BosNewsLife – Local authorities in India ‘s northern state of Punjab have beefed up security around all churches in Jalandhar district where several people were injured in clashes between Christian and Hindu activists, BosNewsLife learned Wednesday, September 28. Clashes between members of the Punjab Christian Movement (PCM) and the influential hard-line Hindu group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) broke out September 26 after Hindu activists tried to prevent a PCM demonstration, Indian news reports said.
RSS activists and their supporters demanded a halt to a PCM protest rally against the upcoming visit of RSS chief K.C. Sudershan to a local school in the area on October 2, reported the Tribune, a regional newspaper. The PCM is a political group with a few local Christians among its members. Both sides reportedly indulged in stone-pelting when members of the PCM were marching from Company Bagh towards the office of the Deputy Commissioner to submit a protest petition.
A Christian woman activist allegedly sustained a head injury, and two local leaders of the RSS received injuries on their backs and faces during the clash, said the Tribune. Apparently expecting “attacks on the churches, security had been beefed up around all churches, including those in the rural areas,” of Jalandhar district the Tribune said.
However in a development that was expected to worry Christians, the Senior Superintendent of Police, Mr. Ishwar Singh, filed criminal charges against five PCM members including its president Hamid Masih, and activists Surinder Gill, Anil Kumar, Freddy Joseph and Lal Chand, the BosNewsLife New Delhi Bureau established.
Hindu leaders have also warned they will take tough actions against Christians.
Indian news organization New Kerala quoted Chhavi Bhasker Bhardwaj, convener of the Punjab unit of the Hindu group Hindu Bajrang Dal as saying his organization “will be forced to take the extreme step of announcing an economic boycott of Christians” if “a stern action” was not taken against the Christian group by authorities.
Bajrang Dal is the youth wing of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad or World Hindu Council, which has been linked to several attacks against Christians in the past. In a statement obtained by BosNewsLife, the Catholic Church of Jalandhar district on September 27 expressed “sympathy towards all those injured in the clash between members of the RSS and the PCM.”
It said the incident was “unfortunate and uncalled for.” It comes at a time when Hindu militant violence against Christians have spread throughout India in recent months. On September 22, for instance, Hindu extremists attacked and threatened several Christians in the Jhabua district of Madhya Pradesh state, accusing them of desecrating a Hindu idol, Compass Direct news agency reported. One Christian was reportedly admitted to a hospital with serious injuries, while another was detained at the Kalyanpura police station for over 32 hours, Compass direct said.
Most of India ‘s over one billion people are Hindus, but advocacy groups say Hindu organizations are concerned over the growing number of Christian churches in the country. Hindu hardliners have accused missionaries and churches of “forced conversions”, charges especially evangelical believers strongly deny.