Sunday, November 05, 2006

Fabricating of conversion cases rampant in Gujarat

In a significant development, the High Court of Gujarat has issued notices to the Government of Gujarat, Director General of Police, District Superintendent of Police in Dahod, Inspector of Police of Devgarhbaria Police Station and others in the case of allegedly fabricating a firing case against a Christian priest in Divya village of Dahod district.

According to sources, the Gujarat Government has become active in fabricating cases of conversion by force and threat with the help of the police. In fact a First Information Report (FIR) was filed by the police in Dahod against the Christian priest for allegedly opening fire at the Inspector of Police of Devgarhbaria Police Station and eight other people.

In a press release issued in Ahmedabad on 31 October 2006, National Executive Member and Joint Secretary of All India Christian Council (aicc) Samson C Christian said Pastor A Arul Daniel, the manager of a hostel for poor children and priest of a local church run by the Indian Mission Society at Vankadi village of Limkheda taluka in Dahod district, was a victim of police duplicity.

According to him, Gujiben, the widow of Lulabhai, had arranged the inauguration of her new house in Divya village on 20 September 2006 with a prayer service, followed by lunch. The priests of the Indian Mission Society and their family members from the neighbouring villages were among the invitees. Soon after the ceremony and lunch, Pastor Arul Daniel, his wife and their daughter started off on their motorbike, along with other Christian leaders in toe, for Vankadi village.

A little ahead they found the road blocked with branches of trees and stones. As they slowed down their vehicles, around 10 people rushed towards them, carrying sticks and lethal weapons. Pastor Madhubhai of IMS Church was the first one to be attacked. They took away his mobile and other personal belongings. Then they attacked Pastor Arul Daniel. They put a sharp knife on Pastor Arul Daniel's neck and threatened to kill him if he resisted. They took away his mobile and cash worth Rs 3500. They also took away his wife's gold chain worth Rs 6000. Another worker Valabhai, a tribal Christian missionary, was also beaten up and looted.

The attackers collected the addresses of the IMS leaders. Then they led them to the main road, abusing and manhandling them all the way. By the time the pastors reached Vankadi village, it was very late and they preferred to file a complaint the following morning.

As they were preparing to go to police station in the morning, Police Sub-inspector Patel of Limkheda taluka arrived in the village with other policemen and inquired about the IMS Pastors. He took all of them to Devgarhbaria police Station. The Pastors pleaded with him to register their complaint and also give them medical treatment. Inspector of Police Devgarhbaria Police Station RS Sharma said since the Pastors were the accused, their complaint could not be entertained. Ignoring him, the Pastors prepared a complaint and handed it over to him. This time he asked them to delete the mention about the looting of money and mobiles. When they insisted on getting the complaint registered, the police officer threatened them with dire consequences.

Aicc leaders also contacted the police urging them to register the complaint but they refused to do so. They also did not allow them to have medical treatment. They were detained in the police station till late in the evening. Kanji Budha Nayak, a resident of Divya village filed false complaints against Pastor Arul Daniel and other workers alleging that Arul Daniel and other workers were indulging in forcible conversions. When he resisted, the Pastor opened fire at him.

On 22 September 2006, when Pastor Arul Daniel went to Godhra Civil Hospital for treatment, Resident Medical Officer Dr Anil Parmar said without the police list he would not give him any treatment. Then Pastor Arun Daniel proceeded to Ahmedabad on the same day and with aicc leaders’ help, got treatment from Vadilal Sarabhai Hospital, Ahmedabad under medico-legal case.

Since the police refused to file the complaint, the Pastor filed a Special Criminal Application (No 1628/2006) in the High Court on 28 September 2006. Justice SR Bramhbhatt issued notices to the Gujarat Government, Senior Police Sub-Inspector RS Sharma of Devgarhbaria Police Station, the Home Secretary of Gujarat, Director General of Police of Gujarat, District Superintendent of Police of Dahod district and others and ordered them to file their reply on 6 November 2006.

Earlier Devgarhbaria Police Station registered FIR No 142/2006 against Pastor Arul Daniel and other local Christian workers. In the said case, the Indian Penal Code Section 143, 307, 323, 504, 298 Arms Act had been applied wrongly against Pastor Arul Daniel and his people. They were arrested on 24 October 2006 and produced before the Judicial First Class First Magistrate of Devgarhbaria Court. The police sought five days of remand for them, which the court refused to grant. They were later released on bail on producing a security of Rs 5000 each. When they were in police custody, the police threatened them and took their signatures on blank papers.

Condemning the incident, All India Christian Council appealed to the Gujarat Government to follow raj dharma “as such incidents are taking place with the blessing” of the Government. “If the Government tries to get the Anti-Conversion Bill (Amendment – 2006) by registering baseless and fabricated cases against the minority community, the Christians would not sit quietly. We will organize mass agitations at the national level to draw the attention of the Central Government and the global community.”