Saturday, July 14, 2018

Christians in Rajasthan, India Harassed with False Charges, Church Leaders Say

NEW DELHI (Morning Star News) – When evangelists in India were accused of fraudulent conversion in a village at a time when they were hundreds of miles from it, they knew powers beyond their control were at play.

Pastor Kasiram Meghwal, 46, was leading his church in Choru, Rajasthan, 410 miles from the village near Khajuwala where he was accused of trying to fraudulently convert people on May 20, his attorney said.

Evangelist Sahiram Nayak, 34, lives 136 miles from Khajuwala in Sri Ganganagar and was attending his church in Rai Singh Nagar at the time, the lawyer said. A third accused Christian, 32-year-old pastor Vijender Singh, was leading Sunday service at his church in a different area of Khajuwala at the time of the alleged fraudulent conversion attempt at Hindus’ homes, according to the attorney.

The three Christians came together in the Khajuwala area on May 22 to proclaim Christ to villagers, but the First Action Report (FIR) filed by area resident Rameshwar Lal alleges that on May 20 they offered him 100,000 rupees (US$1,450) and 50,000 rupees (US$730) to another area Hindu to convert, attorney Subodh Mathews told Morning Star News.

Having obtained bail for a previous false charge, the three Christians were devastated to be jailed again on May 24 under a statute against “outraging religious feelings.” Their plea for bail was denied.

“We wept before the Lord, but we never abandoned our faith,” Pastor Singh told Morning Star News. “We met many people inside the prison, including a few people who told us that they were in the habit of committing murders for money, and that they related to some extremist religious groups as well. They told us that they would have gladly killed us, had they seen us outside.”

Undaunted, the Christians told the convicts about Christ and held a Sunday worship service inside the prison on May 27, he said.

“We got the opportunity to share inside the jail to murderers,” he said.

With much difficulty they were able to obtain bail on May 29 and were released.

Entrapped

On May 22 they distributed Christian literature and New Testaments among families of village 16 BD and then went to the home of Kaku Singh in village 14 BD, near Khajuwala in Bikaner District, Rajasthan, Pastor Singh told Morning Star News. After inviting them in, Kaku Singh told them that his wife was suffering from cancer, he said.

“We shared the gospel with him and prayed for his wife and decided to leave,” but Kaku Singh insisted on offering them tea, Pastor Singh said. While the three evangelists were waiting, Rameshwar Lal called them out of the house on the pretext of asking questions about the literature they had given him earlier, the pastor said.

When they stepped out of the house, a man named Darshan Singh suddenly attacked them, he said.

“He caught me from my collar, slapped me and pushed me down,” Pastor Singh said. “He started to verbally abuse us using filthy language. They punched Sahiram too.”

Soon a mob of about 80 people surrounded them, carrying wooden sticks with intent to attack the Christians, he said.

Though Kaku Singh would file the first case against them, he objected to the mob dragging the three Christians towards the main road with the intention of killing them, the pastor said. He said that as the mob shouted, “We will kill you today,” Kaku Singh called police to keep them from being killed.

Police soon arrived and took the Christians into protective custody, or otherwise they would have been killed, Pastor Singh said. The three Christians were arrested under Section 151 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, “Arrest to prevent the commission of cognizable offenses.”

A police officer told the Christians that he immediately rushed to the site because he was aware of how Christians are being targeted in India, the pastor said.

Surrounding the police van carrying the three evangelists, the mob demanded that they be handed over to them or they would set fire to the police van, he said.

“The atmosphere got very tensed,” Pastor Singh said. “It was dangerous.”

Police managed to bring the Christians to the Khajuwala police station for questioning. Officers treated them with respect and consideration, the pastor said.

“While we were there, the sitting Member of Legislative Assembly [MLA], Dr. Vishwanath Meghwal, who belongs to the BJP [Hindu extremist Bharatiya Janata Party], kept calling the police inspector and kept pressuring him to question us thoroughly,” Pastor Singh said. “The policeman, exasperated by the frequent calls of the MLA, finally asked him to come to the police station and satisfy himself by interrogating us.”

