Monday, April 24, 2006

Supreme Court grants bail to Bishop M.A. Thomas

Friday, April 21, 2006

Supreme Court grants bail to Bishop M.A. Thomas

Hopegivers Founder Bishop M.A. Thomas was finally granted freedom on bail today by the Supreme Court in New Delhi. Bishop Thomas had been forced underground for more than two months after an arrest warrant was issued and terrorists put a $26,000 bounty on his head. His son, Dr. Samuel Thomas, remains in prison and his bail will be considered again on Monday, April 24.

The decision provides welcome relief from a vicious campaign of persecution against Christians in the lower courts of Rajasthan, a north Indian state controlled by the radically anti-Christian BJP government.

In the same Supreme Court hearing, bail was also granted to the Rev. V.S. Thomas, the executive director of the large orphanage supported by Hopegivers in Kota, Rajasthan. Pastor Thomas (not related to Bishop M.A. Thomas) has been held for 61 days in jail as part of a persecution campaign against Christians by government authorities in the state. The news comes as a great relief to Indian Christians who have been praying and writing letters to the Indian government for two months.

Hopegivers Co-Founder Dr. Samuel Thomas has now been held in a Rajasthan jail for 37 days and awaits his next bail hearing on Monday.

Several anti-Christian elements have combined their efforts in recent months in an attempt to shut down the work of Hopegivers International through intimidation and violence. The latest tactic has been harassment through litigation with the help of politicized local authorities. A legal team for the radical anti-Christians claims that they are preparing 14 more suits against the humanitarian organization which cares for 10,000 orphaned or abandoned children.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Violence mars Holy Week celebrations

The Holy Week was marred by violence against the minority Christian community in different parts of India. The vicious trend seemed to suggest a systematic campaign against Christians and their institutions by the Hindutva elements to further intimidate them so that millions of Dalits and Backward Classes would continue to remain in bondage.

Pastor injured in attack

In Karnataka, 30 Hindu extremists belonging to Bajrang Dal attacked a church at Mangalore on Easter Sunday, seriously injuring its Pastor VP Paulose. He had to be hospitalised, requiring emergency treatment. In Madhya Pradesh, two Christian women were arrested for "promoting conversion" in Jabalpur on Good Friday. In Maharashtra, two pastors suffered serious injuries when 50 Hindu extremists of Vishwa Hindu Parishad barged into a prayer meeting of 500 Christians and assaulted them with chains and iron rods on 11 April 2006.

In the attack in Mangalore district, the Pastor belonging to the Living Faith Ministry at Bantaguri received severe head injuries besides fracture in his hands. His wife also was severely beaten up. The attackers threatened to harm the Christians if they continued their prayer meetings.

"About 10 people carrying cricket bats came to the prayer hall earlier in the afternoon inspecting the whole area and went back," Austin Mark (70) said. When the prayer meeting was over and only women and children stayed back to attend a special programme, the extremists returned with another 20 people and started asking whether they were converting Hindus.

Then they went about ransacking the hall, damaging chairs, the sound system including amplifiers, tables, LCD projector and musical instruments. "The extremists waited till all the men had left the venue to barge into the hall," one of the believers said. "They later locked the hall from inside and threatened the women and children with dire consequences."

Two women held for distributing pamphlets

In Jabalpur, two women were arrested for "promoting conversion". The police arrested Mariamma Mathew (36) and B Godwil (65) for distributing Christian pamphlets. They seized the literature from them.

According to the Madhya Pradesh Religious Freedom Act, anyone promoting religion or organising religious functions must obtain permission from the district collector. Jabalpur Superintendent of Police D Srinivas Rao said the women had not sought permission from him.

Indira Iyengar, president of the Madhya Pradesh Christian Association, questioned how the women could be accused of doing anything illegal. "These women were merely distributing literature, which is not a crime," she said. "The police and the government are misusing the law to harass Christians and implicate them in false cases."

Senior police officials said they had yet to determine whether the pamphlets seized contained anything objectionable. "Even before verifying the documents, how could they arrest the two women. Constant victimisation of the Christian community indicates that the government is cooperating with Hindu extremist groups. Since the BJP came to power, the minorities are insecure as the police have the support of the administration," she said.
Rev Babu Joseph, spokesperson of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India, said the arrest of two women "seems to be another blatant act of intimidation of ordinary citizens of this country by those who are meant to protect their safety."

Church vandalized

In Mumbai, two pastors received serious injuries when about 50 Hindu extremists belonging to Vishwa Hindu Parishad barged into a prayer meeting of some 500 Christians and assaulted them. The extremists also desecrated the Bible.
The Christians belonging to Living Light Fellowship Church had gathered for the prayer meeting in Khopte village in Uran, a township on the outskirts of Mumbai. According to Pastor Rev Joseph, the men entered the hall at about 4 pm and video-taped the entire worship session for half an hour. Then they came onto the dais and snatched the microphone from his hand, grabbed the Bible and accused him of converting people to Christianity.
"They slapped me and then thrashed me with chains, iron rods and sticks," the Pastor said. "My right arm was fractured, my right ribs were broken and my head was bleeding profusely." They also attacked other pastors present on the dais.

