the heavenly Father's comforting presence at all times. And pray for all tension in this area to subside, and that the persecutors will be drawn to the Father through the love lived out by the Christians. Pray that this congregation's dreams of having its own church building will be fulfilled.

Courtesy: GFA

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

U.S. missionaries deported from Kerala capital for visa violations

By K.Asif, Thiruvananthapuram (Kerala): Three American missionaries were deported from Kerala capital Thrivananthapuram on Friday for violating visa norms.

The missionaries - Terrel Davis Heze, Van Meter Carl Micheal and Taylor David Lee—had come to India on business and tourists visas and were charged with conducting crusader programmes in the state.

They were deported from Thiruvananthapuram following complaints from the Neyyattinkara Taluk Committee of the Hindu Aikya Vedi and RSS.

According to Hindu Aikya Vedi and RSS, these evangelists had violated the visa rules by conducting revival crusade programmes in two areas on the Kerala Tamil Nadu border, which was stopped by the police.

"Today we deported three persons named Terrel Davis Heze, Van Meter Carl Micheal and Taylor David Lee because they violated visa conditions," said S. Suresh Kumar, Circle Inspector.

The missionaries, however, claim that they are returning to the United States voluntarily.

Last year, Dr Nanditha Krishna, Chairperson of the C P Ramaswami Aiyar Foundation, alleged that the ecological traditions of India, especially in Kerala, were facing a serious threat in the form of religious conversion. This view was also supported by other noted environmental scientists, technologists and ecologists.

Dr Nanditha pointed out that the alarming rate at which religious conversions all over the country were taking place had destroyed forests and holy groves (popularly known as Kaavus in Kerala).She also pointed out with statistics that many dense forests and groves in north east India had become the main target of the Christian missionaries.

M Amrithalingam, a well known botanist and ecologist with more than two decades of research experience in the ecological system of south India said that unless something was done to arrest the destruction of the holy groves, the country could face serious crises, like drought and shortage of water.

"While we had small sized forests attached to the Hindu tharavadus in Kerala, urbanization and religious conversion have denuded them. There were many scientific reasons for worshipping forests, animals and groves," Amrithalingam had claimed.

Last month, RSS leader A Gopalakrishnan that Kerala had become a testing lab of global Islamic terrorism. Delivering the keynote address, he also referred to the demand by the Christian community for reservation benefits for the Christian converts from Dalit communities, and said that such demands would help increase the number of religious conversions in the state.

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Sunday, February 05, 2006

Villagers Brutally Beat Christians in Orissa State, India

Eruption of Hindu violence linked to anti-Christian propaganda.

NEW DELHI, February 3 (Compass) - Extremists encouraged Hindu residents of a village in Malkangiri district, Orissa state, to attack Christian residents on January 24. At least 10 Christians were injured and two were hospitalized.

The attack took place at about 8 a.m. while 14 Christian families and four missionaries from the Indian Evangelical Team (IET) were at a believer's house in Koikonda village, said Satya Das Benya, IET’s district coordinator.

Only 15 of approximately 300 families in the village are Christian.

A number of Christians had gathered at the home of Salvam Gangi on January 23 for a worship meeting and stayed overnight. Members of the Hindu extremist group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) apparently heard the sound of singing and called for a village meeting on the morning of January 24.

Immediately after the RSS meeting, a group of about 50 villagers surrounded Gangi’s home and demanded that the four missionaries - Vijay Kumar, Baldas Gopal, Ramesh Sulah and Gideon Challan – come out of the house.

As soon as the missionaries complied, the mob started beating them and then attacked other Christians who were in the house.

Kumar fell unconscious after the beatings and did not regain consciousness until three days later. He and Gopal were both hospitalized with serious internal injuries, although doctors have now declared them "out of danger."

Village pastor Salvam Samu received minor injuries, along with three men and four women.

Samu tried to lodge an official complaint on January 26, but the police said they were "too busy" to talk to him. When IET missionary Sulah approached police officials the next day, they accepted his written complaint but failed to give him a signed carbon copy as required by law.

Sulah's report named 11 of the attackers.

At press time, police had made no attempt to arrest the accused. Fearing further violence, Christian residents did not meet for worship on Sunday (January 29).

