Friday, December 29, 2006

Yuletide Carol-Singers Arrested, Church Burned in India

Christmas Eve services disrupted in several states.

NEW DELHI, December 27 (Compass Direct News) - Hindu extremists burned down a church in India on Saturday (December 23), arrested carol-singers on Christmas Eve and disrupted yuletide services in several states. One Christian suffered a fractured hand, and another lost his hearing.

Extremists burned down a thatched church in Boriguma area, Koraput district of Orissa state on Saturday night (December 23), preventing church members from celebrating Christmas there. The congregation had already decorated the building for Christmas festivities, but everything was destroyed in the fire.

Asit Kumar Mohanty, state representative of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), said GCIC was investigating the incident to determine who was responsible.

On Christmas Eve, about 45 jeeps full of Dharma Sena members circled through the streets of Raipur, the capital of Chhattisgarh state, announcing that they would close down all church services held on Christmas Day.

"Dharma Sena is a Hindu fundamentalist group supported by the VHP and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party state government," Arun Pannalal, general secretary of the Chhattisgarh Christian Forum, told Compass.

"They had already carried out several attacks in the week before Christmas," he added. "These public threats are just another step in their campaign to rid the state of Christians."

Carol-Singers Arrested

Later on Christmas Eve, Pastor James Ram and 10 other Christian missionaries were beaten and arrested after singing carols in Jalampur, a remote shanty town in Dhamtari, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of Raipur in Chhattisgarh.

Members of the Hindu extremist Bajrang Dal attacked about 20 Christians who had gathered in a church in Jalampur; they stormed into the church, beat some of the Christians and destroyed hymnbooks and Bibles.
Five Christians were injured in the attack; one suffered a loss of hearing due to a blow to his head, while a Bible school student’s hand was fractured, according to a GCIC report.

"The missionaries were caught bribing poor Hindus in a slum colony to convert to Christianity," the Times of India reported, quoting Bharat Singh, superintendent of police in Dhamtari. "They were promising people economic help and jobs in exchange for conversion."

Pannalal told Compass that the charges of forced conversion were false: "The Bajrang Dal members were simply annoyed by the chanting of Christmas carols."

Ram was released by about 10:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve, and the other believers were released by 6:30 p.m. on Christmas Day.

The arrests have heightened communal tension in the Dhamtari area; in the past few days, Dharma Sena and Bajrang Dal members have been out patrolling the streets, according to Pannalal.

Prayer Service Disrupted

Hindu extremists also prevented tribal Christians in Tilonda village, Thane district of Maharashtra state, from celebrating a joint Christmas prayer service on Christmas Eve.

Over 400 Christians had gathered for the event.

Before the service could begin, however, a large mob from the local Vanvasi Kalyan Parishad barged into the assembly, shouting slogans against Christianity and driving the Christians away from the prayer hall.

Fearing further violence, church officials canceled the event.

According to Dr. Abraham Mathai, vice-chair of the Maharashtra State Minorities Commission, there were three other incidents of violence against tribal Christians in Thane district in the week before Christmas.

Mathai had written to local police asking for protection for the Christmas Eve prayer service.

"The police were present, but they did nothing when the extremists arrived," Mathai said.

'Reconverted' to Hinduism

The Hindu extremist group Dharam Jagran Samiti (DJS or Society for Religious Revival) yesterday (December 26) claimed it had "reconverted a large number of Christians" in Agra district of the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, Asian News International reported.

"Those Hindus who had converted to Christianity, or those who were lured into joining it by Christian missionaries, were called here to return back to the Hindu fold with respect and on equal terms," said Gajeshwar Singh, regional chief of the DJS.

On December 23, police asked the Good Shepherd Community Church (GSCC) in Agroha, Hisar district, Haryana state not to celebrate Christmas.

"Some people, seemingly belonging to the Bajrang Dal and VHP, lodged a complaint in the Agroha police station alleging that the curch was converting Hindus," the Rev. Reginald Howell of the GSCC told Compass.

He said the complaint was filed when the church members were singing Christmas carols in the church.

Following the compaint, the police summoned seven Christians, including the pastor of the church, identified only as Romi, and interrogated them. They were released after the village head requested the police.

"The Christians were called to the police station against on December 24 and ordered not to conduct any service on Christmas," Howell said. "However, after representatives of the Christian Legal Association of India intervened, the police allowed the church to celebrate Christmas," he added.

