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Extremists in India Accuse, Harass Orphanage Owner

by Vishal Arora

11/13/06 India (Compass Direct News) – Hindu extremists in the southern state of Karnataka who yesterday slapped a convert suffering from blood cancer today threatened to keep area converts from joining churches.

An alleged supporter of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) identified only as Nagesh today went to the house of Pastor C. Samuel John in Lakkavalli village, Chickmagalur district, and issued a threat that converts would not be allowed to join any church in the area. They accused John, the owner of a Christian orphanage, of forcibly converting Dalits.

John is a rights activist of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC).

“The ringleader [Nagesh] also threatened Lakshmi, the mother of Pastor John’s neighbor Prashant, that her son would be attacked soon because he converted to Christianity,” Dr. Sajan K. George, GCIC national president, told Compass. “This is despite the fact that Pastor John greeted Nagesh in a friendly manner.”

The BJP supporters also went to Pastor John’s house yesterday (November 12), but he had gone out to attend a Christian meeting in a nearby village.

“When Prashant’s brother, Pramod, came out to tell the extremists who were knocking at the gate that he was away, they slapped him on his face,” George said.

Pramod, who had converted to Christianity about 10 years ago, is suffering from blood cancer.

Pramod promptly telephoned Pastor John and informed him about the incident. Pastor John contacted the police station by phone, but by the time police arrived the extremists had fled.

Earlier the same day, the Hindu extremists had threatened and harassed Prashant and two residents of the orphanage, located in Rangahalli village, about six kilometers (four miles) from Lakkavalli village.

The extremists also interrogated the residents about the activities of the orphanage, which they say is a center for forcible conversions.

Anti-Christian Rally Planned

Troubles in the area started on November 8, when Pastor John heard that a complaint had been filed against him in the police station by BJP supporters. It was not clear at press time, however, if a formal complaint had been registered by the police.

“On hearing this, Pastor John requested the Lakkavalli village head to speak with the alleged complainants, about 25 BJP supporters, who alleged that he was visiting slums and villages in the area and inducing Dalits to convert to Christianity,” the GCIC’s George said.

Pastor John denied the allegation and asked the BJP supporters to produce evidence of their claim. “They were not able to bring any proof against John, yet they carried on with their allegation against and opposition to him” George said.

On Saturday (November 11), rumors surfaced in the village that Hindu extremists were planning a large procession against Pastor John.

“Though this did not happen that day, the extremists are likely to hold a rally against Christians on November 15, according to Pastor John,” George said. “The attack is also seemingly aimed at GCIC, as John is associated with the Council.”

George urged the National Commission for Minorities and the federal home ministry to provide protection to the Christians of the area. He added, however, that police and local Dalit groups are sympathetic towards the Christians in the area.

Karnataka police had on October 14 arrested eight Christian workers at a home for the destitute in Thyagarathi village, near Sagar, on charges of wrongful confinement and abduction after 500 villagers stormed the facility following false television news reports. (See Compass Direct News, “Police in India Arrest Workers at Home for Destitute,” October 17.)

After the arrest, workers at the Lourd Matha Seva Ashram home for the destitute were remanded to judicial custody by the Shimoga district court for “unlawful assembly, wrongful confinement, abduction and cheating.”

Many Christians say anti-Christian attacks and arrests have increased in Karnataka since the government of the Janata Dal-Secular party, in coalition with the BJP, took power from the Congress Party in February.