Monday, March 31, 2008

Christians arrested in MP

News just came in about 4 pastors belonging to GFA who have been arrested in the Ratlam district of MP. On the 28th March 08, the pastors were with a crowd of Christians watching movies on the life of Jesus, when police arrested them.
According to reports they were presented to the local magistrate on the 29th but they case has been postponed till April 1st 2008. The police it seems purposely presented them to the magistrate late in the evening so that bail would not be granted.
They have been charged under sections 3 and 4 of the MP freedom of religion bill.
Local Christians say that more arrests of Christian pastors are being forecasted in the area, as the police have become pawns at the hands of the Hindutva elements sitting in Bhopal.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Hindu Extremists Assault Christian Family in India

Group threatening to kill believers in Madhya Pradesh demands to abuse 15-year-old girl.

REWA, India, March 27 (Compass Direct News) – Hindu extremists in a village in Madhya Pradesh who have harassed and threatened local Christians beat the grandparents and aunt of a 15-year-old girl last weekend when the Christian family refused to allow the group to rape her.

Shouting anti-Christian slogans and curses and drunk from a Hindu festival, nine members of the Hindu extremist Bajrang Dal on Saturday (March 22) arrived at the home of Brij Gopal Saket in Bahera village, Rewa district, and demanded that he turn over his daughter Urmila so they could abuse her.

“I pleaded and reminded them that we are brothers from the same village and community,” Saket told Compass. “They deterred not, and told me that by becoming a Christian I am no more of their community.”

Saket managed to lock himself, his wife and his daughter inside their home, but the intolerant Hindus – who have threatened to kill other members of the community unless they stop worshipping Christ – got hold of his parents and sister while they were still outside. They relentlessly beat Saket’s mother Hirawa Saket, father Sant Lal Saket, and sister Michwa.

“They hit them with rods, sticks and stones,” eyewitness Ram Mani told Compass. “Villagers gathered together to stop this brutal carnage.”

These villagers took the injured to Nai Garhi Primary Health Center, about 15 kilometers (nine miles) away. There doctors found that one of the stones had smashed the bone in the bridge of the nose of Saket’s mother. More than 60 years old, she suffered other head and body injuries.

Saket’s sister also suffered severe head injury. His father, who had been seriously ill the past four months, sustained injuries on his left hand, including a possible fracture of the middle finger.

Villagers recruited and trained by local Hindu extremist leaders Shrikant Tomar and Subhash Gupta (both belonging to high castes), have threatened to kill area Christians unless they too join the Bajrang Dal, youth wing of the extremist Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council). Area members of the Bajrang Dal have continually harassed Christian women and denied Christians access to water from a government-installed hand-pump, said local Christians.

Since becoming a Christian two years ago, Saket said he has been attacked twice before, last January 17 as well as on July 1, 2007.

“The previous attacks were not targeted at my family,” Saket said.

A case has been registered against the assailants at the Nai Garhi police station, but no arrests have been made so far. The names of those recorded in the complaint are Bhagwandeen, Jagdish, Kanhai, Somnath, Ramesh, Suresh, Shivpal, Mohan Lal and Gopilal. Police are awaiting a final medical report.

March 22 marked the celebration of the Hindu festival of Holi in India, characterized by people putting colors on each other, but also used as an excuse for drinking binges.

There are about 40 Christians in the village who are poor, landless subsistence laborers with no political or social influence.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

New religion Bill may face the same fate

JAIPUR: The observations made by Rajasthan Governor Shailendra Kumar Singh in his address to a gathering of Christians on the occasion of Easter celebrations here on Sunday have led to speculation that the newest of the anti-conversion Bills in the country, passed by the State Assembly three days ago, would go the same way as the previous one—passed in 2006 and returned to the State Government by the then Governor Pratibha Patil.

Unity and harmony

“We have to respect all religions equally and strive for the uplift of society. Unity in society and harmony could be brought only through our good behaviour and not by Bills and legislation,” said Mr. Singh, a former career diplomat, addressing the gathering of believers at the more than a century old All Saints Church.

“Faith brings mutual confidence. All the religions should be respected equally. This only can create an atmosphere of love and brotherhood,” Mr. Singh said. The Upanishads and the shastras have defined faith, love and belief with good clarity, he said.

Quoting from the Bhagwad Gita, the septuagenarian Mr. Singh said Lord Krishna, while trying to help Arjun come out of his dilemma on the battlefront, had said that in society all are equal and real “dharma” is to carry out one’s responsibilities.

In what perhaps came as a reassurance to the beleaguered Christian community—which is apprehensive of the harsh Rajasthan Religious Freedom Bill, 2008--was the Governor’s participation in two Easter programmes.