Soon after, the extremists began pelting stones at the assembly and snatching copies of the Bible. Pastor T Shekhar, who received three stitches on the left side of his head, said the extremists used foul language and demanded to know their contacts for "conversion activities."

The pastors were then dragged to Shankar Mandir nearby, where the Hindu extremists attempted to force them to worship. When they resisted, they were beaten up.

Abraham Mathai, general secretary of the All India Christian Council, said, "If so many anti-Christian incidents took place during the holiest week of the year, I question the secular fabric of this nation," he said. "The police neither provide protection to Christian assemblies nor prevent such anti-Christian violence. They are in fact are sympathisers of the fundamentalist elements."

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Friday, April 21, 2006

Christian Pastor Goes Missing


NAGERCOIL, Tamil Nadu (SAR NEWS) -- Delux Raj (27), a pastor belonging to the independent Zion Church and a native of Chengavillai village in Thiruvananthapuram district on the Tamil Nadu border with Kerala state, has been reported missing since March 26.

The pastor's wife was admitted for delivery in a hospital in Thiruvananthapuram City. On March 26, the pastor went out of the hospital to have tea and never returned.

Meanwhile, an anonymous letter written in Tamil and Malayalam languages received here says, "The pastor will not speak about Jesus. We have taken custody of him. He will never return. He is in Heaven."

The letter has been posted from nearby Parasala area in the same district.

Pastor Delux Raj had a three-year theological education in Haryana and worked for some time in North India.

Speaking to SAR News, Pastor Raj’s father M. Alexander, who is also a pastor in an independent church, said his disappearance was a mystery. The family had no enmity with any religious fundamentalist group, relatives or neighbours.

A missing complaint has been lodged with the police authorities and the District Collector.

Church attacked in Mangalore, Pastor injured

From our correspondent

In a shocking incident, a group of Hindu fanatics attacked a church at Moodabidari near Mangalore in Karnataka on 16 April 2006. The miscreants, numbering about 30, barged into Shanti Nilaya at Balmatta in Moodabidari and ransacked the hall where Easter was being celebrated.

The incident occurred around 3.45 pm when men, women and children had gathered at Shanthi Nilaya for regular prayers after the Easter celebrations. The miscreants barged into the hall, destroyed the musical instruments, chairs and tables, broke window panes and doors and damaged some vehicles parked nearby. They warned the gathering saying such prayers should not be held.

They also beat up the Pastor very badly, necessitating his immediate hospitalisation. His hands had been fractured and legs and head badly wounded. "He is still under treatment," sources said.

In all six people have been arrested so far. The police are on the lookout for the others. According to the Pastor, the local media had been very supportive of the Hindu fanatics. In spite of all the protests made, nothing had been done to contain the Hidutva elements in the area, he alleged.

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Urgent Press statement from Jabalpur Christian Conference

Jabalpur Christian Conference

Press Statement for Urgent Release

20th April 2006

The Christian Community of Jabalpur is horrified at the maltreatment being dished out to them in the past few days by the now apparent alliance forged by the administration and anti-social elements of the Hindutva brigade.

From January 2006 till now there have been at least 10 cases of atrocity against the Christian community by the members of the Dharma Sena, Bajrang Dal, BJP and the VHP. These elements have not only attacked Christian homes and Churches, they have also indulged in destroying Christian properties, hurting religious sentiments of the community by insulting our scriptures, tearing posters of Jesus Christ, misbehaving with women and threatening Christians in general etc. Further they appear to be more and more emboldened each day because of the now, largely perceived and apparent Police and administration support being doled out to them openly.

The recent case in this series has been the arrest of 7 innocent young men from the Barela area on the 18th April 2005 allegedly under the Madhya Pradesh Swatantrata Adhiniyam. Their names are: Avinash Lal, Vikas Lal, Nandu Chakravarty, Manish Chakravarty, Chandrabhan Chakravarty, Jai Ram Rajak and Pradeep Dube.

All of the accused except Pradeep Dube have been charged by the Barela police under sections 3 and 4 of the above act. The fact is that these boys, mostly in their early 20's were all picked up from their friend's place in Barela, where they were all gathered socially. According to the young men, on the 18th April 2006, around 7: 30 pm around 10 policemen along with some Bajrang Dal members suddenly pounced on them and started questioning them and began to search the place. The Bajrang Dal people who accompanied the police are: Yogesh Agrawal, Nitesh Ritesh Burman, Jamna Patel, and Sharda Vishwakarma. Yogesh Agrawal has been involved in targeting the Christian community for long now and has been involved in more than 2 incidents against the minority community. The police protection of him is evident as is the hand of the rich and powerful behind him.