When Compass spoke with Yatinda Koyal, superintendent of police in Malkangiri district, Koyal said the victims had not lodged a formal complaint. When he was given evidence that a complaint had been filed, he pleaded ignorance, saying he had been "away from the office for the last three days."

Hindu residents had attacked Christians a year ago, in January 2005, injuring several people including a pregnant woman. The police helped both parties reach a compromise, but Hindu villagers have continued to express hostility to the Christian minority.

Spreading Violence
Orissa is ruled by a coalition government consisting of the Biju Danata Dal party and the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Anti-Christian violence has risen sharply in states ruled by the BJP since the beginning of the year. Christians blame hate propaganda distributed by the RSS and other extremist groups in preparation for a major Hindu "reawakening" event to be held this February in Dangs district of Gujarat state.

Four attacks on Christians in Madhya Pradesh, another BJP-ruled state, were reported last week, immediately after the attack in Orissa. (See Compass Direct, "Extremists, Police Beat Christians in Madhya Pradesh," January 30.)

"The RSS wants no violence in Dangs at this time, but it wants the chant to continue in other states," Dr. John Dayal, secretary general of the All India Christian Council, told Compass.

Dayal said he expected violence against Christians in Dangs to break out after the Hindu rally scheduled for February 11 to 13.

A compact disc distributed by the RSS in Dangs and elsewhere describes Christianity as a dangerous foreign faith that must be eradicated from India.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Centre asks Gujarat to maintain law and order at the Shabari Kumbh

NEW DELHI: Concerned at the reports of a large congregation being planned from February 11 to 13 in the predominantly tribal district of Dangs in Gujarat by a Sangh Parivar outfit, the Centre on Thursday said efforts would be made to provide additional paramilitary forces to ensure that the "Shabri Kumbh Mela" passed off peacefully.

In a letter to the Gujarat Chief Secretary, Union Home Secretary V.K. Duggal suggested that extensive arrangements be made along the route leading from the bordering States and districts to the site. He also suggested that adequate security arrangements be made in the villages where the people of minority community live or there religious and educational institutions are located. Four companies of the Rapid Action Force (RAF), stationed in Ahmedabad, would be deployed in the area.

The three-day event is being organised by the Vanvasi Kalyan Parishad at Shabri Dham near Jarsol in Dangs district. The district witnessed attacks on the Christian tribal population and their institutions during the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) regime in 1998.

With nearly 10 per cent of the population of the area being Christian tribals, the Parishad, a front organisation of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), tries to discourage the others from getting converted to Christianity. The law and order situation in the Dangs and surrounding areas was reviewed by Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil at a meeting here on Wednesday.

The Ministry sent A.K. Mitra, Special Secretary (Internal Security), to Ahmedabad and Dangs on January 29 for a three-day visit to make an on-the-spot assessment of the situation. The Centre is keeping a close watch on the situation, sources in the Ministry told The Hindu.

Intelligence inputs said the Christians in the adjoining Nandurbar district in Maharashtra were also apprehensive of tension following the congregation and the programme of "Suddhikaran" (reconversion).

Several Christian organisations, including the All-Indian Christian Council, have urged the Gujarat Government and the Centre to take steps to ensure the safety of Christian missionaries and institutions.

Nearly three lakh tribals from across the country are likely to converge in the area to attend the programme, being dubbed as "Sabri Mahakumbh", which isaimed at protecting the Hindu religion from the foreigners. The three-day programme is likely to be attended, among others, by RSS chief K.S. Sudarshan, Sant Asaram and Morari Bapu. The "Mahakumbh" for tribals is aimed at mobilising their clan from Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.

Another outfit "Shri Sabarimata Seva Samiti", affiliated to the Vanvasi Kalyan Parishad, has been active in Dangs over the past one-and-a-half decades. It has often accused the Christian missionaries of indulging in conversions under the pretext of social and religious services. It claims to have reconverted, on an average, 200-500 Christian tribals to Hinduism every year for the past few years.

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Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Missionaries beaten up in Orissa

23rd January 2006: Four IET (Indian Evangelical Team) missionaries namely P. Bijay Kumar, G. Baldash, Gideon Challan and Ramesh Suna had gone to village Koikonda of Motu Thehsil, Malkangiri District, Orissa State for a special meeting. Village Koikonda is more than 60 kms away from Malkangiri District.