Prior to the All Saints Church function, Mr. Singh sat through a two-hour-long midnight Easter vigil service on Saturday night at the St. Xavier’s Catholic Church.

High hopes

Raj Bhawan sources said he had gone to St. Xavier’s as a “commoner”. The midnight church service, which mentioned the presence of the Governor amid the gathering, thanked him for his gesture. As is the practice every year, the congregation prayed for the Rajasthan Chief Minister and the members of the Cabinet as well for “enabling them to do their duties well”.

“The Governor’s act came as a reassurance. It was so kind on his part to participate in two celebrations of Resurrection,” said Collin C. Theodore, Bishop of the Church of North India (CNI), speaking on phone from Ajmer. The All Saints Church comes under CNI.

“We hope the Governor means what he said. We have high hopes on him,” the Bishop noted.

The Rajasthan Freedom of Religion Bill, passed by the State Assembly after it was pushed by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party last Friday amid protests from Congress and CPI (M) members, has stringent provisions to punish anyone who “converts or attempt to convert” from one religion to another by “use of force or allurement or fraudulent means” with imprisonment ranging from one year to five years. The same is not applicable for those converting back to his/her “original religion”.

Raj Bhawan tight-lipped

Raj Bhawan sources on Monday remained tight-lipped about the “overtones” of the Governor’s speech.

The Bill, after its passage, is yet to reach the Governor, they informed.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Intolerant Hindus Attack Easter Services in India

Assaults on two churches mar celebrations in Karnataka state.

NEW DELHI, March 25 (Compass Direct News) – Hindutva (Hindu nationalist) extremists stormed two Easter Sunday services and beat at least 16 Christians, including two pastors, in the Karnataka state capital of Bangalore and in Shimoga district.

A mob of more than 150 intolerant Hindus on Sunday (March 23) launched an attack on a Pentecostal church in Karnataka’s Shimoga district at 9 a.m., and a group of more than a dozen assailants struck Christians of an independent church in Byapanahalli on the suburbs of Bangalore at 11:45 a.m., reported the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC).

“About 150 Hindutva radicals armed with sticks stormed the Indian Pentecostal Church in Gundlikoppa village, around 20 kilometers from Shimoga district headquarters, while the believers were attending the Easter service,” Dr. Sajan K. George, GCIC’s national president, told Compass.

Accusing the church of “forced” conversions without any evidence for the charge, the attackers beat 35-year-old pastor Mandya Nagraj and five others, besides vandalizing church property, George added. The assailants damaged the roof and musical instruments.

Pastor Nagraj had received a threat a week earlier, added George.

Police arrested six of the attackers and provided protection to the pastor after GCIC’s intervention. The Pentecostal church, attended by around 60 Christians, has been functioning for six years with no evidence of attempting to convert people by force or fraud.

Girl Beaten

In the second attack, George said at least 12 extremists led by the Hindu priest of a local temple and his associate, identified only as Puttappa, attacked the Grace Almighty Full Gospel Church in Byapanahalli in Bangalore.

The assailants beat 30-year-old pastor P. Isaac and nine believers, including a 17-year-old girl identified only as Jency. The girl was rushed to a hospital for first-aid.

Following the attack, the assailants went to the homes of a few believers and warned them against attending the church. They also took Pastor Isaac to the police station and sought to register a complaint against him for “forced” conversions. Police interrogated the pastor and subsequently released him.

But police brokered a “compromise” between the attackers and the pastor requiring him to leave the area.

The independent church was established around seven years ago, and has more than 60 members.

Karnataka came under the President’s rule on November 20 last year, when the ruling coalition comprising the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) party and the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) broke up. Legislative elections are expected to be announced soon.

Christian persecution rose to new heights in the state after the BJP and JD-S came to power in February 2006.

There are a little more than 1 million Christians in Karnataka, which is home to over 52.8 million people.

Holiday Attacks

Attacks on Christian holidays are becoming increasingly common in India.

Hindutva extremists beat two pastors of Believers’ Church on Easter last year (April 8) in Salwa village in Madhya Pradesh state’s Mandla district. They arrived at the house of the pastors, Dinesh Toppo and Chandan Chhinchani, to launch the assault.

Similarly, on Christmas Eve of 2007, Hindutva extremists led a series of violent attacks on Christians and their property in Orissa state’s Kandhamal district.

The attacks, lasting more than a week, killed six Christians and razed at least 730 houses and 95 churches, according to a fact-finding team of the All India Christian Council’s Orissa chapter. Hundreds of displaced Christians remained in relief camps set up by the Orissa government at press time. (See Compass Direct News, “Two More Victims of Violence Succumb to Injuries in Orissa,” February 20.)

