Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Uttarakhand cabinet approves draft bill to make forced religious conversions a non-bailable offence

The Uttarakhand state cabinet has approved the draft bill called ‘Dharm Swatantrata Adhiniyam’ under which forced and illegal conversions will be a non-bailable offence. The state government is aiming to curb the incidences of religious conversions by means of force, bribes or incentives and duping. Under this bill, a person, if caught with being involved in such practice will have to face a jail term from one year to five years. The minimum jail term will be two years if the victims belong to SC or ST category.

According to reports, if a person wants to convert voluntarily, he/she will have to submit an affidavit with the respective District Magistrate one month prior, in order to clarify that the conversion is voluntary and not forced.

Any conversions, if found not to have followed the above will be invalidated and considered illegal by the government. If a person wants to convert for the purpose of marriage, he/she will also have to submit the same affidavit.

The Trivendra Singh Rawat led state cabinet convened for four hours
on different issues on Monday in the state assembly. Under this bill,
even organised events for religious conversions will be illegal if not
notified to the government one month prior.

The government’s decision is in line with the order of the Uttarakhand High Court in November last year when the bench headed by Justice Rajiv Sharma had suggested that the state government should formulate the Freedom of Religion Act to check the practice of religious conversion for the sole purpose of facilitating a marriage. The HC had asked the state government to legislate a law on the analogy of the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act 1968 and the Himachal Freedom of religion act

A bench headed by Justice Rajiv Sharma had said, “It needs to be mentioned that the court has come across a number of cases where inter-religion marriages are being organised.

However, in few instances, the conversion from one religion to another religion is a sham conversion only to facilitate the process of
marriage. In order to curb this tendency, the state government is
expected to legislate the Freedom of Religion Act on the analogy of
Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 1968 as well as Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2006, without hurting the religious sentiments of citizens.”

Under the bill, the immediate family members of the concerned person who has been converted can register a case.

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Police asked not to interfere in the civil rights of a pastor in Tamil Nadu

The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court on Friday directed the Tirunelveli police not to interfere with the civil rights of a pastor who moved the court seeking to restrain the police from questioning members of a church in the name of enquiry.

Justice P. Rajamanickam directed that civil rights should not be interfered with and no questioning be conducted in the name of enquiry.

The petitioner, Soundarapandian, a pastor at the Church of South India (CSI) church in Athisiyapuram, Palayamkottai, said a prayer hall was constructed in 2017 with permission from the Executive Officer of the panchayat. Prayers were held on Fridays and Sundays without causing any hindrance to the public, he said.

However, a few villagers had complained to the V. K. Pudur police that prayers were being held without permission. Following the complaint, the police had been visiting the church in the name of enquiry and questioning its members, he complained.

The petitioner said his freedom of conscience, free profession, practice and propagation of religion guaranteed under the Constitution were affected and sought to restrain the police from conducting such enquiries at the prayer hall.

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Indian policeman joins 50-strong Hindu mob’s attack on churches

A Hindu mob raided five churches in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu yesterday (11 March), attacking and abusing Christians as they worshipped. Several women were stripped and beaten.

The attackers, who according to witnesses were accompanied by a state-provided police officer, were part of Hindu Munnani, a Tamil Nadu-based organisation formed to defend Hinduism.

The Hindu Munnani District Secretary, Thangam Venkatesh, led the mob, which began its raids early in the morning.

“At about 9am, Venkatesh went to the prayer hall and abused the pastor, Ravi Jacob. He used extremely vulgar language, and then turned on his wife, Persis,” John J.Y. Arul, Chairman of Madurai District Pastors’ Fellowship, told World Watch Monitor.

“The extremists were aggressive and uncontrollable. In front of children and others in the church, they savagely beat up Jacob and Persis. They removed Persis’ saree and repeatedly kicked her in the face,” Arul said.

“I can’t repeat the words they used against Persis. We were shocked by their inhuman behaviour.

“When Persis was crying for help, the police guard with the Munnani leader asked her to ‘prostrate herself at the feet of Thangam Venkatesh and plead for his forgiveness’.

“Persis’ face was swollen and she had to be rushed to hospital.”

The mob also burnt Christian literature, including Bibles.

“The same Hindu Munnani men went to four other churches in the district,” Arul said.

At about 10am the mob went to the Bethesda Worship Centre, where they stripped and attacked three women. Two of the women, Maariyammal, 40, and Annal, 51, were sexually assaulted. A third, Bava Dhaarani, 23, was slapped and punched. Maariyammal tried to lodge a complaint with the police, but she was told police could “only take one complaint per church” and the church pastor had already made a complaint.

The mob told Bethseda’s pastor, Jerome Jagatheesan, “you will be brutally murdered in five days”.

“Their language was filthy,” Jagatheesan told World Watch Monitor. “They called me a woman, saying if I was a man I would not serve Christ. They bullied me, calling me pottai, pottai. It is an offensive word in the Tamil language, used against transgender people and homosexuals.”

Activists in the mob said to Jagatheesan: “If you are a man, why did you convert? Why did you change your god? You are a homosexual who gives his wife to adultery.”

