Thursday, March 23, 2006

Christians attacked in Jabalpur

17th March 2006: The YWAM centre at Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh was ransacked and vandalized by Bajrang Dal activist late night on Friday the 17th March 2006. The attackers beat up resident students of the centre and misbehaved with the girl students. As the police arrived at the scene the attackers fled but the police managed to get hold of one of them.

Mukesh Jacob, the central India director for the Youth with a Mission (YWAM) spoke to us, "I first got a call around 9:00 pm from the centre and the students there called me up to say that 4 people from the CBI had come for an enquiry. As I spoke to the alleged CBI personnel over the phone, they clearly told me that they were Bajrang Dal people and wanted to know what we did at our centre. They also wanted to interview our students at the centre and all this at 9:00 in the night."

"I told them to come the next morning as I was not there. Hearing this, the Bajrang Dal activists cut off the phone." Mukesh Jacob further told us, "When I called after this I could hear noises of the attackers forcing our staff not to pick up the phone. This time too the attackers cut off the phone forcibly. I realized what was happening and called the police to intervene in the matter."

Meanwhile around 15 more people from the Bajrang Dal barged in the centre and started to ransack the place and beat the students. They also misbehaved with the ladies students hitting them in private places. The attackers also broke almost the entire furniture, damaged the computer and UPS beyond repair, broke the TV and shattered the window panes. They also involve in using abusive language with the students and allegedly burned Bibles thus injuring the religious feelings of Christians.

While they were still vandalizing the place the police arrived and though most of the attackers managed to escape, the police was able to catch one attacker, who was fully drunk.

Mukesh Jacob told us, "Even after the police arrived the attackers were roaming in the vicinity and around the centre and the police was not arresting them. It was only when we questioned the police and their involvement that they caught some of the attackers and brought them and us to the police station."

"Once in the police station, the police kept evading the possibility of filing an FIR (First Information Report). They even rejected the application I gave saying that I was not personally present at the time of the attack, which is unlawful for the FIR can be filed by anybody even on the basis of mere hearsay. Finally a girl, Ruth Mangalam, from the center filed an FIR but not before the police diluted a lot of facts." Jacob informed us further.

According to information the attackers were led by one Yogesh Agarwal. The police have arrested him and four others so far on the charge of ransacking the Mission office and attacking the couple. Their names are: Inder Bhan, Pushpendra Singh, Arun Pillai and Kedar Namdeo.

The police also made out a case against Mukesh Jacob and his wife Sarah under the Section 4 of Freedom of Religion Act and collected some Christian literature from the center in order to prove that they are involved in religious conversions.

The next day the press gave a report of the incident which was clearly biased against the Christians. Nai Dunia, a prominent Hindi newspaper, even went to the extent of quoting the Superintendent of Police, Mr. Srinivas Rao, "according to the investigation so far it appears that the couple is involved in conversion activities.", thus condemning the Christians already.

Jabalpur situated almost in the centre of India has seen a lot of attacks against the Christian community in the city in the recent past.

Early this year on 26th January, three Christian priests from the Church of Nazarene were arrested from a hotel in Jabalpur on the allegation by Hindu activists that they were involved in the conversion of tribals.

In the past the Hindu activists have also been involved in desecration of Christian shrines in the city and in attacking and physically injuring many Christian pastors including Pastor Munnu Kujur and Pastor Rao.

As Submitted by Vijayesh Lal, Coordinator of the National Forum for Reconciliation, Religious Liberty and Social Justice, over email.