Monday, March 24, 2008

Nuns and Teenage girls attacked by Hindu Extremists

MUMBAI, India (CNA) - A Hindu radical group on Saturday attacked two Catholic nuns and three teenage girls in a western Indian village as they prepared to hold a women’s educational program, UCA News reports.

Sister Merciana Tuscano, one of the Carmelite nuns attacked, told UCA News that radical Hindu men and women attacked the nuns and girls in the village of Sanghoti in the state of Maharashtra.

The mob shouted at the nuns, accusing them of “converting tribal people to Christianity.” According to Sister Tuscano, the mob “told us to leave the village at once and never to come back or else they would break our legs.”

The Catholic group was in Sanghoti, a village about 75 miles south of Mumbai, to conduct programs for tribal women. The group’s activities include running adult literacy classes, encouraging self-help groups, and popularizing the government’s AIDS program.

The Saturday program was to begin at noon, but at about 10:30 a group of about twenty men and twenty women arrived and began to throw away chairs and tables. Sister Tuscano said that when she confronted the group, “the women caught hold of me, pulled my hair and punched me hard all over my body.”

She said that though she cried for help, the group dragged her out of the venue. The three teenage girls tried to rescue her, but Sister Tuscano said they were “hammered” by the mob.

The second nun, Sister Philomena D’Mello, then arrived with other women for the program. Sister Tuscano told UCA News that Sister D’Mello was also attacked. "The mob rushed at her, caught hold of her, punched her all over. When she fell down in pain, a man stamped (on) her stomach twice," she said.

The mob also attacked the nun’s driver, a Catholic, who tried to intervene.

The injured group was rushed to a government hospital in Albag, but were discharged on Sunday.

Sister Floripe D'Silva, vice-provincial of the nuns’ Carmelite congregation, said she would take the sisters to a private hospital for further evaluation. She said all six victims were traumatized by the incident.

Sister D’Silva said the mob also destroyed a grinding machine donated by a non-governmental organization to help tribal women generate income. She said a Hindu social worker who had come on behalf of the government to talk about AIDS was shocked by the attack.

According to a local police official, 13 Hindu men and women had been arrested for the attack, but were granted bail. The official said the attackers, who were followers of a local guru, accused the nuns of “converting the local tribal people to Christianity.”

Sister D’Silva denied the accusation. “It is a humbug charge. We have not converted a single tribal,” she said. She said that the tribal people themselves have told police that the nuns do not preach religion but only train them to lead a decent life.

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Freedom of Religion Bill passed in Rajasthan

The government in India’s Rajasthan state sanctioned an anti-religious conversion bill Friday in a bid to scrutinize Christian activities, including allegations of conversions by force and allurement.
The bill, introduced in the House last week, received strong resistance from the opposition Congress and religious leaders in the country. It prohibits conversions by use of force, allurement or fraudulent means, and punishes offenders with up to five years imprisonment as well fines of up to 50,000 Indian rupees (US$1,200).
"Some religious and other institutions, bodies and individuals are found to the involved in unlawful conversion from one religion to another by allurement or by fraudulent means or forcibly which at times has caused annoyance in the community belonging to the other religion," states the bill.
"In order to curb such illegal activities and to maintain harmony amongst persons of various religions, it has been considered expedient to enact a special law for the purpose."
Christian leaders in the state, however, feel that the bill will be misused to torture and imprison Christian missionaries on fabricated charges. Cases related to this have been reported in the past.
"It appears that the BJP (Indian People's Party) government is working on the hidden Hindu agenda to appease RSS (National Volunteers' Organization) in the Vidhan Sabha elections slated later this year in the state," commented Congress Chief Whip Juber Khan.
With a similar bill awaiting the approval of Indian President Prathiba Patil, Khan questioned how the BJP government could re-introduce another bill.
The 2006 Rajasthan Dharma Swatantraya Bill was passed by the House earlier but was returned by then-Governor Pratibha Patil.
Patil had returned the bill to the state government asking to get it cleared from the then-President A.P.J Abdul Kalam.
Despite opposition from Congress members, BJP MLAs (Members of the Legislative Assembly) were unwilling to wait.
”Problems of fanaticism, terrorism and secessionism have always arisen in the areas where Hindus were reduced to minority by large-scale conversions,” claimed BJP MLA Nand Kishore Garg.
Rajasthan is the sixth Indian state to pass an anti-conversion bill into law after Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Gujarat, Arunachal Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Rajasthan 'anti-religious conversion bill' likely to be discussed

Rajasthan 'anti-religious conversion bill' likely to be discussed

Jaipur (PTI): The BJP government in Rajasthan is all set to take up
an anti-religious conversion bill in the ongoing assembly session
for discussion and passage on March 20 despite strong reservations
on it by Opposition Congress.