The police and the Bajrang Dal people also indulged in violence and carried the young men to the police station. There they were detained and questioned about their involvement in forced and fraudulent conversions. Some Bajrang Dal people had also given a report that the accused young men had tried to bribe them with money to accept Christianity and had told them that they will get through their academics without studying. This claim is refuted by the young men, who say that they do not even know these people properly, then how could they approach them with such offers. Also one only has to look at the accused and the so called allegation of financial promise will fall flat on its face, for the boys are all from very poor background. Most of them are converted Christians of their own freewill with Hindu families and facing strict opposition in their own homes. Then how could they promise money and education to the complainants with their limited resources?

The young men also allege that the police, when they could not find any evidence of forced or fraudulent conversion, deliberately placed a Bible and some Gospel tracts at their meeting place. The same was later quoted by the police as evidence against these boys. Let us for one moment even assume that the boys did have Bibles and Gospel Literature in their home, does that make them criminals or proves that they have been dealing in conversions? This is an outright insult of our constitution, which promises freedom of religion for citizens of India and a deliberate targeting of the Christian community by the conspiracy of the police and the Bajrang Dal. Also one must question the involvement of the Bajrang Dal in the raid and the subsequent questioning of the Christians? Who gave the Bajrang Dal and its goons the power to conduct raids along with the police? Surely it leaves no one in doubt that the police of Jabalpur and indeed Madhya Pradesh is either sold out to or controlled by the Hindutva brigade.

The young men were detained for around 5 hours before being let out on bail. Their misery however did not end there.

On the 19th April 2006 at around 8:00 pm, the TI of the Barela Police Station, Mr. Sanjay Kumar summoned all the boys except Deepak Dube again to the police station on the pretext of questioning. His motives were different though as the boys soon learned. He along with other police officials questioned the boys in his unique way. They were all treated like criminals and were beaten mercilessly by hands and wooden clubs and rods by Mr. Sanjay Kumar and his police friends. The police fraternity even spat on the boys and threatened them of dire consequences if they did not confess to receiving money from abroad for forced conversions. The police friends of Mr. Sanjay Kumar warned them of the anger and wrath of the Bajrang Dal all the while beating them mercilessly. This is a gross violation of all law and order procedure and cannot be tolerated. It is not only inhuman but also unconstitutional. Mr. Sanjay Kumar who is only a trainee of the IPS has forgotten his duties and needs to be reminded of the same.

Throughout the week now there have been reports in the papers that Christians when they gathered at the Kotwali Police station shouted anti - National slogans. This is a serious allegation and one that is untrue. We wish to clarify that we love our country as much as anyone else and perhaps more for the Christian community has contributed so much for the cause of nation building. The systematic disinformation campaign against the Christian community will lead to bloodshed of innocent Christians if it is not stopped now. The peddlers of hate led by the Hindutva brigade and some corrupts authorities have to controlled.

The Christian community of Jabalpur demands the following actions by the authorities so that confidence can be instilled into them and they are convinced of the impartiality of the administration:

  • An action against Yogesh Agrawal, Acharya Maharaj and their team of the Bajrang Dal. Mr. Agrawal's involvement against Christians has been clearly noted in more than 2 incidents and he is the main person behind all the disinformation campaigns maligning the community.
  • An Action against Mr. Sanjay Kumar the TI of Barela police station for not only ignoring his duties as the protector of the innocent but also conniving with the anti social elements to target the minority Christian community in his area. His act of violence against the young men, while they had been released on bail speaks poorly of his commitment to the constitution as well. We demand that Mr. Kumar is suspended from his duties and a competent officer dedicated to social harmony be placed in his position.
  • We also request the media not to carry articles against the Christian community without verifying them in the first place. We are willing to cooperate with the media so that reporting is unbiased and does not create disharmony and prejudice in the society.
  • Proper action is demanded in cases already pending. We demand that Justice be given to the minority Christian community who are increasingly becoming the target of hate and abuse by the Hindutva elements.

Released to the Media by Jabalpur Christian Conference

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Hindu activists ransack prayer halls

DH News Service Mangalore:

A group of about eight to 10 persons allegedly belonging to a Hindu organisation barged into a prayer hall, assaulted the priest and ransacked the property at Bantaguri in Bantwal taluk on Easter Sunday.

A group of about eight to 10 persons allegedly belonging to a Hindu organisation barged into a prayer hall, assaulted the priest and ransacked the property at Bantaguri in Bantwal taluk on Easter Sunday. In a separate incident, a group of about 20 to 25 persons allegedly belonging to a Hindu organisation barged into a prayer hall and ransacked the property at Balmatta.

In the first incident, the group barged into 'Believers Church' at Bantaguri around 11.30 am and threatened the people present there with dire consequences if they continued the prayer.


They assaulted priest John who was preaching at the time of incident, Superintendent of Police B Dayanand said. The priest has been admitted to hospital and is recuperating.

The group also damaged the prayer hall.

Later, they damaged the priest’s house as well as his car. In the second incident, a group of about 25 persons barged into a prayer hall belonging to the Student Christian Community (SJM), located next to Shanthi Nilaya in Balmatta around 3.45 pm when women and children were offering prayers.

No men were said to be present then.

