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Compass Direct (03/29/06) – In remanding the president of the Emmanuel Mission International (EMI) to judicial custody until April 10, a Rajasthan court today ordered the administration to keep the Rev. Dr. Samuel Thomas in a separate cell from Hindu extremist inmates allegedly plotting to assault him.

Rev. Thomas was remanded to judicial custody in the Central Jail at Kota district, Rajasthan state. EMI officials said sources had told them that members of Hindu extremist groups who were in judicial custody in connection with cases related to anti-Christian violence were plotting an attack on Thomas.

Thomas’ attorney, Mohammad Akram, told Compass that he had pleaded in court that his client be given a cell separate from these militants who were accused of violence against Christians.

“The Court of Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate, Junior Division, today sent Thomas to judicial custody in a separate cell,” Akram said.

Thomas was arrested on March 16 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. He was initially remanded to police custody for interrogation for five days.

On March 20, his remand was extended by three more days, followed by another extension for three days on March 24.

EMI officials were also told by the same sources that Hindu extremists were hatching a conspiracy to falsely implicate Thomas for illegal trade in drugs. The sources said the fresh cases could be slapped against Thomas if he were granted bail by the court.

The District Court of Kota today referred Thomas’ bail application to the Court of Additional District Judge. The bail plea, however, did not come up for hearing today due to a lawyers’ strike in the court. It will now be heard on Friday (March 31), Akram said.

The Rajasthan High Court had earlier denied bail to EMI administrator V.S. Thomas and EMI Bible College student Vikram Kindo on March 20. They were also arrested in connection with Haqeekat. The court, however, granted bail to R.S. Nair, EMI’s chief operating officer, a Hindu.

State Behind Attacks on EMI

In a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, a delegation from the All India Christian Council (AICC) had earlier concluded that the Rajasthan government machinery, including the justice, law and civil administration systems, was “overwhelmed by political pressure from the BJP [the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party]” to oppose Christians in Kota district. (See Compass Direct, “BJP Pressured Indian State to Harass Christians, Panel Finds,” March 21.)

The delegation said the state minister for social welfare, Madan Dilawar, was behind attacks on Christians in Kota . Dr. John Dayal, Secretary General of the AICC and leader of the delegation, said that as soon as the BJP came to power in 2002, clandestine inquiries were launched against all EMI institutions. A government department dealing with the registration of societies and charitable organizations subjected them to a harsh probe and financial audit.

The Registrar of Societies revoked the registrations of EMI institutions on February 20, on the pretext that they had violated procedures required by law. Also, the bank accounts of EMI institutions were frozen.

Hindu extremists on March 3 had offered a reward of $26,000 each for the heads of Thomas and his father, Archbishop M.A. Thomas, founder of EMI.

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.