The RSS (Rashtriya Swayam Sewak) activists came to know about this meeting and went to the village in search of the missionaries. The miscreants interrupted the meeting and forcibly entered the venue. They took the missionaries out of the place of worship by force.

After pulling the Missionaries out the miscreants proceeded to beat them up inhumanly. Brother Bijay Kumar and Brother G. Baldash became unconscious because of the assault. The RSS activists then turned to the believers who were attending the meeting and brutally beat and harassed them.

The missionaries who were severely beaten up were taken to the District Hospital around 9 pm the same day. Among the missionaries three are under treatment but Bro. Bijay Kumar is very serious and has still not recovered from the trauma.

Complaint against the miscreants has been lodged in the local police station. Please pray for the missionaries and believers to overcome this shocking incidence.

As reported on email by the Indian Evangelical Team, New Delhi

Catholic Bishop, priests attacked in Maharashtra, India

Mumbai (ICNS) -- Bishop Thomas Dabre of Vasai and his three priests were pelted with stones as they opened a hostel for tribal children in a village.
A priest sustained head injuries in the Jan. 29 attack in Ghosali village of Mukada Taluka, which comes under Bishop Dabre's Vasai diocese in Maharashtra.

Bishop Dabre and Fathers Oneil Faroz, Philip Vaz and Andrew Rodrigues were inaugurating the Suryodaya Ashram, a hostel to help tribal children's education.

"Miscreants who allegedly belonged to the Bajrang Dal and Vanvasi Kalyan Parishad numbering over a hundred were armed with sticks," according to a statement from Bombay Catholic Sabha (forum). Vasai was formerly part of Bombay archdiocese.

The attackers shouted slogans and threw stones at the gathering. "This was intimidation of its worst kind. Had it not to be for the strong opposition of the villagers, who repulsed the attack by the hooligans something worse could have happened," the statement said.

It said the presence of more than 300 members of the Bajrang Dal and Vanvasi Kalyan Parishad triggered off ugly scenes.

The activists were under the impression that the educational institutions would convert some of the students to Christianity, informed Abraham Mathai, vice chairman of the Minorities Commission.

The statement wanted the "fascist elements" appreciate "the good work done" by the Church for the marginalized. It also asked the attackers "to have the guts to follow" Church's example of social service.

The statement said BCS officials have taken this matter with Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh.

They have also contacted Deputy Chief Minister and Home Minister R.R. Patil to ensure "adequate protection" for Bishop Dabre, Suryodaya Ashram, its children and other the Christian Institutions in the Thane District, it said.

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More attacks against Christians in Madhya Pradesh

By Vijayesh Lal

31st January 2006: The night of 30th January 2006 was replete with reports of incidents against Christians in Madhya Pradesh.

The state already infamous for attacks on the Christian minority with as many as 4 attacks on the community since 25th January 2006 experienced more of it, with unconfirmed reports indicating at least 18 instances of violence against Christians as India mourned the father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi refered to as the apostle of peace.

The first attack was in Betul in Madhya Pradesh where in Hindutva fundamentalists attacked and attempted to burn a Pentecostal Church. The Church pastored by Senior Pastor K T Samuel was broken into by miscreants. After vandalizing the Church they attempted to set the Church on fire.

The second attack took place in Banapura, District Hoshangabad. Between 12:00 – 1:00 in the night unidentified men broke in the Friend’s Church in Banapura and after vandalizing they set the Church gates on fire.

The police station of Banapura is just opposite the Church and as soon as policemen saw flames from the Church they came to the rescue thus making the attackers flee from the scene. It was the police personnel who doused the fire and protected the Church.

The Friend’s Church is a historical Church and is about 150 years old. It belonged to the UCNI and currently the CNI is the custodian of the Church. Ena Jiwan Masih, an elder of the Church has filed an FIR with the police. We spoke to Mr. David Nathaneal, one of the elders of the Church and he has expressed his concern at the attacks but was appreciative of the police action.

The third attack was again at a Friend’s Church but this time in the town on Itarsi. Unidentified people broke the Church lock and attempted to vandalize the Church, but a major mishap was averted when the miscreants ran when someone raised an alarm.

According to reports received unidnetified people attempeted to burn a Church in Mandla district too, but the police intervened at the right time and thus prevented a major mishap.