Police Prevention

In the only positive report, officials prevented an anti-Christian rally in Dangs, Gujarat, on Christmas Day, heading off further violence.

The All India Christian Council (AICC) has thanked the chief minister of Gujarat state, Narendra Modi, for preventing anti-Christian violence in Dangs district during Christmas.

AICC Joint Secretary Samson Christian said the heads of both Dangs and Bhavnagar districts refused permission to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council) and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh to hold a massive rally in the region on Christmas day.

The rally was announced after eight statues of local gods were desecrated by unknown persons on December 14. Hindu extremists blamed Christians for the sacrilege and announced plans to hold a rally in the area on December 25.

Christians asked local authorities to ban the event, since previous rallies in the area at Christmas time have resulted in violent attacks. In a rally held during Christmas week 1998, Hindu extremists destroyed several Christian churches and institutions and attacked many individuals.

"Tight police security was maintained in the Christian-dominated areas, particularly the tribal district of the Dangs, which has a history of Hindu-Christian clashes during Christmas celebrations," The Hindu daily newspaper reported.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Inter-religious marriage stalled in Madhya Pradesh by VHP

Submitted by kashif on Sun, 2006-12-24 15:56.

Bhopal, Dec 24 (IANS) A government official in Madhya Pradesh has allegedly refused to allow an inter-religious marriage between a Christian man and a tribal woman at the behest of a Hindu group, triggering a political controversy.
Meena Gond (36), a polio-afflicted tribal girl and Peter Abraham (38), a Christian rickshaw-puller, were not allowed to tie the nuptial knot by a marriage official following opposition by Dharam Sena, an offshoot of Vishwa Hindu Parishad. The Sena said such a marriage would boost "conversion" in the state.

The couple had applied for marriage in the Jabalpur district marriage office in October. The mandatory 40 days notice period - during which objections, if any, could be filed - expired on Nov 13 but the official, Deepak Singh, refused to solemnise their marriage because "the groom is a Christian while the bride is not".

"Peter is a Christian. And he lured the tribal girl by offering her money. Sooner or later, she will be forced to change her religion," maintained Sudhir Agrawal, convener of the Sena in Mahakaushal region.

"We have specific knowledge that some Christian missionaries are doling out money to people like Peter to influence tribal people to convert their religion," he said.

The opposition Congress party has threatened to launch an agitation if the poor couple was not allowed to marry by the year-end.

"We conveyed our protest plans to the district collector," said Jabalpur district Congress president Naresh Saraf.

Madhya Pradesh Christian Association president Indira Iyengar has condemned the Sena's attitude saying, "How does the Dharam Sena come into picture when both the bride and groom are adults?"

"Even the government provides incentives for marrying a tribal girl. The law enforcing agencies should deal with the matter strictly," she said.

Meanwhile, Meena's brother Radhey Gond has denied the Sena's allegation.

Radhey said: "How can a daily wage earner afford to entice any woman by providing money?"

Peter, on the other hand, is running from pillar to post to convince the officials that there was nothing fishy about his marriage.

Click here for source

Monday, December 25, 2006

Atmosphere tense for Christians in Chhattisgarh as Christmas approaches

According to reports from the Chhattisgarh Christian Forum, the Christians of the state of Chhattisgarh are facing engineered communal attacks in a pre planed manner for the last seven days. Here are some of the incidents:

1. One Hindu teacher has been falsely implicated in distributing Bibles in her school; she was badly beaten up by Hindu extremists groups. She has been arrested by the police whereas the perpetrators of violence against this lady are still at large and scot-free because of protection by the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) Government and support by bureaucracy.

2. One pastor of a Church has been accused of distributing toffee (Candy) to Sunday school students and on this pretext was badly beaten up police is trying to frame false charges against him. Chhattisgarh Christian Forum (CCF) when tried to obtain bail as per legal procedures 'Dharam Sena' activists using violence threatened CCF members not to seek bail, and virtually took complete charge of the police station for three hours. Democratic rights of citizens, especially of Christians have been thrown to the winds.

Dharam Sena is a hindu fundamentalist group supported by the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangah (RSS) and the ruling BJP government, and is notorious for and perpetrating extreme violence especially on Christians.

3. Today on the Christmas Eve while we are preparing to celebrate, one Christian Pastor is being beaten up badly at 'Dhamtari' district headquarters 80 Km from the State Capital town 'Raipur' for the simple crime of distributing sweets and putting on a dress of Santa clause, the police has thrown him behind bars with the accusation of disturbing communal harmony.



