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India : News Briefs for February 1st through 9th

2/9/07 India (Compass Direct News)

Chhattisgarh – A small group of people allegedly belonging to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) on February 8 beat an evangelist of the Friends Missionary Prayer Band and forced him to the police station in Devasari village in Chhattisgarh’s Sarguja district. Anil Khakkar had gone to Devasari to conduct a meeting in a house church when a jeep full of Hindu extremists arrived; they beat him and took him away. The extremists took him to the Kusmi police station and filed a complaint against him for forcibly converting Hindus. Police said Khakkar had been remanded in custody. No complaint was filed against the extremists for attacking the evangelist. The Chhattisgarh Christian Forum today held a rally along with the local Communist Party of India-Marxist in Raipur , the state capital, to protest the increasing number of anti-Christian attacks in the state. They also submitted a memorandum to the state governor, requesting him to ensure protection of the Christian community.

Maharashtra – Unidentified people attacked three Christian workers of the Church of Nazarene and damaged their film projector and sound equipment the night of February 8 in Maharashtra state’s Nagpur city. The victims – the Rev. Ravi Shambhakar, Ramprakash Sahu and one identified only as Satpute – were attacked as they showed the “Jesus Film” in the Gulmohar area, under the Kalamna police station. Satpute was immediately rushed to the hospital, where four of his teeth were extracted due to mouth injuries. The others received minor injuries. A church leader told Compass that Hindu extremists in another area in the city had threatened the three Christians. The leader said the incident had been reported to the police, but that he was not sure if they had registered the complaint. On the contrary, he said, the extremists were threatening to lodge a counter complaint against the victims.

Assam – Hindu villagers beat and vandalized the thatched house of a Christian convert, Rahbindra Narzaree, for refusing to “reconvert” to Hinduism on February 6 in Bashbari village, under the Beshmuri police sub-station in Kokrajhar district in Assam state. The Christian Legal Association of India quoted police as saying that Narzaree had converted to Christianity after marrying a Christian woman from the Bodo tribe two years ago. The family has since faced social ostracism, and Narzaree reconverted to Hinduism under pressure from the villagers – but later declared that he remained a Christian. As a result the villagers called him to a village council meeting on February 6 and pressured him to return to Hinduism. When he refused, they denounced him and attacked the couple with sticks. To save their lives, Narzaree and his wife took refuge in the police sub-station and then moved to Narzaree’s brother’s house. The culprits have thus far evaded police.

Karnataka – RSS and Bajrang Dal Hindu extremists stopped four Christians as they returned home from a prayer meeting on February 4 and assaulted them with wooden clubs. Pastor T. Surendra and three members of his congregation, identified only as Ananda, Raghwa and Harish, were on an isolated stretch of road after meeting in a house in Uppalli Village , in Chikmangalore district of Karnataka. The Hindu extremists questioned them about their prayer and singing in the house, cursed and beat them, and forced them to a police station where they were arrested for forcible conversion. On February 6 four pastors went to the jail to secure their release, but a large number of extremists attacked them with sticks in plain view of a police officer who did nothing to stop them, sources said. Pastor Santosh George and Pastor Sunder Baby managed to escape, but Pastor V.P. Ranga and P.A. Johnson were detained. At press time, pastors Ranga, Johnson and Surendra were still in jail, as were the other three Christians originally arrested.

Haryana – On February 4, a mob of Hindu extremists and local police inspector Virendra Singh manhandled four woman Christian workers, identified only as Sarita, Geeta, Rosha and Meera, and beat two pastors, identified as Vijaya K.P. and Raj Kumar, in the Thosam area of Bhiwani district, Haryana state. According to the Christian Legal Association of India, all the victims work with Gospel for Asia . Pastor Vijaya sustained a head injury while the others received minor injuries. The extremists, allegedly from the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP or World Hindu Council) and similar organizations, launched the attack after the Christian women refused to move out of the area. The two pastors were visiting the women to give them prayer and moral support, as they had faced opposition to their work in the area for at least a year. The police had not registered a complaint against the extremists at press time.

Karnataka – A retired sub-inspector and eight other men on February 1 entered the compound of Compassionate Mission, in Belamanahallil-Kolar district of Karnataka state, locked missionary Phillip Abraham in the bathroom and took the manager of the mission, Santosh KJ (he has no surname), 25 kilometers (15 miles) away and beat him. The men tortured the manager as they interrogated him about the mission’s social ministry, leaving him semi-conscious and bleeding on the Old Madras Road in the early hours of February 2. Santosh KJ and the Rev. Alexander Tharakan filed a First Information Report (FIR) at the Vemekal police station. The sub-inspector later claimed that he was searching for his young daughter who had not returned home. He and his men barged into every room of the mission residence as women and children were sleeping, Rev. Thakaran told Compass.

Madhya Pradesh – Hindu extremists reportedly belonging to the RSS and the Bajrang Dal, youth wing of the VHP, ransacked the shop of a Christian convert, Mukesh Badehi, on February 5 in the Neelganga area of Madhya Pradesh’s Ujjain district. The Christian Legal Association of India confirmed the attack, but police told the organization that the Christian was attacked only because he had not closed his shop despite a strike called by the Bajrang Dal to protest the killing of cows, considered holy by Hindus. According to reports, the extremists, including other shopkeepers of the area, accused the Christian of killing the cows and assaulting Hindu shop owners. According to the Global Council of Indian Christians, extremist organizations plan to hold a rally against the killing on cows on February 11, which could lead to tensions.

Karnataka – Hindu extremists in the town of Bhadravathy , in Shimoga district in Karnataka, have erected a temple on a site where Church of South India leaders were planning to run a center for humanitarian work next to their church compound. Dr. Sajan K. George, national president of the Global Council of Indian Christians, said the extremists on January 6 erected an idol of a Hindu god on land beside the church compound. The land had earlier been used as a garbage dump, but the church cleaned up the area and was about to start work on the social center when extremists erected the idol. The police did not take any action against the intruders, George said, adding that Christians were concerned over growing tensions in the area. Church authorities could not be contacted to ascertain if the land belonged to the government or the church.