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News Briefs on Recent Incidents of Persecution in India

Nine new stories from May 5 to May 14, 2007.

5/24/07 India (Compass Direct News) Jharkhand – Five extremists attacked Father George Minj and Sister Teresa Kindo from the Gara Lodhma parish near Ranchi , the capital of Jharkhand state, on May 14 as they returned home from a prayer meeting. Sister Kindo said the attackers shouted and ordered them to stop, then began beating them, continuing until they saw a vehicle approaching. The driver of the vehicle took Minj and Kindo to a nearby hospital for treatment. According to Catholic news agency UCAN, the mob beat Minj’s head so severely that his motorbike helmet was damaged, and he suffered blood clots; but he was out of danger at press time. Kindo said their assailants had no interest in their cash and a mobile phone and seemed determined to kill Minj. Police told UCAN the attack was a “serious issue” and that they had registered a case against the unidentified attackers.

Madhya Pradesh – On May 14, police arrested Kunal Pasricha, a Christian worker of the Indian Evangelical Mission, on charges of “forced conversion.” A group of about 70 people from Narayanpur village in Chhatarpur district, Madhya Pradesh, filed the complaint – allegedly at the behest of Hindu extremists – after dragging Pasricha to a police station. Pasricha had been preparing for a screening of a film on the life of Christ. He was arrested under the state anti-conversion law for “forced conversion” and creating enmity between religious communities, according to a statement from the Christian Legal Association of India (CLA). Assistant Sub-Inspector Rajaram Bansal told CLA that the police arrested Pasricha to save him from a possible mob attack. Local Christian Pritam Verma was arrested along with Pasricha. On May 15, a magistrate denied bail to Pasricha, but on May 19 both men were released on bail.

Karnataka – Police accompanied by Hindu extremists interrogated three believers – identified only as Premandam, Antony and Sudhakar – at Bethel Ministries Church , Kushal Nagar, Kodagu district, Karnataka on the afternoon of May 13. “After the police left the church, the extremists thrashed the believers, causing a number of major and minor injuries,” Dr. Sajan K. George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians, told Compass. “They also threatened to murder Pastor Titus.” The following day, two policemen identified only as Geetha and Sreenivas visited the Christian victims in the hospital and threatened to harm them if they filed a complaint. Geetha and Sreenivas then returned to Bethel Church looking for Titus; failing to find him, they threatened two believers who were praying in the church and asked them to give statements against the pastor. Denying that the officers had made threats, Circle Inspector Vasant Kumar insisted to Compass that Titus was creating a law-and-order problem in Kushal Nagar by “luring” poor people to convert to Christianity. “The local people, including several Bajrang Dal and RSS [Rashtriya Swayamsevek Sangh] cadres, complained to us several times of the conversion activities of Pastor Titus, and our officials only went to warn them to desist from their conversion activities,” Kumar told Compass.

Karnataka – On May 13 a mob of around 25 Bajrang Dal extremists attacked a service run by Pastor J.P. George of Village Mission India in Kushal Nagar, Kodagu district of Karnataka. The extremists used wooden clubs to injure believers as they walked up to the pulpit, according to Dr. Sajan K. George of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC). They then slapped the pastor, hit him with their wooden clubs and the microphone stand, and told him to stop converting people to a foreign faith. The extremists also hit other church members and destroyed the sound system and furniture. The pastor and another believer identified only as Chennaiya were badly injured in the assault. Police were hostile when the pastor tried to register a complaint and did so reluctantly only after the GCIC’s George phoned Shiva Reddy, the local sub-inspector. Pastor J.P. George had earlier been attacked on January 7 during a worship service.

Karnataka – A mob of around 30 Hindu extremists attacked Pastor Hosula Raj of Pandavapura village, Mandya district of Karnataka on May 13. “During our worship around 30 activists wearing saffron robes and carrying wooden clubs gathered outside the prayer hall and hurled abuse at the believers and Christianity,” Pastor J. Jacob, a fellow minister, told Compass. The mob then walked up the aisle to Raj, grabbed the microphone from his hand and slapped him. When he fell to the floor they kicked him in the head and abdomen and began attacking other believers who were present. Raj’s wife Geeta fainted as she saw her husband being beaten. “The mob then dragged Raj to the local police station and registered a complaint of [forced] conversion against him,” Jacob said. Circle Inspector S.T. Sibbalangappa told Compass he had charged Raj under Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code for “deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs.”

