Monday, October 27, 2014

Bastar Christians attacked by right-wing activists

RAIPUR: After the controversial gram sabha resolutions banning non-Hindu religious activity in villages in tribal Bastar, there was fresh tension in Madota village after local Christians were assaulted allegedly by right-wing activists, leaving 12 people injured late on Saturday.

Eleven of the injured are still undergoing treatment at a hospital in Jagdalpur, where they were brought in a truck. While the police recorded their statement, senior civil and police officials are tight-lipped about the clash.

Chhattisgarh Christian Forum (CCF) president Arun Pannalal told TOI that the manner in which the attack was orchestrated raises suspicion that local officials were hand in glove with attackers.

"An announcement was made through drum beats that residents of Kotwar village should assemble at 9am on Saturday to meet the sub-divisional magistrate, deputy superintendent of police and town inspector to discuss ways to douse tension between the two communities. They waited till evening, but nobody turned up. By evening, right-wing activists came in a truck and attacked Christians, accusing them of promoting religious conversion," he said.

Quoting local Christians, Pannalal said, a week ago BJP MP Dinesh Kashyap had visited Bhanpuri village and me gram sabha t local Christians. The MP washed their feet and then made a public announcement that they had completed the process of "ghar wapsi" or home-coming to the Hindu fold. Since then tension has been brewing between Hindus and Christians over prayer meetings at the local church.

Pannalal said that Christian organisations have already moved high court challenging the resolutions adopted by the gram sabhas.

"Now our writ is pending in the high court. We see this latest attack as a pressure tactic," he said.

Tribal Bastar was in focus in May this year after a number of gram sabhas, powerful bodies under the provisions of Panchayati Raj Act, adopted resolutions under section 129 (G) of State Panchayati Raj Act, banning "non-Hindu religious propaganda, prayers and speeches in villages". 

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12 Christians injured in Bastar assault

The Chhattisgarh Christian Forum (CCF) has alleged that 12 persons belonging to the community were seriously wounded in an assault by members of the Bajrang Dal in Bastar district’s Madota village on Saturday. District officials have registered an FIR.
“Christians had gathered in Madota village under Bhanpuri block of Bastar district on Saturday morning. The purpose was to discuss the district administration’s response to the petition filed by Christian bodies in the Bilaspur High Court over the ban on Christian missionaries in Bastar villages. The Sub-Divisional Magistrate and Deputy Superintendent of Police were also expected to be present. But no official turned up. Instead, around 30 to 40 Bajrang Dal members wearing saffron bands came armed with sticks and swords and attacked the Christians,” charged Arun Pannalal, president of the CCF.
Mr. Pannalal said those injured in the attack were admitted to a hospital in Jagdalpur.
However, the Bajrang Dal has denied it was involved in the attack.
“The allegations levelled against the Bajrang Dal are absolutely baseless. Some Hindus were invited by the Sub-Divisional Magistrate for a meeting in the village. Some pastors were also present without any invitation. The Hindus protested their presence which led to a scuffle,” Bastar region in-charge of Bajrang Dal, Mahesh Kashyap, told The Hindu.
The CCF has accused the district authorities of being “hand in glove” with the “right-wing elements.”
“No FIR has been registered in the case and our people have been forced to go into hiding due to the threat of the Bajrang Dal. The district authorities along with some right-wing elements are also pressuring us to withdraw the petition filed in the High Court against the ban on the entry of non-Hindu missionaries in Bastar,” claimed the CCF president.
Collector refutes charges

However, Bastar district collector Ankit Anand refuted the CCF’s allegations. “There was a clash between two groups in the village on Saturday and we have registered an FIR against the accused persons. The situation is under control. Medical assistance was provided to the injured people,” Mr. Anand said.

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