Sunday, October 29, 2006

New Believer in India Arrested, Urged to Frame Pastor

Local police under intense pressure to file charges against owner of prayer meeting home.

MUMBAI, India, October 26 (Compass Direct News) - Police this morning arrested a recent convert in Mayapuri, Madhya Pradesh state for the second time in three days in an apparent attempt to pressure him to give evidence that his pastor forcibly converted him. By nightfall in India, the new believer was charged with "insulting religious beliefs."

Dewas Gate police again detained Ramesh Thakur, 37, at 9 a.m. after having arrested him on Tuesday (October 24) and releasing him the next day after intense questioning. The pastor of his church in the Mayapuri area of Ujjain district, Jagdish Bharti, had been arrested last June on charges of "insulting religious beliefs" and is still fighting those charges, with his next hearing set for Monday (October 30).

R.R. Malvi, police in-charge of the Dewas Gate police station, told Compass that Thakur would continue to be detained while investigations are underway. When Thakur, his pastor and others were arrested on June 4, he was released the same day on bail after four hours of interrogation without being charged.
The church holds Sunday prayer meetings at the home of Thakur.

"On Tuesday the police barged into Ramesh Thakur's house and ordered him to produce all house documents," Pastor Bharti of the Bethel Fellowship Church told Compass. "However, since he did not have any papers on hand, they took him to the police station, where he was threatened with dire consequences if he were shielding me."

The pastor added that police officials inquired, in an intimidating manner, whether Thakur was given the house as an allurement to become Christian.

Though Thakur has not yet been baptized, he received Jesus as savior six months ago and has been praying and worshiping at the Bethel Fellowship Church since then. Bharti told Compass that since their arrest on June 4, the Hindu extremist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and its youth wing, the Bajrang Dal, have subjected them to insults, abusive language and threats.

Political Pressure to Charge Christians
Dilip Akodiya of the Bethel church told Compass that officer Malvi informed him that he was under tremendous political pressure to charge Thakur.

Viju Varghese, Global Council of Indian Christians coordinator in Madhya Pradesh, told Compass that the RSS had offered Thakur 25,000 rupees (US$552) to implicate Pastor Bharti in a charge of "allurement" to convert.

Indira Iyengar, a former member of the Madhya Pradesh State Minorities Commission, told Compass "The harassment of the Christians just keeps spiraling upwards. Pastor Jagdish and Ramesh Thakur have been continuously harassed by the police, as well as by the Bajrang Dal."

Bharti and 15 other Christians had been arrested on June 4 after a mob of Hindu extremists stormed their home prayer meeting in Mayapuri and dragged them to a nearby temple to force them to bow before local gods.

Pastor Bharti was charged with insulting religious beliefs "with deliberate and malicious intention of outraging” religious feelings. (See Compass Direct News, "Pastor in India Arrested after Attack by Hindu Extremists," June 7.)