Rajasthan – On May 12, a group of about 15 people led by Gyaneshwar Chaubisa, the headman of Parsad village, in Udaipur district of Rajasthan, forcefully entered and ransacked the residential premises of Father Paul Ninama. They threatened Ninama and ordered him to leave the village immediately or they would burn him alive, according to the Catholic Diocesan Society of Udaipur. Ninama was living in a rented room as he supervised the construction of a parochial house in Chavand village, seven kilometers (4.3 miles) away from Parsad. “The mob was allegedly members of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad,” the Most Rev. Joseph Pathalil, bishop of Udaipur , told Compass. “We are law-abiding citizens, but the local extremists target our work and accuse us of forced conversions. Ninama did nothing against the law, and he has the right to live wherever he chooses. He has not indulged in any activity that is intimidating or alluring any person by force or money to Christianity.”

Kerala – Four unidentified men attacked Dr. Thomas Mathai and his wife on May 8 at Cheppampara village in Kottayam District of Kerala, the Rev. Paul Ciniraj of Salem Voice Ministries reported. Mathai is both a medical doctor and an evangelist. “At 12:15 a.m. there was a knock on my door,” Mathai told Compass. “Four men pleaded for my help with an accident victim. When I opened the door, the men barged into the house, bound my hands and feet, gagged me and thrashed me with a steel pipe.” Mathai’s wife rushed to help him and was also gagged and had her hands and feet bound. The attackers then made off with her gold jewelry, some cash and two mobile phones. After untying their bonds, the couple registered a case at the Ponkunnam police station. According to Ciniraj, robbery was not the motive; Mathai was targeted for sharing the gospel. “This is the third attack in Kerala in recent weeks,” Ciniraj added. “A few weeks ago in Idukki district, some Brethren evangelists were beaten up, and about a fortnight ago vandals attacked the Carmel Gospel Center in Kottayam district.” Police were investigating, but at press time no arrests had been made.

Orissa – A group of approximately 60 extremists attacked Pabitra Mohan Kata, an independent Christian worker, in Adigara village, Kandhamal district, Orissa state on May 6, as he returned from a visit to a Christian friend. The assailants were allegedly followers of the Hindu cleric Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati. Until 1995, Kata had supported extremist groups in the area. The attackers accused him of taking money from missionaries, converting to a foreign religion and converting others using force and allurement, according to Dr. Sajan K. George of the Global Council of Indian Christians. Kata bled profusely from his left jaw and ear during the attack, but the extremists continued to beat him until the police arrived. “They really intended to kill him,” George said. The police initially refused to register Kata’s complaint and threatened to arrest him on charges of “forced” conversion; they backed down only after local Christian leaders spoke out on his behalf. The accused remained at large at press time.

Tamil Nadu – Eight Hindu extremists broke into the house of an independent pastor, Paul Chinnaswamy, in the Hosur area of Dharmapuri district, Tamil Nadu on May 5. They hit the 51-year-old pastor in the thigh with a screwdriver, pushed his face into a wall, hit him in the ribs, insulted his wife and threatened to harm his 4-year-old daughter – before warning him not to report the incident to the police, according to Dr. Sajan K. George of the Global Council of Indian Christians. The attackers also broke into a cupboard and took 2,750 rupees (US$64), claiming that the amount was given by “foreigners” for conversion. Chinnaswamy said he had set aside the money to pay his electricity bill. During the attack, about 20 other extremists surrounded the house to prevent the couple from fleeing. Extremists had earlier beaten Chinnaswamy and vandalized his kitchen on April 22 to protest his work; his 24-year-old son later moved out of the family home, fearing for his life. “Being from a poor Dalit family, Chinnaswamy has not lodged a police complaint,” George added.