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News Briefs – Recent Incidents of Persecution

3/6/07 India (Compass Direct News) Maharashtra – A mob of Hindu extremists from the Bajrang Dal on March 3 beat two Christians who were distributing tracts at the Kandivli railway station in suburban Mumbai, in Maharashtra state. Pastor Nigel Pereira of Harvest of Grace Church told Compass that Bobby D’Souza, 24, and Sandip Mohite, 21, were distributing Christian literature when a group of 55 to 60 people snatched the leaflets from their hands and began hitting and kicking them. The extremists dragged the two Christians to the Kandivli police station, beating them en route, and filed a complaint against them alleging forcible conversion and denigration of other religions. D’Souza and Mohite were later taken to Bhagwati Hospital for treatment. Abraham Mathai, vice-chairman of the state Minority Commission, told Compass that Pastor Pereira planned to file a complaint against the Bajrang Dal after receiving a medical report.

Madhya Pradesh – About 15 Hindu extremists on March 2 attacked a Christian meeting in the Patakhera area of Madhya Pradesh state’s Betul district, vandalizing and looting the facility. The Christian Legal Association (CLA) reported that the extremists stormed the meeting of the independent church led by the Rev. Avinash Kanchan and started beating the believers, 25 women and five men. They slapped Pastor Kanchan, beat him with shoes and manhandled some others, though no one received serious injury. The attackers threatened the Christians, damaged a motorcycle belonging to Pastor Kanchan and took away his mobile phone, watch and Bible. Kanchan reported the incident to the Patakhera police, but when a CLA representative spoke to the police, an officer claimed no one had filed a complaint.

Orissa – A mob of about 400 people stirred up by Hindu extremists belonging to the Bajrang Dal on February 28 ransacked a Gospel for Asia Bible school in the village of Kutabaga , in the Jharsuguda district of Orissa state, attacking students and staff members. Five persons were hospitalized from injuries in the attack, with one student in critical condition. The mob, armed with sticks, axes and swords, damaged Believers Church and cut electric wires on the campus, which includes the 240-student Believers Church Bible College and office buildings. The roofs of some buildings were damaged. Many extremists left the campus after authorities arrived, but soon another group of Hindu extremists from the Sangh Parivar, a loose association of Hindu militant groups, came and began shouting the slogans, “Hail Lord Rama,” and “Hail Lord Bajrangbali.” At press time, no arrests had been made.

Maharashtra – A Hindu mother who asked a missionary to help heal her mentally handicapped daughter has pressed charges of “forcible conversion” against him after his prayers failed to improve the child’s condition. Lakshmi Shetty, a widow, requested an independent church leader identified only as Pastor Fernandez to cure her daughter. She had begun attending Sunday worship at the pastor’s house in Badlapur, said Dr. Sajan K. George, national president of the Global Council of Indian Christians. On February 26, under pressure from others, George said, she filed a complaint against Pastor Fernandez in Badlapur, a suburb off Mumbai, for allegedly coercing her to become a Christian. “Pastor Fernandez is innocent and the charges are baseless,” George said. “The pastor now lives in fear of being arrested.”

Chhattisgarh – A mob of around 80 Hindu extremists accused a pastor of forcible conversion, manhandled him and forced him to leave his home after issuing a death threat on February 25 in Chhattisgarh state’s Rajnandgaon district. Dr. Sajan K. George, national president of the Global Council of Indian Christians, said extremists allegedly belonging to the Bajrang Dal, youth wing of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad or World Hindu Council, surrounded the house of India Mission Church Pastor T.N. Jose in Surgi village at about 7 p.m. on February 25. They asked him to move out of the village by the following day, warning that otherwise they cut him to pieces. The extremists forced him to sign a statement that he had come to the village to convert people to Christianity and that he was leaving on his own will. Fearing for his life, Pastor Jose moved to his relative’s house in a nearby town. The following day, however, the extremists kidnapped his sister, who runs a medical clinic in Surgi village, and locked her in a room. They said they would not release her until they found out where the pastor was hiding, but she was released the same evening. Local Christians have informed the police and demanded protection for the pastor and his family.

Maharashtra – A mob of Hindu extremists armed with sticks beat five Deliver Church Bible College students on February 19 in Kolshe, near Panvel in Maharashtra state. From 15 to 20 youths used the sticks and their fists to beat Elisha Amolik, 22, Suresh Sonu Masiha, 21, Mishak Kiran Samuel, 20, Bramhanand Pradhan, 22 and Kartik Ekka, 20, who were distributing tracts on the Mumbai Goa highway at Panvel. Pradhan and Ekka sustained severe head injuries, and the other students suffered internal injuries. Doctors at Nagar Palika Hospital refused to treat them without the previous filing of a police complaint, so the students received treatment at a private hospital in Panvel. The students reportedly had prior permission to distribute the literature. Abraham Mathai, vice chairman of the Maharashtra State Minority Commission, told Compass the Hindu extremist had the tacit support of the police.

Karnataka – Making accusations of “forcible conversion,” Hindu extremists beat pastors and other believers and vandalized a prayer hall on February 17 in Hiriyur area of Karnataka state’s Chitradurga district. Dr. Sajan K. George, national president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), said the attack took place at a two-day meeting in a prayer hall in Harishchandra Ghat. The attackers, allegedly belonging to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council or VHP) and its youth wing Bajrang Dal, assaulted pastor Amul Raj, two guest speakers identified only as Pastor Alanghamani and Pastor Ravi, another guest identified as Sridhar and other Christians. No one was injured in the attack, but “Pastor Raj is still receiving threats on the phone,” George said. He added that GCIC submitted a memorandum to the National Commission for Minorities on March 1 stating that at least 28 anti-Christian attacks took place in the state in 2006.