Kaku Singh accused the three Christians, all members of the Brethren Assembly, of trying to lure him and Lal to convert to Christianity.

The next day, May 23, after the Christians had secured bail and were walking out of the police station, they were arrested again, this time based on a separate complaint dated May 20 and submitted by Lal, who had called the Christians out of Kaku Singh’s home. His FIR alleges that the Christians offered him 100,000 rupees (US$1,450) and 50,000 rupees (US$730) to Kaku Singh, and they were re-arrested under Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code for alleged “Deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion.” 

Since being bailed out, two court hearings have passed, one on June 5 and another on June 30, though no formal charges have been filed. Church leaders believe the accusations are rooted only in the desire to harass the Christians.

T.J. Joseph, senior leader of the Brethren Mission, said legal proceedings could harass the evangelists for years.

“Though they have been bailed out, they have to travel long distances for every court date of theirs,” Joseph told Morning Star News.

The hostile tone of the National Democratic Alliance government, led by the Hindu nationalist BJP, 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. 

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‘Total impunity’ in India, as Muslims and Christians ‘bear brunt of ruling ideology’

Frequent reports of violent attacks against India’s religious minorities show the “total impunity” enjoyed by their Hindu nationalist attackers, says one civil rights activist.

In one recent attack, a pastor, his wife and their congregation were attacked at their ‘house church’ in India’s southern Tamil Nadu state on Sunday (8 July), advocacy group CSW reported.

Paul Stephen was hit with a heavy stone, leaving him with severe injuries. He had reportedly received several threats during the past year. His wife, Prathiba Stephen, was also assaulted, including an attempted rape, CSW said, while other members of their family were also assaulted.

The pastor had previously reported incidents of violence and harassment against his church in Paguthampalayam village, with the local government being forced to step in to settle a conflict reportedly instigated by the head of a local Hindu extremist group, Hindu Munnani (Hindu Front).

Following the attack, four people were arrested who in turn filed a complaint against the pastor and his family, accusing them of assault.

“It is not uncommon for the victims of religiously motivated violence to find their cases undermined by counter-accusations by their attackers,” CSW said.

“We urge the authorities to ensure that the perpetrators are held to account,” said CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas. “The cycle of impunity around cases such as this must be broken to ensure that Indian citizens of all religions can exercise their right to practise their religion or belief without fear.”

Nehemiah Christie, Director of Legislation & Regulations of the Synod of Pentecostal Churches in Tamil Nadu, condemned the “inaction” of local authorities. “We hope that the authorities will now take seriously the concerns raised by civil society in both Tamil Nadu and wider Indian society,” he said.

In another incident reported by CSW, Christians from Pratapgarh district in Uttar Pradesh state were attacked on 2 July by an armed Hindu mob, who broke into the church grounds shouting anti-Christian slogans.

They disrupted the prayer meeting with a gunshot into the air and attacked those inside the church, including women and children, CSW said. Eight people were reportedly wounded and taken to a local health centre.

Church furniture, equipment, motorbikes and literature were also reportedly damaged.

The attack has been attributed to Hindu Yuva Vahini, a group that has the support of the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, according to civil rights activist John Dayal.

“Impunity is total in the state, where Muslims and Christians bear the brunt of the ruling ideology,” he said. “It needs to be remembered that Uttar Pradesh does not have an ‘anti-conversion law’, and yet even the police and judiciary presume that evangelical activity and even prayer groups are illegal or a criminal activity.”

Earlier this week, World Watch Monitor reported the detention of 16 more Christians in Jharkhand state, which became the seventh state to pass a so-called “anti-conversion law” last year. As World Watch Monitor has reported, although ostensibly aimed at preventing “forced conversions”, in reality such laws are often used to prevent all conversions – whether by force or through free choice – and especially conversions away from Hinduism to minority religions such as Christianity.

