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Pastors Face Attacks in Madhya Pradesh, 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, 1-800-ICC (422)-5441, [email protected]

(December 18, 2006) The Washington-DC based human rights group, International Christian Concern (ICC) has just learned that two Pastors (Hatey Gundiya and Gokul Gundiya), were attacked with bamboo sticks by about 10 activists of the Hindu extremist group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) on November 30.

The two were attacked while they were waiting for a bus to Jhabua at the Khardu bus stand, a few kilometers from Jhabua.

While Hatey Gundiya received injuries in his hands and feet, Gokul Gundiya was hurt in his eyes.

This attack is indicative of a trend in which independent pastors and Christian workers in Madhya Pradesh state’s troubled Jhabua district have increasingly become the target of Hindu fundamentalist groups. In a recent interview, Madhya Pradesh State Minorities Commission member Indira Iyengar told ICC, “Whenever Hindu fundamentalist groups see independent Christian workers, they attack them.”

“After all, independent workers are easy preys, as compared to those from organized churches,” she added.

Iyengar said the police had not arrested any of the culprits. The victims had registered a police complaint under Sections 323 (for causing hurt) and 504 (for causing insult and disturbing public peace) of the Indian Penal Code.

The attack was reportedly led by Karmu Damor and Mukesh Nath, both associated with the RSS.

The RSS men abused and attacked the pastors despite the fact that they explained that although they were Christians, they were going to Jhabua merely to sell peanuts, and not to preach.

Some local people at the bus stop came to the pastors’ rescue. When the pastors boarded the bus, the RSS activists also tried to get into the bus to attack them further, but the passengers prevented them from doing so.

Another independent pastor, Anil Mehra, was attacked by RSS activists in Jhabua on December 4, 2005.

Iyengar said Jhabua has had a high presence of Hindu fundamentalists for the last several years, and their determination to make India a Hindu-only country has led to a long-standing campaign of violence against Christians.

Four Catholic nuns were raped in Jhabua in 1998, and a series of attacks on churches, Christian institutions and property of Christian residents took place in 2004.

The 2004 attacks were launched after a young girl was found raped and murdered in the Catholic Mission compound in Jhabua on January 11. The fundamentalists blamed the crime on Christians even though a non-Christian admitted to her rape and murder.

The issue of the 2004 anti-Christian violence in Jhabua was raised in the Indian Parliament. Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi, a senior member of the Congress party, informed the House that two delegations which visited Jhabua had learnt that a campaign to forcibly convert Christians to Hinduism was underway in the region. In some instances, anti-Christian slogans were shouted in the presence of, and with the tacit approval of, the then chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, Uma Bharti, belonging to the Bharatiya Janata Party, the political wing of the RSS.