New Delhi, 11th September 2006:
Two places in Madhya Pradesh, both close to each other but in different districts saw violence against the Christian community by members of the Jagran Dharma Seva, a Hindu Fundamentalist Group. The attacks took place when prayer meetings were going on.
Balaghat City, Madhya Pradesh:
10th September 2006: In Sarekha area of Balaghat city, Sunday worship was being conducted at the home of one Rekha Bai Kawde with around 15 people attending the small worship service that was held in her house, when all of a sudden they were all attacked by around 40 people at about 1:00 pm in the afternoon.
The attackers turned their wrath on visitors who had joined the small group that day and severely beat Durga Prasad Vanshpal and one Mr. Niwade, both Christian evangelists. They were visiting Rekha Bai that day on her request to pray for the sick for healing.
The attackers then dragged the two evangelists and Rekha Bai to the police station, beating them on the way as well.
According to local sources, women police were used in the police station to beat and to terrify Rekha Bai. The police in connivance with the attackers ordered her to lodge a complaint against the two evangelists. The police and the attackers reportedly threatened her of burning her house and killing her son, if she refused to file a complaint.
Local sources also revealed that since Rekha Bai is a widow, she succumbed to the pressure and agreed to do as the police officials asked her to do. She was asked to state that the two evangelists had asked her to convert to Christianity and also to break Hindu idols.
The point to be noted here is that the deceased husband of Rekha Bai used to attend Christian worship services with her, which she continued after his death. Local sources confirmed that Rekha Bai in all these years has never been pressurized by any one in the Christian community to change her religion although she was always welcome to participate in the worship services as is the custom of the church towards anyone who wishes to participate.
We spoke to the Additional SP Mr. Tilak Singh Thakur and he explained that the evangelists were charged under Sections 295 A and under section 4 of the Dharma Swatantrata Adhiniyam of Madhya Pradesh. Section 295 A is a non bailable offense.
Barghat, Seoni District, Madhya Pradesh
On the same day i.e. 10th September 2006, at about the same time Pastor Haroon Jonathan of Barghat in Seoni district was attacked by around 70 people. These people also claimed to be associated with the Jagran Dharma Seva.
Pastor Haroon has a small house fellowship every Sunday in his own home where people gather for Christian worship. At the time of the attack around 40 -50 people were present at Haroon’s home. The crowd reportedly beat Haroon and members of the Church in which Haroon suffered a wound on his head.
The attackers then called the police which was apparently a set up that they had arranged previously and took Haroon, his wife Anita, his sister in law Sunita and Sunita's husband Sunil to the police station.
According to eye witnesses the police station was surrounded by workers of the BJP who forced the police to lodge an FIR against Pastor Haroon and the rest.
We spoke to the police who claimed that they have evidence recorded which points out that Haroon made derogatory remarks against Hindu Gods and goddesses. Accordingly he and the others have been booked under IPC Section 295 A, Sector 153 A, Section 294, Section 34 and Section 4 of the Dharma Swatantrata Adhiniyam of Madhya Pradesh.
The accused were supposed to be presented before the Magistrate on the 11th of September as is the procedure but according to sources the Magistrate has gone on leave and thus the Christians would be in remand for some more time.
Meanwhile the police conducted a search at Pastor Haroon's house late night on the 10th September 2006. Noteworthy is that they conducted the search without a proper search warrant. They conducted the search after sunset which is generally not allowed. The search was conducted without even one woman police personnel, which is against the directive of the law, given that there were mostly women in the house when search was conducted. Not only this, the police brought with them the local TV and print media in order to show off their bravado.
One of the local media persons on conditions of anonymity shared that it was nothing more than a propaganda exercise on the part of the police and BJP workers for all that they could recover were religious tracts and not material which hinted at forceful conversions or even was derogatory to other religions.
More threats received
Meanwhile reports have been coming in from both Balaghat and Seoni districts that threats have been issued to Christian pastors in at least 6 more areas. This clearly points out to a well planned strategy by the saffron brigade to provoke the minority community and to trouble them.
Jabalpur district which is not very far from these two areas has been in the eye of the storm this year as far as the attacks and false cases against Christians have been concerned, criticized even by members of the National Commission for Minorities.
All this does contribute to the fast growing realization that the BJP in Madhya Pradesh is indeed using the administration and its machinery in a false witch hunt against the minority communities in the state with only one aim and that being to please its constituency.