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In Chhattisgarh, tribal leaders ask, ‘How can this be about conversion?’

Jharkhand, there have been signs of a growing Pathalgadi presence. In April this year, at least three villages in Jashpur district of the state held Pathalgadi programmes, which drew a sharp response from the BJP. Led by Prabal Singh Judeo, the son of the late BJP leader Dilip Singh Judeo, state leaders, who were quick to see a “Church hand”, held a “Sadbhavna rally” in Jashpur, where a stone plaque put up by Pathalgadi supporters was brought down.

With tempers flaring, villagers clashed with the police and the administration, and were accused of holding officials hostage for a few hours. The government arrested eight people, including former IAS officer Herman Kindo and a former ONGC employee, Joseph Tigga, on May 1. Ever since, even Chief Minister Raman Singh has given several statements saying Pathalgadi was a covert attempt at conversion.

Tribal leaders in Chhattisgarh, however, dismiss this notion and say such statements reveal the lack of understanding of tribal identity. “How can this be about conversion? If somebody wants to convert to another religion, they will do it quietly; not create a ruckus so it gets found out like this. It makes no sense. This response is driven by politics,” says Arvind Netam, a tribal and former Union minister in the 70s who rejoined the Congress last month.

Netam believes there is only one reason the tribal community would feel the need to assert their Constitutional rights. “That reason is apathy. Over the last so many years, tribals have been watching as the rights given to them under our laws and the Constitution have been completely reneged on. Land is taken away without gram sabha consent, and when there is consent, it is manufactured consent, without any following of laws like the Forest Rights Act. There are issues with land titles, and there is virtually no implementation of the provisions of the Fifth and Sixth Schedule of the Constitution and the PESA Act, 1996. In such circumstances, tribals have chosen to remind the government of their rights by writing these down on a stone in their village. That is a crime for you?” says Netam.

He adds that the government’s reaction to the movement, both in Chhattisgarh and in Jharkhand stems from an othering of the tribal community. “They have stopped understanding who a tribal is, how close they are to their forests, their land and their customs. This is why the Constitution under PESA guarantees self-government and a recognition of traditional rights. The government has forgotten this,” says Netam.

In Chhattisgarh, the largest statewide Adivasi organisation, the Sarv Adivasi Samaj, has said it would replicate the Pathalgadi process in places other that in Northern Chhattisgarh. The president of the Sarv Adivasi Samaj, BPS Netam, also a retired IAS officer, says the government had failed to assuage the “constitutional needs of tribals.”

However, in meetings that the Samaj has held in Chhattisgarh with other social organisations and individuals, and even the government, a note of caution has emerged. “In their eagerness, on some stones, things that are unconstitutional have been written — such as, that no outsiders can enter villages. Or that the IPC or CRPC doesn’t apply. These are dangerous on two counts. One, it gives the government the chance to say that we are being unconstitutional. And second, villagers will begin to believe this. The Constitution is our strength,” says BPS Netam.

The controversy has drawn a limited response from the Chhattisgarh government. On June 11 and 12, they held a two-day “special gram sabha” across the state on the implementation of the PESA Act. The principal Opposition in the state, the Congress, has kept a nervous distance on the issue, not wanting to be drawn into a debate that helps in polarisation. Leaders have said that while they back tribal rights, they would not support anything “outside the ambit of the Constitution”.

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Friday, July 13, 2018

16 Christians detained under Jharkhand’s ‘anti-conversion law’

A group of 16 Indian tribal Christians who visited another tribal family in the eastern state of Jharkhand to talk to them about Christianity are in police custody after the local village head accused them of “conversion by inducement”.

Last year, Jharkhand became the seventh Indian state to introduce a so-called “anti-conversion law”. Although ostensibly aimed at preventing “forced conversions”, in reality such laws are often used to prevent all conversions – whether by force or through free choice – and especially conversions away from Hinduism to minority religions such as Christianity.

