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Compass Direct (06/22/06) – Hindu extremists on Sunday (June 18) broke into Hossana church in Kosa Nala, Bhilai district of Chattisgarh state, attacking Pastor David Raj and other church members, including his wife. They also placed a rubber tire around the pastor’s neck and attempted to burn him to death.

Raj and his wife Ratna Jyoti were arrested and charged with attempted forced conversion and with promoting enmity between religious groups. The magistrate initially rejected their bail application, but today relented and released the couple on bail, according to Compass sources.

Three of their assailants were also arrested but were immediately granted bail.

Raj was preaching at about 10:30 a.m. when about 20 men entered the church in Kosa Nala, a shantytown comprised of about 500 migrant families from neighboring Andhra Pradesh. Approximately 450 of these families are Hindu, while the rest are Christian.

The intruders grabbed the pastor’s Bible and mobile phone and began beating him. The mob then placed a tire around his neck and tried to set it aflame to burn him to death.

“When they were unsuccessful, they beat him up some more and handed him over to the police,” said Arun Pannalal, general secretary of the Chattisgarh Christian Forum.

The mob also beat Raj’s wife.

On his arrival at the police station, police immediately arrested and detained Raj. His wife was arrested late that night.

On Monday (June 19), the couple appeared before a magistrate and were charged with deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings and promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion. They were also charged with attempted forced conversion.

Tricked into Accusations

Local sources said two women were tricked into signing a statement accusing Raj and his wife of offering them cash and a motorcycle if they converted to Christianity. Police told the frightened women that they were merely signing a statement admitting their presence at the church that morning.

Calling the forcible conversion accusations ridiculous, Pannalal said the pastor and his wife were extremely poor and could not afford to make such an offer to the women.

Harcharan Singh Josh, a member of a National Commission for Minorities investigative team, told reporters on Saturday (June 17) that attacks against minorities had increased sharply in both Chattisgarh and neighboring Madhya Pradesh in recent months.