20th June 2006 (Delhi): Dharma Sena Goons disrupted a Church service in Bhilai, Chattisgarh attacking the Pastor and the congregation on the 18th June at about 10:30 am. They also tried to kill the Pastor by putting an old rubber tire around his neck and trying to burn it. They beat the Pastor continuously before handing him over to the police.
The attack took place at the Hossana Church located at Kosa Nala, near Nehru Nagar, Bhilai Chattisgarh when Pastor David Raj, the Pastor of the Church which meets in his home, was preaching.
"All of a sudden 20 - 25 men entered the Church. They went up straight to the Pastor and started beating and abusing him. They snatched the Pastor's Bible which also contained 3000 Indian Rupees and his mobile phone." Pastor Swami, a local Pastor told us describing the incident.
"They further dragged the pastor and placed an old tire on his neck and tried to burn him. When they were unsuccessful they beat him up more. The attackers did not spare the pastors wife, she too was beaten up along with her husband." Apran Tarun, Pastor of the Community Church in Bhilai told us. "They paraded the Pastor and dragged him to the Supela Police station handing him over to the police."
According to local sources the police acting in connivance with the Dharma Sena goons planned a way to register a case against the Pastor and his wife. The Pastor was detained in the police station till 6:00 pm that day before the Police Inspector of the Supela police station came and took notice of the situation. "This gave enough time to the police and Dharma Sena activists to frame a case against the Pastor."
While Pastor David Raj was detained at the police station during the night in custody, his wife was also arrested late in the night. "The police flouted all rules while arresting her. She was arrested by male policemen very late in the night; they put her in the police van and brought her to the police station." Arun Pannalal, General Secretary of the Chattisgarh Christian forum told us.
The couple was presented at about 3:00 pm the next day i.e. 19th June 2006 in front of the SDM (Special District Magistrate) and a case was filed against them under sections 295A[i], 153A[ii], and 34 of the Indian Penal Code. A further case of forcible conversion was filed against them under sections 3 and 4 of the Madhya Pradesh Dharma Swatantrata Adhiniyam 1968. Sections 295 A and 153 A are non bailable offenses. For more information see footnotes.
The SDM rejected the bail application that was filed by the couple's lawyer so they remain in jail even as this is being written. The certified copy of the FIR (First information report) and the bail rejection copy are yet to be obtained by the lawyer, so that bail can be applied at the sessions court.
According to local sources the police acted cunningly threatening Christians present in the Church with dire consequences unless they gave a confessional. The police required two Christian women to sign documents that allegedly said that they were present at the venue where the incident took place. The women, fearful, agreed to sign the document which the police had written. According to local sources, the women were tricked into signing the document which did not contain their confessional statement of being present at the venue but a complaint against Pastor David Raj and his wife saying that Pastor David Raj and his wife had promised them money and motorcycle if they convert and become Christians.
"One look at the Pastor and you can see his economic condition. He is a poor man, how can he promise money to someone else?" Arun Pannalal said.
The timing of the attack could not be more emphasized. The attack took place within one hour of the leaving of the representatives of the National Minority Commission from the state.
The National Minority Commission had sent two of its representatives to Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh to investigate atrocities against minorities in the two states. One of the representatives Mr. H S Josh had given a statement to the reporters at Raipur, "Minorities are under attack in Chhattisgarh as well as in neighbouring Madhya Pradesh. Atrocities against them have increased sharply in recent months," This attack however clearly illustrates the indifference of the Dharma Sena and other Hindutva organization to the statements and findings of the National Minority Commission. This demonstrates that so long as the administration and the police supports the actions of the Hindutva brigade, there can be no stopping of the attacks on minorities.
[i] 295A. Deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs
Whoever, with deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of any class of [citizens of India], [by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise], insults or attempts to insult the religion or the religious beliefs of that class, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to [three years], or with fine, or with both.]
[ii] 153A. Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony
(a) by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise, promotes or attempts to promote, on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, caste or community or any other ground whatsoever, disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will between different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities, or
(b) commits any act which is prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony between different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities, and which disturbs or is likely to disturb the public tranquillity, [or]
[(c) organises any exercise, movement, drill or other similar activity intending that the participants in such activity shall use or be trained to use criminal force or violence or knowing it to be likely that the participants in such activity will use or be trained to use criminal force or violence, or participates in such activity intending to use or be trained to use criminal force or violence or knowing it to be likely that the participants in such activity will use or be trained to use criminal force or violence, against any religious, racial, language or regional group or caste or community and such activity for any reason whatsoever causes or is likely to cause fear or alarm or a feeling of insecurity amongst members of such religious, racial, language or regional group or caste or community,]
shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.
Offence committed in place of worship, etc- (2) Whoever commits an offence specified in sub-section (1) in any place of worship or in any assembly engaged in the performance of religious worship or religious ceremonies, shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to five years and shall also be liable to fine.]