Two months ago, 15 Christians were arrested under the same law.

In his complaint to police, Ramesh Murmu, the village president of Phulpahari, in Dumka District, alleged that 25 unknown people entered the village in the late evening on 5 July, installed a microphone and began proselytising the tribal villagers.

A group of 25 Christian youths, volunteers from the Friends Missionary Prayer Band (FMPB), who are all also Adivasi (Sanskrit for “aboriginals”) tribals from different parts of eastern India, were on a mission to preach in the tribal hamlets.

They visited Biti Soren’s family in Phulpahari.

“We are the only Christian family here, and the FMPB group prayed for us and sang a couple of hymns, before the supporters of the village president opposed this prayer service,” Soren, who has now fled her village, told World Watch Monitor.

“[The villagers] threatened that there should not be any Christian teachings in the village,” she said, adding: “They were saying [the group’s] vehicles should be set on fire so nobody could move from here.”
‘Your religion is bad’

The first complaint submitted by the village president to police, the morning after the group’s visit, said villagers had stopped the Christians from preaching against their gods and idol worship, and had held them all hostage all night. That morning, the police took the 25 youths into custody.


“My husband only went to the police station to give a statement that we had invited the FMPB brethren to our house and that there was no attempt to forcefully convert anybody, but he too was taken into custody,” Soren told World Watch Monitor.

“I am now afraid to go back to the village, with my infant, in my husband’s absence. They instigated the villagers against Christianity. I am too scared. They tried to put me also in jail.”

“The tribals in Jharkhand are either Sarna [religion of the indigenous people] or Hindu, and the 25 Christians who entered the village were putting the tribes under pressure to convert,” Inspector Manoj Kumar of Shikaripara police station, 70km south of Phulpahari, told World Watch Monitor.

Asked what kind of pressure, Inspector Kumar said: “Firstly, they are 25 in number and entered the village at night. They belong to different parts of the country; one is from Bengal and another from elsewhere. They came to this tribal hamlet and started inducing the illiterate, innocent tribals to convert.

“They told the villagers: ‘Your religion is bad’, and that ‘Satan lives in your worship places’, and said that ‘only conversion to Christianity will do you good’. And when the villagers answered that they are happy with their own religion, then the Christians have tried a variety of ways to lure them. They were luring the villagers by telling them the advantages that conversion to Christianity can fetch.

“When the villagers told the Christians that nobody can enter our village without the president’s permission, they said that they have permission from a superior authority, far above the village president. That was the reason why they were confined that night – the villagers said: ‘Call the authority who sent you here; we will let you go if you call that person.’ And waited until it was morning and then complained to the police station.”

Asked why the Christians were held hostage by villagers, Inspector Kumar countered: “Then why had they [Christians] gone there? They were not brought from anywhere and held hostage; the Christians have themselves gone to the village, and if an unknown person enters their area and starts speaking against their faith, what else would they do?”

FMPB coordinators said: “The whole day and night of Friday, 6 July, the police kept the Christians, including the minors – against whom there was no FIR [police report], in their custody.”

Inspector Kumar told World Watch Monitor: “An FIR has been registered against 16 of the 25. The remaining seven are minors and women, and so we handed them to their families. The 16 were presented before the court and were sent to judicial custody, in Dumka Central Jail, yesterday [7 July].”

The village head’s later complaint, attached to the FIR, accused the Christians of conversions by inducement. Jharkhand’s new law, contrary to what many believe, does not criminalise conversion from one belief (including Hinduism and Sarna) to another, but does forbid inducement or allurement.

“The changes in the narrative are of serious concern. It is sad that it appears the complaint has been modified in a way to frame the Christians under the anti-conversion act,” FMPB field missionary Ramesh Velraj told World Watch Monitor.

“The missionaries are well trained, and there is no chance they would utter a word against other religions or even mention Satan. They take this job of sharing [the] gospel as their calling, and have already been to 20 other villages in the state [before visiting Phulpahari] and have been witnessing souls coming to Christ.”