According to an eyewitness, the miscreants waited till all the men left the venue and then barged into the hall. They later locked the hall from inside and threatened the women and children with dire consequences.


It is said that the preacher too had left the venue when they barged in.

Before leaving the venue, the miscreants ransacked the hall, broke the musical instruments, including an organ, music system and speakers, amplifiers, about 30 chairs, tubelights, tables and other material.

Speaking to Deccan Herald, an aged person said that prayers were being offered in the hall for the past several years.

SP Dayanand said that two separate cases have been registered at Bantwal Town Police Station and Kadri Police Station. Further investigations are on.

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Christian women arrested in MP on conversion charges

Bhopal (ICNS)

Police arrested two Christian women in Madhaya Pradesh accusing them of attempting to convert people by distributing pamphlets on Bible.

Mariamma Mathew, 36, and B. Godwil, 65 were arrested on Friday after a person complained that the women distributed pamphlets in Jabalpur town explaining to people how they can have a peaceful life following Bible.According police an existing state law, the Madhya Pradesh Religious Freedom Act, bars anyone campaigning about a religion or organizing religious functions without permission from district officials. The women had no such permission for their action.

Christian leaders in the state said this was not an isolated incident, but only latest in a string of such arrests.

They also say Christians have been harassed for the past two-and-half in the state after the BJP government came to power.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Christians beaten up at Prayer Meeting

Times News Network

Mumbai, April 14, 2006

About 500 Christians who had gathered for a prayer meeting in Khopte Village, Uran were attacked by 50 members of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad on Tuesday, alleged Abraham Mathai, general Secretary of the All India Christian Council. The Christians were from the Living Light Fellowship Church in Uran. They were allegedly beaten up with lathis and choppers.

Mathai added that five leaders at the prayer meeting were then forcibly dragged to the nearby Shankar mandir and forced to worship there. When they resisted, they were allegedly mercilessly beaten.

"They were then escorted by the goons to the Navi Mumbai toll naka and dumped there", said Mathai. The leaders are currently recuperating in hospital.

"We have just been informed of the incident,"said Navi Mumbai police commissioner Vijay Kamle, who has dispatched a team to look into the incident.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

CBCI upset over treatment of minorities in Rajasthan

New Delhi, April 13 (UNI): The Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI), the apex body of the Catholic Church in India, has raised concern over the continued harassment of individuals associated with the Emmanuel Mission in Kota, Rajasthan.

In a statement here, the CBCI said the Emmanuel Mission, an independent Church being run by M A Thomas and his associates for the last 30 years, had done meritorious work in the development of society through its large number of orphanages, schools and homes for the elderly and disabled.

The Government honoured Dr Thomas with the Padma Shri in 2001 in recognistion of his services.

However, in recent days, the mission has come under repeated attack from right-wing political forces. Police have declared Dr Thomas an 'offender' and detained his son, Samuel Thomas, due to pressure from right-wing Hindu organisations.

"To let some organisations to intimidate and even paralyze the entire institutional network cannot be accepted as a civilized way of dealing with people and issues."

"Such harsh and even inhuman treatment meted out to the founders of such service-oriented institutions and the beneficiaries, most of whom belong to the marginalised of society, is nothing short of sheer high-handedness and bias against the Christian community," the CBCI said, asking the BJP Government of the state to ensure the rule of law and instil a sense of confidence in the minds of minorities.

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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Update on Tirupati Incident

Evangelists' case: TTD opens rule book

Special Correspondent

`Even propagation of cult of other Hindu gods is prohibited here'  

  • Some had preached Christianity to pilgrims in a bus returning from temple

  • TTD tightens vigil to prevent recurrence of incident

  • Criminal action will be taken in future, warn officials

TIRUPATI: The TTD management, embarrassed over activities of Christian evangelists here on Sunday, went into a damage control mode.

At a hurriedly convened press conference here on Monday, the TTD's Executive Officer, A.P.V.N. Sarma listed the preventive measures the TTD had put in place to prevent the recurrence of the incident.

Mr. Sarma sought to describe the controversy as a stray incident and handiwork of some `misguided persons'.

He said those who distributed Christian literature and preached Christianity among the pilgrims on board an APSRTC to Tirumala after darshan, perhaps had no idea about its legal implications.

To clarify the rule position vis-a-vis the non-Hindu religious propagation programmes on Tirumala hills, the Executive Officer quoted two sections from the TTD Act which prevented any gospel programmes by non-hindu organisations on the hills.

He said Rule 196 declared the entire 10 and one-third sq miles area around the Tirumala temple as the exclusive property of the TTD.

He also went on the explain as how under the rule 197 of the TTD Act entire Tirumala was declared as a place of pilgrimage and how it made it mandatory for its population to adhere to Hindu norms and respect the sentiments of the Hindu religion.

No to Ganesha too

He pointed out that the rule was so sensitive that barring the spread of Venkateswara cult, it prohibited the propagation of the cult of even the other Hindu gods in Tirumala.

He recalled how even the procession of Ganesha was prevented once.