Jagatheesan said: “Their words were brutish. Had I uttered a single word they would have attacked us the same way sister Persis was attacked. They showed no mercy.”

The activists also said to Jagatheesan: “If you want to serve Jesus Christ, go to Bethlehem or the Vatican. Worship him there. Why do you want to make India impure?”

At the church the mob shouted threats to a 19-year-old named James, whose father, Emmanuel, leads another church. The activists called out: “If we continue gathering for Sunday worship and prayers, it will be my dad’s turn next,” James said.

“[Hindu nationalists] are ruling in the centre, it is their government. We Christians are helpless,” he added.

Another pastor, Sagi Sugathia, said the mob “are at least 25 in number and very violent. Our church services had to be stopped because of Thangam Venkatesh and his men”.

Complaints to the police

Later in the day complaints were made at Koodal Pudur and Alanganallur police stations, but police refused to register the case. Koodal Pudur police issued a Community Service Register (CSR) receipt in which they did not reveal the identity of Thangam Venkatesh and the Hindu Munnani workers.

The CSR receipt, filed on the complaint made by Jerome Jagatheesan, said: “Twenty-five unknown miscreants or unidentified people have attacked the Christians.”

Some 200 pastors later demanded that a First Information Report (a victim or witness statement made to police to trigger further investigation) was filed against the Hindu Munnani activists.

A Facebook account in the name of Thangam Venkatesh posted updates on yesterday’s attacks, including a video of Venkatesh shouting abuse at Jagatheesan.

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Thursday, March 08, 2018

Hindu Extremists in Eastern India Attack Christians Coming Off Bus

NEW DELHI (Morning Star News) – Christians on their way to a recent Christian camp in eastern India shared the purpose of their trip with fellow bus passengers, not realizing one of them was a Hindu extremist.

He began to argue about conversion with the Christians, mostly women and children, including a native missionary from a ministry based in India. Soon the hard-line Hindu began cursing and accusing the Christians of “always converting innocent and poor villagers.”

When they arrived at the bus station in Bettiah, Bihar state, on Feb. 26, after the 60-kilometer (38-mile) trip from Bagaha, 60 to 70 angry Hindu extremists were waiting for them. The hard-line Hindu had made phone calls to Hindu nationalist groups.

The mob separated out the native missionary for the Gospel Echoing Missionary Society (GEMS), D. Joseph, as well as another Christian, Baldev Singh, and assaulted them, said the Rev. Mariosh Joseph, coordinator of GEMS in Bihar.

He said D. Joseph sustained several internal injuries and was hospitalized in a state of deep shock, and that Singh also was hospitalized with multiple injuries, including internal damage to his ear that caused some loss of hearing.

“It was evident from the mob that it was a pre-planned attack,” Pastor Mariosh Joseph told Morning Star News. “There was a media person present to record and publish the entire episode in the media, along with the Hindu extremist mob.”

The Hindu mob interrogated the Christians, asking them the purpose of their visit, said the GEMS zonal superintendent, identified only as Pastor Palanivelu.

“They told the Christians that they were visiting to lure the innocent and poor villagers with money and benefits and fool them into becoming Christians,” Pastor Palanivelu said.

Native missionary D. Joseph told the mob about the camp and denied their allegations, and the Hindu nationalists began to use foul language as they threatened the Christians, Pastor Palanivelu said.

“Even being in a public place, no one came to their rescue, and passersby were mere spectators as the mob beat both the Christians mercilessly, while the other Christian teammates cried for help,” he told Morning Star News.

Traffic officers heard the commotion and tried to rescue the Christians, but they were overpowered by the mob, he said. Additional police were called to get the situation under control.

“Some of the women got so frightened that they fled the site and returned home from the bus station itself without attending the camp,” he said, adding that at least 11 women from the bus went on to the camp.

Pastor Mariosh Joseph said the mob was trained in the ways of Hindu nationalist violence.
“The right-wing groups are specially instructed to hit in a way that they do not bleed anyone externally, but cause gruesome injuries internally,” he told Morning Star News.

Police Bias

Pastor Mariosh Joseph said police initially told him that they were investigating a complaint of forcible/fraudulent conversion, and that the superintendent of police later told him they were treating it as a case of human trafficking.

“The police in most of the cases are biased and try to see how they can frame the victims, rather than doing the other way around,” he said.

Police recorded the statements of D. Joseph and Singh but refused to file a First Information Report, though a Medico-Legal Case was filed against unknown persons, he said.

The camp took place as planned on Feb. 26-28, Pastor Mariosh Joseph said.

“Though such an incident of violence against the Christian believers happened, the meeting continued, and the people were blessed and inspired by the Word of God,” he said.

GEMS reported 12 incidents of persecution against its native missionaries last year, and since January three such cases have already been reported. GEMS works in five states in India, primarily Bihar.

“Of late there have been a lot of incidents that have been happening against Christian believers,” Pastor Mariosh Joseph said. “Even if there is a disagreement, violence is not a way.”

The hostile tone of the National Democratic Alliance government, led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, against non-Hindus, has emboldened Hindu extremists in several parts of the country to attack Christians since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took power in May 2014, religious rights advocates say.