Sunday, December 24, 2006

Hindu Extremists in India Beat Christian Couple, Pastor

Church leader accused of 'forced conversions,' held in police custody.

NEW DELHI, December 21 (Compass Direct News) - Hindu extremists launched two known attacks against Christians this week, beating a couple in the northern state of Haryana yesterday and assaulting pastor in the central state of Chhattisgarh on Sunday (December 17).

About 50 Bajrang Dal extremists attacked the Christian couple, Rakesh Sen and Suman Sen, at about 8 a.m. yesterday at their home in Lakarpur, Faridabad district, Haryana. The attackers were upset at the couple for regularly allowing their New Life Fellowship church to meet in their home for Sunday worship.

The extremists warned them against holding church services at their home and said they would organize a program on Saturday (December 24) in which all the church members would have to chant the names of Hindu gods.

Police accepted and registered a complaint against the Bajrang Dal, and the village head of Lakarpur has apologized for the attack, according to Cinderella Lal, the pastor of New Life Fellowship.

"The village head gave us an assurance in writing that no one will trouble us in the future," Lal said. "So it seems we have reached a compromise with the attackers."

A representative of the Christian Legal Association of India said the Bajrang Dal extremists had cancelled the program planned for December 24.

Haryana state has one of the lowest percentages of Christians in India. According to the 2001 government census, only about 27,000 of the 21 million residents of Haryana are Christians.

Pastor Assaulted
In Raipur, the capital of Chhattisgarh, a group of about 50 extremists from the Dharam Raksha Sena (DRS or Army for Religious Protection) beat an independent pastor on Sunday (December 17) and accused him of forced conversions.

They attacked Philip Jagdalla as he returned to his home after teaching Sunday school at his church, according to a statement released by the Chhattisgarh Christian Forum (CCF).

The mob then dragged Jagdalla to the police station in Pandri and accused him of forced conversions. The police lodged a complaint against Jagdalla under Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code for "hurting the religious sentiments of Hindus." Jagdalla was then held in police custody.

When representatives of the CCF reached the police station on Sunday afternoon, they found a mob of DRS extremists surrounding the station and shouting slogans against Christians.

"They knew we were going to the police station to bail out Pastor Jagdalla, and they did not want the police to release him," the CCF said in a statement.

Police sent the pastor to a hospital for medical examination - which the CCF lauded, as police in India rarely do that for Christian victims - and registered a counter complaint against the attackers. The CCF criticized local newspapers for publishing false allegations against Jagdalla.

Chhattisgarh also has a population of about 21 million, out of which only 401,000 are Christians.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Pastor beaten mercilessly in Raipur, Chhattisgarh

December 17' 2006

Pastor Philip Jagdalla resides and works in Bilaspur (CG). Bur for last one month he was working with Jehova Pentecostal Church, Mova, Raipur (CG), for assisting the local pastor, Jebastin. His wife is in Bilaspur with 2 weeks baby girl. Jehova Pentecostal Church has been conducting regular Sunday worship in a rented house of a Christian family in Dubey Colony of Mova area, Raipur since last one and a half years.

Two Christian children, who are relatives of Pastor Philip Jagdalla regularly attends Sunday school run by this church. Six children from non-Christian background also started attending Sunday school with these two Christian children, with the consent of their families, since last two weeks. After closing Sunday school at 10:30 AM, Pastor Philip Jagdalla went with these eight children to drop them to their houses in an auto. All of them reside in the same place in Pandari, about 3 kilometers from the place of Sunday school and worship. After dropping the children to their houses, the moment he reached Mandi Gate, Pandri, to take an auto to go back to he worship place, not far from the houses of these children, about 20 youths belonging to Dharm Sena led by Keshore (Mahendra) Kothari started beating the pastor mercilessly accusing him of conversion. Kishore Kothari is the president of Raipur unit of Dharm Sena, an extremist outfit affiliated with RSS. Dharm Sena has been primarily responsible for atrocities against the Christians in and around Raipur for more than a year.