Sarma said that the TTD had decided to tighten its vigilance wing to keep an eye on the activities of the evangelists and to work in coordination with the Intelligence wing to get inputs in advance on such questionable activities.

"In future we will not hesitate to take criminal action against the violators of the rule," Sarma said. Chief Vigilance and Security Officer (CVSO), Balakrishna said that that his department had noted the names and addresses of the evangelists and were watching their movements closely.

Pastor roughed up

A pastor who was reportedly preaching gospel to the students in the SVU's E-Block was today roughed up by the ABVP cadres and chased out of the campus.

The Vice-Chancellor, S. Jayarama Reddy admitted the incident and said all possible steps would be taken against the misuse of the campus for religious propagation of any religious faith.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

In UP, dalits reconvert to Hinduism

By Our Special Correspondent

Lucknow, April 10: More than 295 dalits belonging to 57 families in Jaunpur district of Uttar Pradesh have reconverted to Hinduism.

These persons had converted to Christianity last year and their conversion had kicked up a major controversy with a section of the people claiming that they were being forced to convert.

In an elaborate ceremony on Sunday, these families were initiated back into the Hindu religion in the presence of representatives from the Hindu Jagran Manch and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. The reconversion ceremony took place in Chandvak Khas village under Chandvak police station village where 108 persons belonging to 22 families had converted to Christianity last year.

Another ceremony took place in Bagerwa gram panchayat where 187 persons reverted back to the Hindu fold.

Local RSS functionary Murlipal told this newspaper on Monday that some local Christian missionaries had lured the dalits, and some tribals, into Christianity by promising them a better life and education for their children.

"We are very happy that they are returning to their parent religion and we will make sure that they do not get misled again," the RSS functionary said.

"When these people converted to Christianity last year, we did not raise any objections because we knew it would lead to a major controversy. However, a year later, these people have seen through the game and came to us with as plea that they wanted to revert to being Hindus. We asked them to go back and give it another thought but they all came back to us and so we finally arranged for their return to the Hindutva fold," he said.

Kunwar Nagina, a local tribal who had led others when he converted to Christianity last year, told this newspaper that when they found that there was no difference between the two religions, they decided to revert back to Hinduism.

Protest against alleged missionary activity in Tirupati

Special Correspondent

TIRUPATI: The TTD's Administative Building here on Monday witnessed angry demonstrations by the BJP and the BJYM activists protesting against alleged distribution of religious literature among pilgrims by some Christian missionaries on board an APSRTC bus on Sunday evening even as they were returning to Tirupati after darshan of the Lord at Tirumala.

The incident apart, what provoked the Sangh Parivar units to resort to a sit-in was what they called the `callous and casual manner' in which the TTD's vigilance authorities reportedly let go scot-free the four persons whom the pilgrims on board the bus reportedly over-powered and handed over to vigilance guards at the Alipiri toll gate after the bus reached the foot of the hill.

Sangh Parivar demonstrators carrying placards and party flags blocked the main entrance to the TTD headquarters and sloganeering denounced the action of the missionaries.

The demonstrators did not lift the blockade until the police swooped down on them and arrested six senior party functionaries including the BJYM's state general secretary, G. Bhanu Prakash Reddy.

The BJP and the BJYM in separate statements expressed grave concern over the increasing overtures by the Christian missionaries to indulge in forcible conversions and religious propagation, especially under the present dispensation at the Centre and the State.

They also recalled in this connection a similar episode in the Government District Headquarters Hospital, Chittoor, less than a month ago wherein doctors and the staff of the hospital were reportedly caught distributing Christian literature, pictures etc among patients.

They demanded the immediate arrest of the four persons and blamed the TTD authorities and its employees for being negligent as not to check such brazen attempts by missionaries.

The party also criticised the police for using force on its activists though they were peacefully demonstrating against the incident and warned to intensify their agitation if the TTD failed to check such blatant incidents. All the arrested were later released.

Action sought

HYDERABAD: The BJP State unit has demanded that the Government take steps to arrest persons who are allegedly responsible for propagation of Christian faith in Tirumala.

K. Laxman, party general secretary, sought action against officials for adopting casual attitude and persuading the police to release some youth who were allegedly involved in preaching.

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Singhal call to watch activities of Christian missionaries

Chakapada (Orissa), Apr 10 : VHP international president Ashok Singhal today asked activists of the Sangh Parivar to maintain strict vigil on activities of Christian missionaries and work unitedly to fight against religious conversion in the country.

''India is a spiritual country. It has got its own identity. This identity should not be compromised in the name of secularism,'' Singhal said while addressing the valedictory ceremony of the three-day religious congregation organised by the Sangh Parivar here.

Urging the BJD-BJP government in Orissa to stop cow slaughter and conversion in the state, Singhal called upon the saffron activists to work together so that more reconversions could be ensured in the future.

Singhal had yesterday demanded enactment of a central law to prohibit conversion but argued that people belonging to other religions should be allowed to be reconverted to Hinduism as it was 'their mother faith'.

RSS chief K.S. Sudarshan said the organisation's activities were aimed at nation building.