Inspector Kumar alleged: “Today, 90 per cent of tribals here practise Christianity; please come and do a study of how is this happening? The Christians employ various tricks to evangelise the poor, illiterate tribals,”

Soren told World Watch Monitor: “The prayer was at our house and neighbours and relatives also gathered, so this annoyed the village president and his supporters.”
‘Vital role’

On 7 July, the day after the police arrests, members of the Hindu nationalist group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) held an event in the village to celebrate the court’s order that sent the 16 Christians to jail. The village president was garlanded and appreciated by key BJP and RSS leaders who attended.

Local Christians say that Jharkhand’s BJP government authorities combine together with indigenous Sarna advocates against Christian missionary work amongst the poor, rural, illiterate Adivasis. One local Christian priest, who wished to remain anonymous, told World Watch Monitor: “The Christian missionaries have played a vital role in bringing education to the Adivasis. They have reached even the remotest parts of Jharkhand, started good schools and propagated the love of God through various activities.”

So far, 31 Christians have been charged under section 4 of Jharkhand’s anti-conversion act, officially titled the Freedom of Religion Act, since it came into force in February.

The law passed by the state legislature punishes a person guilty of forcible conversions of a minor, woman or a person belonging to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (members of India’s lowest caste) by imprisonment of four years and a fine up to 100,000 rupees (US$1,500). It prescribes prior permission from the district collector to convert to another faith. Local Catholic leaders, such as Prabhaakr Tirkey, said at the time that Hindu nationalists misinterpret Christian missionary services of healthcare and education as “allurement” and fraudulent means for conversions.

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20 Indian Christians hurt in attack on prayer meeting in Uttar Pradesh

Twenty Christians have been injured in an assault on a prayer meeting in India's Uttar Pradesh state, according to International Christian Concern.

Local reports say 35 Hindu radicals stormed a prayer meeting in Raikashipur village as more than 150 Christians met for prayer.

The attack took place on July 2, according to ICC, when the mob arrived at the prayer meeting in several vehicles and beat the participants with sticks. They also fired a gun into the air.

As well as injuring people they destroyed furniture and musical instruments.

Ram Kumar Gautam (42) has led the village prayer meetings in a makeshift shed for the last five years and told ICC that on average around 300 people participate.

'I didn't sleep or eat properly for nearly a week now,' he said. 'The attack on our prayer meeting last Monday has had devastating consequences. Many have serious injuries with their limbs being broken. Also, a false case was booked against six of us under stringent IPC [Indian Penal Code] sections.'

The charges relate to riot and assault, and to 'Deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings or any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs.'

Gautam said: 'We peacefully conduct prayers every Monday and people voluntarily attend these prayers. We don't even talk about conversions, but I am accused of converting people. People come to our prayer and get healing. That's why people choose to regularly attend the prayers.'

William Stark, ICC's regional manager, said: 'Article 25 of India's constitution says that every individual has the right to freely profess, practise and propagate the religion of their choice. For more than 150 Christians, this right was violated last Monday when Hindu radicals assaulted them for merely practising their faith.

'India's authorities must bring these 35 Hindu radicals in Raikashipur to justice. Until then, India's religious freedom rights will remain only words on paper and attacks on Christians and other religious minorities will continue to rise in both number and severity.'

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Saturday, July 07, 2018

Christians played no role in India's freedom struggle: BJP MP Gopal Shetty

A Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP from Mumbai North Gopal Shetty has stoked a controversy recently stating Christians did not contribute to the freedom struggle and also called them 'angrez' (foreigners).

The BJP MP also claimed that it was only the Hindus and the Muslims who played a role in India's freedom struggle.

"Christians were British, hence they didn't participate in India's freedom struggle. India was not freed by Hindus or Muslims, we fought as one for our independence," he can be heard as saying in the video.

Shetty made the controversial remark while addressing a gathering during the Eid-e-Milad organized by the Shia Kabrastan Committee at Malad's Malvani here on Sunday. 

