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Christians Attacked During Worship Service in Uttaranchal , India

You are free to disseminate the following news. We request that you reference ICC (International Christian Concern) and include our web address Contact Jeff King President, 301-989-1708, [email protected]

(October 11, 2006) The Washington-DC based human rights group, International Christian Concern (ICC) has just learned that a group of about 50 Hindu militants in the northern sate of Uttaranchal have attacked two Christian workers during a Sunday worship service before accusing them of “hurting religious sentiments.”

Activists of the Bajrang Dal, the youth wing of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad or World Hindu Council, attacked the victims, identified only as Salvin and Simon from the Full Gospel Pentecost church, on September 24 when they were worshipping with 20 other Christians in their rented house in the Kasipur area.

After beating the two, the mob forcibly took them to the local police station and accused them of speaking against the Hindu religion, the Rev. Madhu Chandra, a leader of the All India Christian Council (AICC), told ICC.

The police first took the injured Christians to a hospital for first aid and then charged them under Section 298 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for hurting religious sentiments. The victims and local Christians, however, denied the allegation.

Later, Sariyu Prakash, a Christian lady from a local Methodist church and the victims’ neighbor, and Rakesh Kumar, the owner of the house where the Christians were holding worship service, lodged a counter complaint against the Bajrang Dal activists. The police registered the complaint for rioting, use of criminal force, house trespass, causing hurt and criminal intimidation under Sections 148, 351, 452, 323 and 506 of the IPC.

However, following the lodging of the counter complaint, Raju Agarwal, a former legislator of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), allegedly threatened the complainants that if they did not withdrew the complaint they would face dire consequences.

Agarwal also allegedly pressured Kumar to ask the Christians to vacate his house.

Local Christians are reportedly seeking to reach a compromise with the attackers due to the pressure and threats.

A police officer, G.C. Tamta, told AICC that no one had been arrested and that the police were investigating the allegations against both parties. The local court is yet to announce the first hearing of the cases, when the compromise is likely to take place.

Condemning the “barbaric crimes” against the Christian minority community by “religious fanatics,” the AICC demanded that the culprits be punished and members of the Christian community be protected as the law requires.

There are only 27,116 Christians in Uttaranchal, where the total population is more than 8.4 million.

The BJP held its national executive meeting in Uttaranchal last month. The next state assembly elections are due early 2007, for which the BJP has started preparations. The state is presently ruled by the Congress.