Such conferences, he said, would go a long way in awakening the Hindus who were complacent about their heritage. Hinduism is a way of life and indians, irrespective of their religion, should respect the country's socio-cultural values.

Meanwhile, nine persons belonging to two families were reconverted to Hinduism today in the presence of the Sangh Parivar bigwigs and the Shankaracharya of Puri, Swami Nischalananda Saraswati.

Among others, Orissa Revenue Minister Manmohan Samal and Higher Education Minister Samir Dey attended the programme.

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Rajasthan legislates law banning proselytizing


New Delhi, April 10: An Indian state has banned proselytizing using force or inducement, a law critics fear will be used to target Christians and other minorities, newspapers reported Saturday.

The offense can be punished with up to five years in prison and a fine of rupees 50,000 ($1,136, euro946) under the new legislation passed by the Hindu nationalist government of the western Indian state of Rajasthan, a leading daily said.

Similar laws have been used to harass, imprison or run out Christian missionaries in five other Indian states, all ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party, or its allies.

Hard-line Hindu groups accuse missionaries from other religions of luring poor people away from Hinduism - India's largest faith -through offers of money, education, health care or through coercion.

In these states, Hindu extremists have in the past attacked Christian churches because of allegations of forced conversions.

Churches have denied that anyone can be coerced or bribed to change his or her personal religious beliefs.

The Rajasthan government had found that some religious groups, and other institutions, were involved in unlawful conversion from one religion to another by allurement, fraudulent means or forcibly, Gulab Chand Kataria, state home minister told the assembly before the law was approved.

"In the last two years, there were attempts to convert poor and illiterate people in the state," the paper quoted Kataria as saying.

The law was adopted after noisy protests by opposition Congress and Communist party lawmakers, who then walked out of the house in protest. The house approved the new legislation in the absence of the opposition.

Congress party lawmakers said the state government created the legislation to target minority communities. Christian and Muslim groups said the law was aimed at their right to propagate their faith.

Hindus form 84 per cent of India's more than 1.2 billion population, Muslims 13 per cent, and Christians 2.4 per cent.

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Indian Catholic bishop decries harassment of Christians


JABALPUR, India (UCAN) – A Catholic bishop in a central Indian state has accused police of "unnecessarily" harassing Christians.

Bishop Gerald Almeida of Jabalpur told UCA News April 8 that the Madhya Pradesh state government should provide "adequate protection" to Christians against attacks from right-wing Hindu groups. He said the attacks have increased in recent months.

On April 7, the police registered cases against seven Christians, including four women, for allegedly violating a law on conversion. It was the second such incident in a week in the Madhya Pradesh town of Jabalpur, 815 kilometers (about 505 miles) southeast of New Delhi.

Eyewitness Nidhin Sahai told UCA News that police, accompanied by members of a Hindu group, raided the house of a couple. They claimed hat a local resident had complained about conversions being carried out in the couple's house.

Sahai said the Hindu activists manhandled Christians as the police watched. The police then took seven Christians to the police station, he added.

None of the seven people were available for comment when UCA News contacted them April 8.

Madhya Pradesh and several other states in India have laws regulating religious conversion. The laws make it a punishable offense for anyone to officiate a conversion without informing district officials. They also forbid use of force or allurement aimed at conversion.

Christian leaders in Madhya Pradesh say Hindu extremists misuse provisions of the law to target Church members and institutions. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP, Indian people's party) now rules the state. It is widely seen as the political arm of groups striving to make India a Hindu theocratic nation.

A delegation of Christian leaders met top police officials in Jabalpur on April 8 to seek protection for their people from what they say are planned attacks. Basant Daniel, a member of the delegation, noted that Christian houses are often raided when Christian families are having their evening prayers. Generally, every Christian family holds prayers before going to bed, he explained. However, the raiders say the prayers are conversion activities.

Bishop Almeida says Christians do not oppose actual violators of the law being punished but feel they are being "unnecessarily harassed."

A member of the state minority commission, Indira Iyengar, says Madhya Pradesh has reported 20 cases of atrocities against religious minority groups in the first quarter of this year. She accused the state government of protecting groups that target minority communities.

Two days before the raid on the couple's house, police registered cases against the manager and two teachers of the Christian Higher Secondary School in Jabalpur.

Police Superintendent D. Shreenivasa Rao, in charge of the Jabalpur area, confirmed both cases. He told UCA News that the seven who were taken to the police station from the couple's house were released the same night. He said they were charged under the bailable section of the conversion law.

Referring to the April 5 incident, Rao said the three Christians face charges of attempting to forcibly convert Ramkant Mishra, a Hindu teacher at the school. Mishra accused the three of assaulting him in the school when he refused to yield to their pressure to convert.

However, Rao added that the police have not arrested anyone so far as they are verifying the credibility of the complaint.

School principal Rakesh Barnes told UCA News Mishra was a "constant nuisance maker" who would allege that he was being targeted because of his religion whenever he was reprimanded for his misdeeds.

