(January 30, 2006) The Washington-DC based human rights group, International Christian Concern (ICC) www.www.persecution.org has just become informed that Hindu fundamentalists have issued death threats to the director of a Christian organization in the northern state of Uttaranchal, India, accusing him of attempting to convert Hindus to Christianity under the guise of social service.
Taking the threats seriously, the Uttaranchal administration has given police protection to Mr. Ashish Massey, founder and director of a non-profit Christian organization, the North India Evangelistic Association (NIEA).
The NIEA runs a school and orphanage, Faith Community School and Childrens Home, at Dehradun, the capital city, for the neglected children of Dalit Christians, mainly from Punjab state.
On January 24, when I went to a court to sign some papers, I realized that five persons were waiting to attack me, Massey told ICC. However, since there was a police guard with me, they did not dare to do anything.
Members of a Hindu fundamentalist outfit, the Hindu Jagran Manch (Hindu Revival Forum), had issued threats to Massey on January 14 when three of his workers had gone to Tikri village in Vikas Nagar area in the suburbs of Dehradun.
At about 1:30 pm, I was informed on phone that a group of 15 extremists had caused a commotion in the village due to the presence of our three Christian workers, Massey said.
The extremists, who were allegedly led by the village pradhan (head), spread rumors that the Christians had come to the village to convert Hindus under the guise of opening a school and an orphanage.
Massey was considering buying a piece of land in the village to construct a Christian school, orphanage and worship center. Some local villagers known to Massey had invited him and his workers for lunch. However, due to prior commitments, he could not go to the village, but his workers did.
A mob had allegedly come to launch an attack on the Christians, who managed to flee from the village before the mob arrived. However, the extremists continued to make noise for about three hours to make known their opposition to the building of the school and orphanage.
Eye-witness accounts say that the village pradhan came in a vehicle that bore the name of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
I immediately informed the Sahaspur police station, under whose jurisdiction the village falls, about the tension. The police promptly assured me that they would give protection to my workers, Massey said.
When the police asked the Christians if they wanted to lodge a formal complaint, they refused to do so saying they did not want the culprits to be formally charged.
In a little while, I received another phone call from my office and I was told that the extremists had called up my manager in Dehradun and told him that they would kill me no matter what, Massey added.
Massey also said that the board members of the NIEA had decided not to go ahead with the plan to build the school and orphanage in the village.
Uttaranchal state is ruled by the Congress Party, but the BJP and Hindu fundamentalist outfits affiliated to it are active and powerful in certain pockets. Christian presence in the state is as low as 27,116. The total population of the state is more than 8.4 million.