When asked about the controversial remark he said that his statement has been misinterpreted. But has offered his resignation to the state party president Raosaheb Patil Danve. 

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Sunday, June 24, 2018

Pastor in India Arrested while Securing Affidavits on Converts’ Faith

NEW DELHI (Morning Star News) – A pastor in Uttar Pradesh state, India was filing affidavits stating that 16 people had become Christians of their own will this week when Hindu extremists came and accused him of forcible conversion – resulting in his incarceration.

Pastor Maleywar

After manhandling and jailing 58-year-old Dependra Prakash Maleywar on Monday (June 18) at the Sardhana lower court premises near Meerut, the Hindu extremists have since gone to the 16 new Christians’ homes and threatened to expel them if they do not recant their faith, sources said.

Members of the Hindu extremist Bajrang Dal surrounded Maleywar while the Church of North India (CNI) pastor and a lawyer were securing notarizations of affidavits for baptisms signifying the faith in Christ of 16 people, sources said.

Someone on the court premises had informed the extremists about the affidavits, sources said, and at about 1 p.m. a few members of the Bajrang Dal, youth wing of the Hindu extremist Vishwa Hindu Parishad, approached and questioned Pastor Maleywar about the affidavits as they man-handled him.

Checking the pastor’s bag and grabbing the affidavits, they accused him of forcible and fraudulent conversion, the sources said.

Officers at the adjacent Sardana police station noticed the commotion, took Pastor Maleywar into custody and transferred him to the Abdullapur jail near Meerut, 14 miles away, the sources said.

“They confiscated my father’s cell phone and all the affidavits – he could not even contact us,” the  pastor’s 30-year-old son, Rohin Maleywar, told Morning Star News.

The affidavits are not legally required in Uttar Pradesh, but church leaders request them to avoid controversies and the very kind of accusations that occurred, said the Rev. Prem Prakash Habil, CNI bishop of the Diocese of Agra that encompasses the two churches the 16 people belong to. Two of the Christians belong to the church Pastor Maleywar leads, St. Thomas Church in Mulhera, and 14 belonging to Epiphany Church in Khatauli.

The affidavits are self-declarations that the signees willingly choose to follow Christ, want to get baptized and are not coerced or offered inducements.

“We always follow this procedure; they have to submit a hand-written application in their own writing, verification papers and an affidavit if they want to become a member of the church and receive baptism,” Habil told Morning Star News.

Usually, however, the candidates for baptism file the affidavits themselves, he said.

“The way my evangelist was working was not the right way – it was [supposed to be] the work of the individuals who believed to get their own paperwork done and then submit it to their respective churches,” he said.

Pastor Maleywar had gone to get the affidavits notarized in Mulhera, where his church is located, but he was unable and so went to the lower court Sardhana, fewer than seven miles away, sources said.

All 16 baptisms were still set to take place, sources said.

Pastor Maleywar has been leading the CNI’s St. Thomas Church for five years and working as an evangelist with CNI for 17 years.

Intimidation

The families of the 16 Christians have become the targets of both the Hindu extremists and local media.

“The members of the Bajarang Dal went door-to-door and met all the 16 families and spoke to them,” said Pastor Maleywar’s daughter, Ritika Maleywar.

Pastor Nirmal Jacob of the Ephiphany Church said that Bajarang Dal members are exerting severe pressure on all the families.

“The head of the village, along with Bajarang Dal members, went to the homes of these believers and threatened them with dire consequences,” Pastor Jacob said. “They said that they would be boycotted from the village, asked to leave, their educational certificates would be confiscated and their entitlement to government benefits would be withdrawn if they profess their faith in Jesus Christ.”

He said local and national television media visited him in Khatauli on Wednesday (June 20), along with local police, and interviewed him and many families from his church.