The principal said only five of the 16 teachers in the school are Christians, while the rest are Hindus. He counts only about 50 Christian children among the school's 400 students. He denied any conversion activity in the school.

Earlier, on March 17, Hindu extremists attacked 16 people gathered inside the house of a Christian in Jabalpur. They also burned copies of the Bible and ransacked the house.

The police registered cases against the house owner and his wife for violating the conversion law. Another case was registered against the assailants for ransacking the couple's house.

UCANews (

Monday, April 10, 2006

On conversion, Rajnath takes on missionaries

Pradeep Kaushal

Posted online: Monday, April 10, 2006 at 0000 hrs IST

BJP president Rajnath Singh dared Christian missionaries to "try converting any Hindu" and vowed to turn tables on them today.

The BJP president, who had been speaking at a string of public meetings on his way to Jashpur Nagar from Raigad in course of his Bharat Suraksha Yatra, turned unusually aggressive after entering the domain of Dalip Singh Judeo, who spearheads the Sangh Parivar’s "Ghar Vapsi" (reconversion) programme among Adivasis.

Be it Dharamjaigarh, Pathalgaon, Kasabel, Kunkuri or Jashpur, Singh had a single theme: Those who are converting Hindus, take heed. There is no mercy for you.

Warming to his subject, Singh said Christian missionaries tried to convert people in the name of service. But "there cannot be a more cruel joke than the use of money or service to convert the poor."

Referring to Rajasthan government’s fresh law cracking down on conversions, he pointed out, "as soon as I became the BJP president, I told all my party chief ministers to enact laws to check conversion and foil the designs of Christian missionaries". The Jharkhand government is ready with a draft bill, he said, and called upon Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh, who was on stage with him, to follow suit.

Even Madhya Pradesh, which already has a law on the issue, needs a more stringent legislation, he told The Indian Express later.

Conversions comprise the biggest danger to society, he told his audience, and "we cannot allow the demographic profile of the country to be changed. We will not let Hindus be converted into a minority, as somebody has said they would be by 2060. As long as the BJP is on the political scene, it would fight such attempts tooth and nail".

Singh had a word of praise for Judeo too, who accompanied him on his 'rath'.

"I appreciate Judeoji from the core of my heart for carrying on the ghar vapsi programme. It is something unparalleled - a scion of a royal family washing the feet of people upon their return to the Hindu fold."

Rajnath's choice of Jashpur to take on Christian missionaries has a strategic significance.

The area has the biggest church in Chhattsigarh - at Kunkuri - and has a sizeable Christian population. Not surprisingly, the Parivar has boosted its activity here. The countryside is dotted by Saraswati Shishu Mandirs, meant to counter missionary schools. VHP general secretary Praveen Togadia conducted a "trishool diksha" programme at Kasabel last week.

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VHP reconverts 342 to Hinduism

Press Trust of India

Chakapad (Orissa), April 10: Amidst cries of 'Jai Shri Ram' and blowing of conch shells, 342 persons, said to be Christians, were reconverted to Hinduism at a huge congregation organised by the Sangh Parivar even as the VHP called for a total ban on conversion in the country.

The reconversion ceremony was conducted on the second day of the 'Hindu Mahasabha' where VHP bigwigs made fiery speeches The reconverted persons, who belonged to 74 families, were blessed by the Sankaracharya of Puri, Swami Nischalananda Saraswati.

Speaking on the occasion, VHP International President Ashok Singhal demanded that the centre should enact a law to completely ban conversions from Hinduism. However, there should not be any restriction on Christians if they wanted to return to their 'mother faith of Hinduism', he said while refusing to acknowledge as conversion the return of the people to Hinduism from Christianity.

Preachers of the Christian faith should be thrown out of the country, the VHP leader demanded. "There is no need for anyone to teach religion to the people of this country as Indians are religious anyway," he said.

As per the provisions of the Orissa Freedom of Religion Act (OFRA), anyone desiring to change his religious faith would have to inform the administration beforehand.

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Sunday, April 09, 2006

To check conversions, Rajasthan arms itself with tough new law

Express news service
Posted online: Saturday, April 08, 2006 at 0000 hrs IST

The Rajasthan Assembly today passed an anti-conversion Bill that not only gives the state sweeping powers to put behind bars, even before trial, any person accused of forcing or alluring a person to change his religion, but also applies it specifically to conversions from the "original religion".

This has given rise to speculation that the legislation is meant only to stop conversion from Hinduism.

It was passed on the last day of the Budget session, amid strong protests by the Opposition. Many of them point out that the Rajasthan Dharma Swatantrya Act (2006) will boost the Hindutva brigade, which has long accused Christian preachers of running a conversion campaign in the tribal belt of Rajasthan. Now the Hindutva campaigners might go on a reconversion drive, without attracting action under provisions of the new Act.

Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria, considered a hardliner, admitted that the Act was necessitated by the rising cases of forcible conversions in the state, though he denied it was directed against minorities.

"This is not against any religion. As the name itself suggests, the Act allows people the freedom to practise their religion by protecting them from conversion by force or allurement," he said.

