Saturday, June 17, 2006

Hindu Extremists Beat Pastor in Karnataka State, India

Assailants threaten to build temple on site of proposed church.

NEW DELHI, June 15 (Compass Direct) – Hindu extremists on Sunday (June 11) dragged an independent pastor to a police station in Karnataka state, accusing him of converting Hindus to Christianity.

They beat Pastor Sundar Rao severely both inside the police station and after he was released on Monday (June 12). The pastor has since been hospitalized with internal injuries and multiple contusions, but no fractures.

Rao was visiting his sister's house in Namthi village, Devangere district, on the day of the attack. A group of about 150 people gathered outside while he conducted a prayer meeting. When Rao emerged from the house at 4 p.m., they asked if he was a pastor. Around 50 people then forcibly dragged him to the Namthi police station and assaulted him.

The police were mute spectators to the beatings, a local Christian who requested anonymity told Compass.

"The extremists forced Rao to sign a piece of blank paper inside the police station," the source added. "They also told him the land he had bought for a church would instead be used for constructing a temple."

Rao conducts prayer meetings in his rented house on Sundays, and he had planned to build a small church on a plot of land nearby.

The police apparently asked Rao to leave the station at midnight, but he refused to go, knowing that a crowd of hecklers was still waiting outside.

Early the next morning, a legislator from the Bharatiya Janata Party came to the station to show solidarity with the attackers; he also asked the police not to release Rao.

Officers, however, released Rao at 3:30 p.m. on Monday (June 12) with no protection. The crowd waiting outside the police station assaulted him.

"He somehow managed to get onto a bus, intending to get home, but the mob stopped the bus and beat him once again," the source said.

When Rao's wife went to the police station on Tuesday (June 13), officers refused to accept a formal complaint.

Rao's wife and a few other Christian leaders then requested a meeting with Superintendent of Police Soni Narang.

"When I spoke to Narang on June 14, she said Rao had not filed a complaint," said attorney Nova Bethania, secretary of the Karnataka chapter of the Christian Legal Association of India. "She also said Rao's wife and the other Christians gave her nothing in writing, and that therefore she could not register a complaint."

Bethania also said the police told Rao they had detained him to protect him from his attackers.

In desperation, Rao's wife traveled to police district headquarters in Devangere, where she was finally able to register a complaint. At press time, however, police had arrested none of the attackers.