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.