“People testified to the media how prayer and attending church has healed them from fatal diseases such as cancer and tuberculosis,” Pastor Jacob said. ‘One family boldly shared how they did not have a child after 12 years of their marriage, and after they got themselves prayed for and started to regularly attend church, they have two children now.”

The pastor was deeply troubled, however, when none of their testimonies were broadcast, and editing changed the meaning of the interviews entirely as they were shown saying only that they were once Hindus, he said.

He is receiving threatening calls, and friends have been warning him that he could be attacked at any time.

“I do not know where to find help in a situation like this,” Pastor Jacob said. “The police, media and judiciary are biased; I do not feel safe any longer.”

The pastor, 39, has been ministering with the CNI synod for 14 years.

Alwan Masih, general secretary of the CNI synod, said the churches will go forward.

“As citizens of our country, we have rights and we will execute our rights, but at places people have suffered for their faith,” he told Morning Star News.

Bail Rejected

At this writing Pastor Maleywar remained in the Abdullapur jail under Section 151 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, “Arrest to prevent the commission of cognizable offense,” after the Sub-Divisional Magistrate rejected his bail petition on Wednesday (June 20), sources said.

He has also been charged with causing voluntary hurt under Section 323 of the Indian Penal Code and Section 504 of the IPC, “Intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace.”

“Local politicians created a ruckus in the courtroom,” his attorney, Reena Luka, told Morning Star News. “The judge said if he granted Maleywar bail, the peace of the area would be compromised.”

Luka said that the judge told them to wait a few days until tensions cooled.

“We are hopeful that we will be able to procure the bail on Monday (June 25),” she added.

The hostile tone of the National Democratic Alliance government, led by the Hindu nationalist BJP, 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.

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Monday, April 23, 2018

BJP's Ballia MP calls Christian missionaries 'threat to country's unity'

Claiming that Christian missionaries are a threat to the unity and integrity of the country, BJP MP Bharat Singh has accused the Congress party of working on their directives.

"Christian missionaries control the Congress. Sonia Gandhi, the mother of Congress president Rahul Gandhi works on the directions of these missionaries. These missionaries are
a threat for the unity of the country," Singh said while talking to reporters on Saturday.

Singh also alleged that the democracy in the northeastern states of the country has "weakened" due to "conversion of people there into Christianity."  "The North-East is under the influence of Christian missionaries. Democracy has weakened due to the conversion of people into Christianity there. The conspiracies hatched by these missionaries are a threat for the country," he added.

The Ballia MP, incidentally, had also alleged recently that the Christian missionaries were behind the vandalisation of the statues of the Dalit icon and key architect of the Indian Constitution,  Bhim Rao Ambedkar.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Christian prayer homes attacked in Madurai

Madurai: Radical Hindu activists alleged attacked prayer homes of Pentecostal Christians at two places in Madurai, Tamil Nadu.

Police quoted Pastor Ravi Jacob, who lodged a complaint, that Hindu Munnani (front) activists on March 11 burnt some pamphlets and copies of the Bible and abused pastors and the faithful at Koodal Nagar and Sikandar Chavadi areas.

Jacob alleged that 10 people came to his house that day, took away copies of the Bible and damaged them.

A clip of the group reportedly threatening the people has gone viral.

A case was registered two days later against 10 Hindu activists, including three who were identified.

The Police said some activists, during initial questioning, denied that they had attacked the homes and had only staged protests against people being allegedly lured for conversion.

The activists said the complaint was a ploy so that some organizations could continue their “illegal conversions.”

Police said they had received complaints from the public that some prayer homes were being running illegally, demanding that these be closed.

Meanwhile, the Tamil Nadu Latin Bishops’ Council had condemned the attacks and said it was an effort to “chase away” Christians who had a fundamental right to worship.

This was not a law and order problem, but denial of right to worship and destruction of secularism, the Constitution and democracy, Council president Bishop Anthony Pappusamy said in a statement.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2018

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.

Still from video of Venkatesh, shouting abuse at Pastor Jagatheesan

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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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
2006.

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.

Click here for source

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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