Friday, October 06, 2006

Disinformation Campaign against Christians in Jaunpur

Disinformation Campaign against Christians in Jaunpur, UP

The Times of India (Lucknow) reported on 5 Oct 2006 at 0257 hrs on its online internet edition that “Over 300 villagers adopt Christianity” in Belhara village in Jaunpur district, Uttar Pradesh. The report further went on to mention that 350 men and women embraced Christianity in a conversation ceremony held on Oct 3rd. There could not be a worse misrepresentation of facts here.

The only iota of truth in the entire news report was that a gathering of a large number of people had taken place on the 3rd, in the home of Sanjay Singh. Some were Christians and some non-Christians who had voluntarily assembled from the nearby villages in Kudupur, who had come together for prayer. Some of them may have been first generation converts, but none of them had embraced Christianity that day in that particular prayer meeting held in the home of Sanjay Singh.

Distorted versions of similar news have been featuring everyday in the local edition of the Hindi newspaper, Dainik Jagran since October 3rd. This is inciting the radical Hindutva outfits such as the Vishva Hindu Parishad to take up the issue and with the help of the local authorities bully the local Christian leaders.

On October 4, a large team of 70 people including police and VHP personnel barged into Sanjay Singh’s home in order to question him and his involvement in the alleged ‘conversion’ meeting. Apart from the evangelist, Rajendra Chouhan who was leading the prayer meeting on the 3rd, Sanjay Singh was perceived as the ‘co-accused’ since the prayer meeting was being held in his home.  They went on to take Sanjay to the police station known as the Kotwali Line Bazaar. He was questioned extensively regarding the prayer meeting and his willful conversion to Christianity was raised up as a big issue. The officials threatened him to go back to the faith of his fore-fathers, and if he didn’t he may have to face ugly consequences. Further, bribe was demanded of him if he wanted to leave the police station that night.

The next day on October 5, another team of investigating officers landed up at Sanjay Singh’s home. They alleged to have proof regarding his involvement in forceful conversion of villagers of the area, and that they would check the water well since sources had tipped them off that statues and idols of Hindu gods had been thrown into the well. A thorough investigation by the police team revealed no idol in the well. Incensed at not finding anything, the VHP people present along with the investigating officers broke down portions of the wall of Sanjay Singh’s house.

The fact of the matter is that due to rash and biased reporting by a national daily, the lives of many Christians in Jaunpur district are in danger. There are several Christians who have been have been taken in for questioning on October 6, in an unjust manner in Badlapur Police Station, also in Jaunpur district. The four men: Rajesh, Sangram, Rajpath and Lalman were beaten up and interrogated as if they were hardened criminals. The only thing against them is that they are Christians who were present for the meeting on the 3rd at Sanjay Singh’s home.

At this moment, Sanjay Singh and his home need protection from Hindutva radical forces. Sanjay Singh was taken in for questioning again today, October 6th, and still hasn’t been released by the authorities.

At this moment evangelist, Rajendra Chauhan needs protection for his regular prayer meetings held on Saturdays (10 am – 4 pm) and on Sundays (10 am – 2 pm) held in Kudupur - Bagcha, of Jaunpur district. The VHP people have warned the Christians that they will carry out a re-conversion ceremony on October 8th, and bring back all the converted Christians residing in the area, back to the Hindu fold.

Vijayesh Lal
Associate Coordinator
Center for Human Rights
Evangelical Fellowship of India