The Congress has warned that it would protest inside the House and
on the streets as the bill, reintroduced by the government, was
a "hidden Hindu agenda to appease RSS in the state assembly
elections slated later this year".

The Raje government has introduced a fresh bill, the Rajasthan
Dharma Swatantrya Bill, 2008, last week with some changes as the
earlier measure, passed by the Assembly through a voice vote on
April 7, 2006, was still pending with President Pratibha Patil for

Patil, who was the then Governor of Rajasthan, had returned it with
objections in certain clauses to the assembly. Later in 2007, the
Raje cabinet had "re-submitted" the bill to the Governor for
approval, but Patil had referred it to the then President A P J
Abdul Kalama with her remarks.

"The 2006 bill is still pending with the President. Let that be
decided or returned. It was only after that the BJP government
should have thought of reintroducing the bill on the same matter,"
Congress Chief Whip Juber Khan told PTI.

"It appears that the BJP government is working on the hidden Hindu
agenda to appease RSS in the Vidhan Sabha elections slated later
this year in the state," Khan said.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Evangelist arrested near Ujjain

Police yesterday arrested an evangelist working with the Indian Evangelist Team in Ujjain, 140 kms from Bhopal on false claims and allegations made by a staunch Hindu militant group.

Evangelist Tulsi, 26 years old, was beaten and handed over to the police by the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) members on fabricated charges.

After Tulsi was handed over to the police at the Maksi police station, the officials along with the RSS goons made up false cases against him. They locked him alleging he is converting people to Christianity by force.

The Christians residing in the area, when requested the police to grant permission to meet Tulsi, were refused and asked to gain permission from the RSS leaders.

Furthermore, Tulsi was made to sign on blank papers by the police and even forced to recite Hindu religious chants for which he refused. “They even offered to free Tulsi if he can forsake Christianity,” added GCIC, a Christian Human Rights Group in Bangalore.

Tulsi has been charged under the IPC section 295 and 153.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Christians flay Dharna by VHP, BD

By Our Staff Reporter

Bhopal, March 2: Christian community condemned the Dharna organized by Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) in front of the Churches in Madhya Pradesh and the one held in-front of the Jehangirabad, St. Francis Cathedral Church in Bhopal.

Archbishop Dr. Leo Cornelio, in a statement issued here on Sunday said, "the Government must treat all communities equally and stop these organizations from destroying the peace and harmony existing in Madhya Pradesh."

In a statement the Regional Public Relations Office said," It is since quiet some time that Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Bajrang Dal (BD) and its associates organizations are trying to spread communal hatred against Christian community in Madhya Pradesh.

The fundamental organizations accuse the Church of forced conversions through social service and education. The present crisis is said to be the recommendations of the Ranganath Mishra Commissions to allow reservation to persons who got converted from SC to Christianity and Islam.

The Christian organizations refuses to buy this argument because if it is to protest the decisions of the commission it should be done at a place which is the symbol of Union government.

While talking to the media persons Fr. Anand Muttungal, spokesperson for catholic churches said, "It is an out right violation of Christians to live in dignity and freedom with full honour so it is violation of fundamental rights of Christians." Since all these organizations are from the ruling party it looks like that the ruling party is not in a control of the situation or they knowingly keeps silence. For a healthy society both are very bad.

It is the need of the hour for the administration to be fair and effective in administering justice.

Major Christian organization, Catholic Church M.P, Indian Catholic Youth Movement, All India Christian Council, Christian Assembly, Madhya Pradesh Isai Mahasabha and Christian leaders , Anup Jose , Mrs. Sheela Shantyago, Sr. Sneha , Saji Abraham, Babu Solomon etc. condemned the incident.

Madhya Pradesh Christian Assembly

The Madhya Pradesh Christian Assembly (MPCA) took a serious note on the 'dharna'organized by Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) infront of the Churches in Madhya Pradesh and the one held in-front of the Jehangirabad, St. Francis Cathedral Church in Bhopal.

The Assembly said that party, front or councils should not organise 'dharna' in front of religious institutions which may hurt religious sentiments.

The Government should treat all communities equally and stop such organizations which may disrupt peace and harmony of the State.

Catholic Association of Bhopal Archdiocese

The Catholic Association of Bhopal Archdiocese (CABA) condemned the demonstration carried by members of Akhil Bhartiya Anusuchit Jati Arakshan Raksha Manch Bhopal (Madhya Bharat) in front of Jehangirabad Church. The Association condemned by saying that members shouldn't organise such protests in front of religious place.

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