India ranked 11th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2018 World Watch List of countries where Christians experience the most persecution, up from 15th the previous year, and ahead of Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and Egypt.

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Christians Seriously Injured after Attempted Burial in Eastern India

DELHI, March 5, 2018 (Morning Star News) – Tribal animists upset that Christians tried to bury one of their dead in a village in eastern India seriously injured a 13-year-old girl and others who tried to protect a Christian woman the villagers threatened to burn alive.

On Feb. 26 Christians in Chitrangapalli, Tamguda village, were about to bury the body of a 3-year-old girl who had died of natural causes in Odisha’s state’s Malkangiri District, when villagers reached the field where they were performing last rites. The mob insisted they would not allow a Christian to be buried in their village, even though the burial site was on land owned by one of the Christians, area sources said.

They demanded that the Christians take the body outside the village for burial. After the land owner argued that he was free to bury his dead on his land, the villagers left, only to return at midnight with weapons.

About 20 to 25 villagers carrying wooden sticks surrounded the houses of the three Christian families in the village of nearly 35 families and ordered them to come out. The mob was shouting loudly, reviling them for changing their faith.

Some Christians came out of their houses, and the villagers told them to renounce Christianity. When they refused, the attackers entered their homes, dragged the rest of their family members out and beat them, area residents told Morning Star News.

Savagely beating 45-year-old Nandi Madkami, an aunt of the girl who had died, the assailants threatened to burn her with gasoline they were carrying.

“As they were attempting to burn her, Nandi’s 13-year-old daughter ran to her rescue,” Enka Pusham, a Christian from a neighboring village who gave refuge to the Christian families after they spent the night hiding in the forest, told Morning Star News.

Mob beat Deba Madkami when he tried to rescue his daughter. (Morning Star News)

Mob beat Deba Madkami when he tried to rescue his daughter. (Morning Star News)

The villagers began to beat Madkami’s daughter, Savita Madkami, with wooden sticks, leaving her bleeding from head wounds. Savita’s father, Deba Madkami, was beaten when he came to his daughter’s rescue, as was his father, Ganga Madkami, and brother, Jaga Madkami. The elderly Ganga Madkami sustained a broken right hand.

The attackers proceeded to burn the houses of the Christians, destroying a roof.

“The mob also looted 10,000 rupees (US$153) from Jaga Madkami’s house and destroyed his cycle,” Pusham said.

The Christians ran to the jungle to save their lives and spent the night there. One badly injured Christian who could not run was secretly taken in by some kind villagers and kept safe.

The next morning Pusham, from nearby Kalimela village, and other Christians went in search of the Christians hiding in the forest.

“News reached our village that the villagers assaulting the Christians had actually burnt Nandi alive, and we were horrified,” Pusham told Morning Star News. “We started to send messages for help and prayer support on social media.”

Pusham and the others rescued the displaced Christians, who have now taken refuge at an undisclosed location.

That day (Feb. 27) the Christians went to a local police station to file a complaint but were refused, as officers told them to contact the main police station in Kalimela. Police did not help them obtain medical treatment as they customarily would, Pusham said.

“Anti-tetanus injections were all that the Christians were given in the name of first aid,” she said.

After the Christians filed a complaint on Wednesday (Feb. 28) at the Kalimela police station, officers took the wounded to a hospital.

Savita, Ganga Madkami and Jaga Madkami are still receiving hospital treatment. Nandi Madkam, who was threatened with being burned alive, sustained injuries on her legs and back, while Deba Madkami and Jaga Madkami have injuries on their legs, face and back. Savita has a severe wound on her head.

“The police had assured us that they would arrest the attackers, but we have not heard from them since,” said Pusham.

Christian leaders from Malkangiri approached police, resulting in a First Information Report being filed against the assailants.

Those assaulted are members of the Indian Missionary Society Church in Pulimtla village, six kilometers (less than four miles) from their home.

After the attack, the villagers are not allowing the Christians to return to their homes or enter the village.

“We had sent a known person to the Tamguda village to assess the situation there,” Pusham said. “He returned to report that the villagers are waiting to attack these families if they try to return to their homes.”

The three families had already been boycotted in their village, she said.

“They were not allowed to fetch water nor associate with the other villagers,” she said. “In September of last year, animals belonging to the Christian families were taken away and were slaughtered. But they have stood strong in their faith.”

On Friday (March 2), Christian leaders from Malkangiri area, along with the police, arranged for a peace meeting between the leaders of the attackers and the Christians. It may be possible for the Christians to return to their houses soon, but at this writing the area remains tense, and the assaulted Christians are still waiting to return home.

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Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Blog Update

Dear Reader: The blog has not been updated for the last almost one year. 

This is because of several reasons but the biggest one is the lack of time and hands. Also now there are many other agencies covering the news of Christian persecution in India now and hence we are seriously thinking whether to continue this blog and its associated group, Facebook page and twitter page.

At one point of time, this used to be one of the few places where Christian persecution news from India used to be highlighted. It might have served its purpose. We will keep you informed.

In the meanwhile, please find a report from Evangelical Fellowship of India. They have released their annual report on persecution of Christians in India. Please click on this LINK to access the report.