1st April 2007: Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh, India
A Palm Sunday gathering was brutally attacked by Dharma Sena activists resulting in injury for seven Christians and one Dharma Sena man.
Members of the St. Paul’s Church belonging to the Church of North India have celebrated the Palm Sunday for the last 20 years by carrying out a procession which starts from the Church in Gokulpur, Jabalpur and ending at the mountainous terrain of the COD, Jabalpur. It has been a tradition for the members to fast the whole day and to break the fast with prayers at the COD. This year was no different with about 250 people gathered in the rally. Many among them were women and children. Police permission had been taken and the administration was in the know how of it.
At about 6:00 pm, when the final prayer was going on all of sudden 30 – 35 Dharma Sena people led by Yogesh Agrawal and other office bearers of the Dharma Sena attacked the crowd. The Sena activists were fully armed with swords, baseball bats, huge bamboo sticks and knives. Since prayer was going on most of the people had their eyes closed and this came as a surprise to them.
First the Dharma Sena people damaged the vehicles of the people breaking glasses and smashing windows and headlights. Then they turned their attention to the Pastors beating them black and blue. Pastor James Masih who is the presbyter in charge for the St. Paul’s Church at Gokulpur was beaten mercilessly and has suffered internal injuries.
The Dharma Sena people then turned their attention to women and children and started beating them with baseball bats and sticks. According to eye witnesses, women were pulled by their Chunnies (cloth used for head and body covering), which amounts to outraging the modesty of women. Even children were not spared. Pastor James Masih’s 5 year old son, who was playing the Congo drum, was beaten by bats.
The food which was meant for fasting people after the prayers was also spoiled by the attackers.
Mrs. Rajni Dilraj, who was also beaten up, told us, “I was having my eyes closed when the attack took place all of a sudden. They beat me on my hands repeatedly with sticks and my hand is in a lot of pain.”
Mr. Rajnish Daniel also an elder in the Church was leading the prayers when the attack took place and he was roughed up very badly. He spoke to us of his injuries. He also told us, “The Dharma Sena people used a lot of abusive language against the women in particular. They also abused our religion and hurled insults at the Christian religion in general.”
When the Christians saw that they are surrounded a few of them started throwing stones at the Dharma Sena activists in self defense. Seeing this, the Sena people fled, but one of them while getting away lost his balance and was hurt a little because of falling down the cliff.
It was not until late that the police decided to admit an FIR against the Dharma Sena activists. One motorcycle belonging to a Dharma Sena man was captured by the police although we do not know about the status of the arrests of the attackers.
The media has chosen to call this a communal clash instead of highlighting the plight of the minority Christian community.
Concerning this incident the Jabalpur Pastors Association has called for an urgent meeting at CARAVS on Monday morning, where in the course of action will be decided.
Jabalpur has been in the eye of the storm for long now and Christians have been intentionally been targeted by the Hindu Fundamentalists and the administration together. This was also observed by the members of the National Minority Commission while on their visit to Jabalpur especially in the wake of the many incidents against the Christian community in the past year.
The Dharma Sena as usual is claiming forcible conversions which is laughable considering that only Christians were gathered for the observance of the Palm Sunday. But a greater question remains, which is: Has the BJP government in the state given the law and order machinery in the hands of the Dharma Sena and anti-social elements like them? For if conversions were alleged why the police was not sent there by the administration?
There have been too many instances in Jabalpur to clearly point out that the administration is hands in glove with the anti-social Hindutva fundamentalists in the persecution and attacks on minorities. Now whether they do this by choice or under direction of their political masters is a question to be answered.