They produced the pastor to Mova police station while beating him along the way. Pastor Jebastin came to know about the incident at 11:00 AM through some residents of the colony, while he was conducting regular Sunday worship. He immediately contacted Chhattisgarh Christian Forum. About 40 pastors and leaders of the Christian community immediately reached the police station to express their solidarity and concern. Dharm Sena people in more number also reached the police station and started abusing and threatening the Christians and forced them to go from the police station. By this time Pastor Philip Jagdalla had already been taken to the hospital for medical checkup by the police. When Pastor Philip Jagdalla was taken back to the police station, about ten pastors and leaders of the Chhattisgarh Christian Forum also reached the police station to stand with this humble, innocent pastor. Chhattisgarh Christian Forum insisted for fair conduct by the police. The police registered an FIR against Kishore (Mahendra) Kothari and his aids under IPC Sections 506, 323, 341 and 294. Dharm Sena people again started abusing and severely threatening the Christians, in spite of huge police presence and forced the Christians to leave the police station.

Later Pastor Jagdalla was released from the police custody at about 8 PM. Two leaders of the Forum went to the police station to bring back the pastor safely.

As per reports of local news papers an FIR has been registered against Pastor Jagdalla under IPC Section 295A and Section 4 (Freedom of Religion Act of Chhattisgarh). This is because of a false complaint of conversion by force and allurement against Pastor Jagdalla, presented to the police, maneuvered by the Dharm Sena.

Mr Arun Pannalal, General Secretary of Chhattisgarh Christian Forum has demanded an immediate action against the accused ones otherwise Forum would go for statewide protest.

Pastor Jagdalla has incurred injuries on many parts of the body , and it is suspected that his his left hand or shoulder has got fractured. Please uphold Pastor Philip Jagdalla & family along with pastor and other believers of the church.

Reported by,
A. Edgar
19 December, 2006

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Furore over Rajasthan's 'saffron' syllabus

NDTV Correspondent

Tuesday, December 12, 2006 (Jaipur):

Politics over the school curriculum is once again creating a huge controversy in Rajasthan.

The recently revised social studies and political science textbooks for class 10 and 12 students in the Rajasthan board read more like the manifesto of the RSS and the BJP.

A chapter on terrorism states:

The Jammu and Kashmir government works under the pressure of terrorists, many of the political leaders in the state are hand and glove with terrorists
Article 370 should be abolished to prevent terrorism and the armed forces be given sweeping powers to wipe out terrorism

On Rajasthan, the textbook says that certain minority groups living in the border districts of Barmer and Jaislamer, who have relatives in Pakistan are engaged in anti national activities, should be monitored carefully.

On Mahatma Gandhi, the political science textbook says that at first he was a supporter of the British. It was only later that he turned against the empire.

Educationists, quite clearly, are not amused by the controversial syllabus.

"It ignores the complexity of an average Rajasthani classroom, it does not address Muslim and Christian children," said Apoorva Nand, Reader, Delhi University.

Caught on the backfoot, the BJP government has now promised to look into the matter.

Click here for source

Friday, December 01, 2006

Pastors beaten up by RSS activists in Jhabua, Madhya Pradesh

By Vijayesh Lal

30th November 2006:

Jhabua: Pastor Hatey Singh Gundiya and Pastor Gokul Gundiya were attacked and beaten up by a mob of RSS activists at about 10:00 in the morning.

This took place at Bus stand Khardu near Umria village where the Pastors had come to take a bus to Jhabua. They were going to Jhabua to sell peanuts in the market as part of their family responsibility. Jhabua is about 15 kilometers from this place.

When the pastors were waiting for the bus to arrive, suddenly Karmu Damor and Mukesh Nath from that area and active RSS members arrived at the scene along with 6 – 7 more people and started abusing the Pastors for they knew that Hatey Singh and Gokul had been Christians for about 10 years now.

They questioned them as to what the pastors were doing in their area. When the pastors said that they are not here to preach but to go to Jhabua to sell peanuts, suddenly Karmu Damor and Mukesh Nath attacked them without provocation with big bamboo sticks. They beat them while around 10 of their friends around surrounded the Pastors.

Hatey Singh has been badly hurt on his hands and feet as a result of the stick wounds, while Gokul has been hurt on his eyes. His eyes have swollen as a result of the beatings, but he is still able to see.

Only when the people in the bus stand who also knew the pastors objected to the beatings did the RSS activists stop. But they were still threatening them when the Bus arrived. As soon as that happened Gokul and Hatey Singh climbed on to the bus to escape but the RSS activists not only pursued the bus but also made it stop in order to beat them again. But they were unable to enter the bus because of the fear of passengers and the staff.

Local pastor friends took Hatey Singh and Gokul to the police station in Jhabua where an FIR has been lodged against the attackers under sections 323 and 504 of the Indian Penal Code. The police also sent them for medical examination.