Under the Act, conversion by force or through allurement is a non-bailable offence that could lead to imprisonment for at least two years. A DSP-rank officer can arrest any person who has "converted or attempted to convert a person through force, allurement or fraudulent means".

The Opposition blasted the Act as "a draconian attempt to curb the fundamental right to religion" because of the powers it gives the police and government. Congress MLA Hari Mohan Sharma pointed out that the Act was even more stringent than a similar law framed by the Gujarat government.

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Saturday, April 08, 2006

IET workers in Rajasthan under threat

Barmer, Rajasthan.

IET has a small but good work in Barmer area. Roy Daniel with his family and Bhawani Singh with his wife are working here.

They were conducting discipleship training for the new believers from 27th March to 29th March. On the third day one VHP person came into the meeting place, Christ Church that is a union meeting place. He started to ask questions and looked at every literature of the people. Sitting there he made a few telephone calls on his mobile. Sensing trouble the leader Roy Daniel closed the meeting but the fanatics arrived in front of the church. About 60 people reached the colloctorate and demanded that every one must be arrested.

They took some people to their office and questioned them. They were all fearful of physical attack - that did not happen. Thereafter the RSS, VHP leaders came to the church and with the help of the police broke opened the church and took away the literature what ever they could find. They took 5 IET songbooks, notebooks of the 20 people who were doing the discipleship training and their 20 new testaments. From got their names from their note books and immediately they went to their homes and took all of them into police custody in Barmer Police station. At 5.30 PM police arrested 15 of them. But after the questioning they were released at 12.30 am.

The police wanted to get Bhavani Singh, who is a Rajput convert and IET preacher. We remember the trouble they gave him on his wedding day. They saw the marriage invitation and they chased the Bhavani Singh's marriage party asking how come a Rajput is marrying a Christian girl.

The VHP leader informed this matter to the Rajasthan government home minister and there was heavy pressure form the minister's office on the police.

Bro Roy Daniel was asked to report to the police every day. Later he was told to be available when ever they will call him. Roy Daniel is afraid to go out of his house as he could easily be attacked.

Bhavani Singh was immediately asked to leave the area and be else where with his wife. Their motorcycles are also kept elsewhere fearing attack on their vehicles.

Thank you for your prayers. Please continue to pray for Roy Daniel who is Barmer and cannot leave the place as he is asked by the police to be available there any time they will call him and Bhavani Singh/his wife who is moved to another place.

Rajasthan passes Anti-conversion Bill

Special Correspondent

Opposition stays away in protest, furore in Assembly during discussion

Bill was to check activities of Christian missionaries in certain parts of the State, says Minister

"An attack on the freedom of speech and expression, and freedom to profess, practice and propagate religion"

JAIPUR: The Rajasthan Assembly on Friday passed an Anti-conversion Bill, even as the entire Opposition stayed away. There were uproarious scenes throughout the two-and-a-half hour-long discussion on the legislation.

The "Rajasthan Dharma Swatantraya Bill, 2006" (Religious Freedom Bill) has a provision for re-conversion to Hinduism.

Chief Minister absent

Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje was not present when her party (ruling BJP) members battled with the Opposition over the Bill. It was taken up on the concluding day of the Budget session and passed with a voice-vote.

The Congress and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) continued their boycott of the proceedings for the rest of the day, though the BJP made attempts to bring them back after the Bill was passed.

The Opposition members also kept away from a function organised to felicitate N.S. Gujjar for being chosen the Best Legislator for 2005-06. They also stayed away from a film show and dinner, arranged by Ms. Raje for them to mark the end of the session.

Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria, who piloted the Bill, said the Bill was necessary to check the activities of Christian missionaries in some parts of the State, especially in Kota. He, however, pointed out that the Bill was not against any religion.

"All religions will be treated equally when it comes to conversions. If anyone wants to change his religion on his own he can still do it," he said. Similar Bills, introduced in States such as Madhya Pradesh and Orissa had the Supreme Court's approval, he noted.

The Congress members and Amra Ram (CPI-M) termed the Bill an attack on the freedom of speech and expression, freedom of conscience and freedom to profess, practice and propagate religion, enshrined in the Constitution. The Opposition attempts to get the Bill referred to a Select Committee were in vain.

`Will suppress minorities'

"The Bill is an attempt to suppress the minorities. It can be used against Sikhs, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Jains and others," Zuber Khan, Chief Whip of the Congress, said. He challenged the Government to give a single instance of forcible conversion in Rajasthan during its rule. "Congress members Sanyam Lodha and Mohammed Mahir Azad said there were ample chances of misuse of the legislation. Mr. Lodha pointed out that the Bill had kept the same kind of punishment for converting as well as attempt to convert.

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party members, vying among themselves, tried to take maximum political advantage of the enactment of the Bill, trying to project the main Opposition party, the Congress, as "anti-Hindu."

Education Minister Ghanshyam Tiwari said at least on two occasions: "The Congress party is acting against the interests of Hindus under the leadership of B.D. Kalla."

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