Sunday, September 24, 2006

Christian forum cries foul over attack

HT Correspondent

Bhopal, September 22, 2006

THE CHRISTIANS in the state are facing increasing persecution with even indoor prayer assemblies not safe from attack of fundamentalist organisations, Madhya Pradesh-Chhattisgarh Christian Forum alleged on Friday.

Citing two recent incidents, the forum Chairperson Indira Iyengar alleged that innocent Christians are being targeted and implicated in false cases. A widow and a pastor, who claimed to be victims of alleged police excesses in Balghat and Seoni recently, narrated their plight at a press conference here.

The Forum earlier submitted a memorandum to the Governor in this regard. Iyengar alleged that Bajrang Dal activists stormed into the house of Rekha, resident of Balaghat, who had invited pastors for prayer on September 10.

"The Bajrang Dal activists had brought idol of Goddess Durga with them and smashed it in the house and later charged the pastors of converting Hindus", she said.

Rekha was forced to sign on blank papers by police. The pastors have been denied bail ever since. "I was threatened that they would kill my child, set my house ablaze and lock me up if I did not sign on blank papers", said Rekha, a Hindu, who insisted that they were never coerced for conversion.

She said her husband used to call pastors for prayer but the family was never offered any money or enticed for conversion. The other incident occurred the same day in Seoni. Harun Jonathan, a pastor, alleged that they were praying in a house in Barghat (Seoni) with other Christians when the police conducted a raid at night on the pretext of 'information regarding conversion activity'.

"The activists of an organisation Jagran Dharam Seva were with the police and they beat those in the assembly, abused all and dragged us to the police station where we were asked to leave the place immediately", said Harun, who has been living in Barghat since 22 years. "A false case was registered against us and we were forced to sign on the papers", he alleged.

"However, no action was taken on our complaint against the Jagran Dharam Seva activists", he further said. Vijayesh Lal, Associate Coordinator, Centre for Human Rights, Evangelical Fellowship of India, charged the police with openly supporting the Bajrang Dal. He said even the lawyers and notaries associated with Bajrang Dal tried not to let the victim, Rekha, present her affidavit regarding the incident.

The forum memorandum to the Governor Dr Balram Jakhar alleged atrocities on Christians in the state. "The hate-ideology has permeated deep in the system", said Indira Iyengar, who demanded urgent action to stop such actions.

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