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Compass (03/21/06) – A day after a mission organization’s president was given three more days in police custody, a delegation from the All India Christian Council (AICC) today submitted a report to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh concluding that the Rajasthan state government is harassing Christians due to pressure from the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP).

Following a three-day tour of the Kota area that ended yesterday, the delegation concluded that the Rajasthan government machinery, including the justice, law and civil administration systems, was “overwhelmed by political pressure from the BJP.”

The delegation confirmed that the state minister for social wefare, Madan Dilawar, was behind attacks on Christians in Kota . Hindu extremists on March 3 offered a reward of $26,000 each for the heads of Archbishop Thomas, founder of Emmanuel Mission International (EMI), and his son, the Rev. Dr. Samuel Thomas, president of the organization.

“BJP’s members roam free offering large sums of money for the murder of Archbishop M.A. Thomas and his son, while the state machinery merrily strangulates his orphanages and schools by summarily rescinding their registrations without even giving enough time to respond to a show cause notice,” AICC Secretary General John Dayal reported.

Led by Dayal, who is also a member of the National Integration Council of the Government of India, the delegation included Sister Mary Scaria, an advocate of the Supreme Court and secretary of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Catholic Delhi Archdiocese, the Rev. Madhu Chandra, Delhi region secretary of the AICC, and two independent journalists.

The delegation met District Collector Niranjan Arya, Superintendent of Police Sanjay Agarwal, and Station House Officer of Udyog Nagar police stations Rakesh Pal. All of them assured the delegation that they would not allow orphans and patients to suffer and would prevent any further violence.

They also met with several area Christian leaders, heads of EMI orphanages and hospitals, patients and ordinary people. At EMI’s hospital, the delegation found patients had not received adequate care because of police presence and threats that if anyone were treated, staff members would be arrested and the hospital closed down.

Patients at the hospital include orphans suffering from tuberculosis and at least one child in a coma.

The delegation found that the Emmanuel orphanage was functioning properly at the time.

Christians Jailed, Hindu Freed

The fact-finding team also met with EMI President Thomas – who was arrested on Thursday (March 16) – in police custody. Thomas told the delegation that he had not been mistreated by the police but that he was worried about EMI’s orphanage and the hospital.

Thomas was arrested in Noida, Uttar Pradesh (near Delhi ) in connection with the distribution of a controversial book, Haqeekat (The Truth or Reality), which allegedly denigrates Hindu religion and deities.

Yesterday (March 20) the EMI president appeared before the court of the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate and was ordered to remain in police custody three more days, according to EMI attorney Mohammad Akram. Akram told Compass that district police had sought to keep Thomas in custody for five more days.

Also yesterday, the Rajasthan High Court denied bail to EMI administrator V.S. Thomas and EMI Bible College student Vikram Kindo, who were also arrested in connection with Haqeekat. The court, however, granted bail to R.S. Nair, chief operating officer, a Hindu.

Potential Violence

Dayal said that as soon as the BJP came to power in 2002, clandestine inquiries were launched against all EMI institutions, which were subjected to a harsh probe and financial audit by the department dealing with registration of societies and charitable organizations.

The delegation found out that the notices for the cancellation of registration of EMI societies were merely posted on the walls of the concerned institutions and not given personally to their directors.

The Registrar of Societies had given a three-day notice before revoking the registrations of EMI institutions on February 20, on the pretext of violation of procedures required by the laws related to societies.

Dayal also reported fear that violence could flare up “at any time and anywhere, beginning with Kota .” He said that the whole community felt threatened. All the district officials whom the delegation met admitted that Kota city was highly susceptible to religious tensions.

“While the EMI may be the immediate symbol and victim, the conspiracy is against the Christian faith and the followers in the state of Rajasthan, and their social work with the people and marginalized groups,” Dayal said in the report.

His report notes that Christians were targeted about 10 years ago when Hindu fundamentalists threatened to make the district of Banswara “Free of Christians by 2000 A.D.”

Dayal’s report acknowledged that Haqeekat was not in good taste. “The law must take its course against the author and translator, but is the mission and its founder in any way connected even if the book was found on their premises?” he asked. He also said that “by identical yardsticks,” many Hindu fundamentalists, including leaders of the BJP, ought to be prosecuted for hurting the feelings of Christians.

The delegation requested the prime minister to order a high-level probe into the entire matter and see that justice is done. It also demanded that the warrants against Thomas and his father be voided, and that EMI institutions have their registration restored and bank accounts unfrozen.

Christian Protests

Today hundreds of Christians joined a rally in the capital city of Jaipur to protest the atrocities against the Christian community, reported the Indo-Asian News Service. The rally, held outside the state assembly, was backed by the opposition Congress and Left parties.

They shouted slogans against Dilawar for spearheading agitation against Christians and social institutions in Kota . Addressing the rally were Member of Parliament Raj Babbar, AICC Vice Chairman Abraham Mathai, Congress Party leader Mohan Prakash, and leaders of the Communist Party of India and Communist Party of India-Marxist.

The protestors also condemned the arrest of Samuel Thomas.

Archbishop M.A. Thomas, founder of EMI and Thomas’ father, remained underground at press time. The Udyog Nagar police station on March 19 posted a notice on the wall of EMI headquarters declaring him an absconding offender.

Danis Nathalian, who translated Haqeekat into Hindi, had also been arrested and remained in judicial custody at press time. Nathalian had not appealed for bail.

The controversy has roiled the Rajasthan assembly, which witnessed uproarious scenes today. The proceedings of the assembly had to be adjourned three times as members from the BJP and the Congress engaged in heated arguments over the harassment of Christians.

Tensions in Kota began on January 25, when Archbishop Thomas and his son received anonymous death threats warning them not to hold the annual graduation ceremony for hundreds of orphans and Dalit Christian students scheduled for February 25. The ceremony was postponed in the wake of the threats and attacks.