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News Briefs on Recent Incidents of Persecution

7/24/07 India (Compass Direct News) Madhya Pradesh – A dozen masked men wielding cricket stumps and clubs entered the grounds of a Catholic religious community in Satna district, Madhya Pradesh on July 18, and six of them assaulted four men. The men belong to the Eucharistic Covenant Community in a worship center called Akasha Paravakal in Satna Town . One of the four, Emmanuel Vadakedathaparambil, said, “The assailants barged into the room as we were resting and attacked us. I’ve received eight stitches on the left side of my head.” Of the other three men, Yohannan Thadathil’s injuries included swollen arms and legs, Ajish Pullatkudiyil’s breathing has been impaired, and Xavier Pottanamuzhi suffered fractures in one leg and both hands. Satna Police Superintendent Kamal Singh Rator registered a case against the 12 unidentified people, local sources told Compass, but at press time no arrests had been made.

New Delhi – The Supreme Court of India on July 19 ordered the federal government to clarify its position on extending affirmative action benefits to Dalit converts to Christianity. In a hearing that took place after seven deferrals since August 2005, the government, which was supposed to give its view on the issue, asked for more time, saying it was now awaiting comment from the National Commission for Scheduled Castes or Dalits. The court told the government to respond within two months. An advisory panel, the National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities, on May 14 had submitted its report to the government recommending repeal of a clause in the Indian Constitution entitling only Dalits from Hinduism, Sikhism or Buddhism to governmental affirmative action. Dalits, formerly known as “untouchables,” have traditionally occupied the lowest place in the Hindu caste system. It is estimated that more than 65 percent of Christians in India are from Dalit backgrounds.

Bihar – Suspected Hindu extremists attacked Catholic priest with a sharp weapon on July 17 in his house in West Champaran district of the eastern state of Bihar . The Rev. V. Michael from Our Lady of Assumption parish of Chauri Mission, Bettiah diocese, was recovering in a hospital from serious injuries to his head and stomach, said Dr. Sajan K. George of the Global Council of Indian Christians. Rev. Michael, who underwent abdominal surgery, has lost much blood and one of his kidneys is damaged, added George. According to police, more than a dozen people entered Rev. Michael’s house while he was still asleep the morning of July 17. According to an initial inquiry, the motive for the attack was not robbery, as all valuables in the priest’s house were untouched.

Tamil Nadu – Hindu extremists demolished the house of a 51-year-old Dalit pastor, Paul Chinnaswamy, on July 16 in Dharmapuri district of the southern state of Tamil Nadu. “Extremists threw out the independent pastor and his four family members and damaged his humble house in Hosur area of Dharmapuri district,” Dr. Sajan K. George of the Global Council of Indian Christians told Compass. Chinnaswamy was attacked twice earlier this year. On May 5, eight Hindu extremists broke into his house and assaulted him with a screwdriver, besides insulting his wife and threatening to harm his 4-year-old daughter. The attackers also took away 2,750 rupees (US$64), claiming that the amount was given by foreigners for conversion. Chinnaswamy had set aside the money to pay his electricity bill. On April 22, extremists beat Chinnaswamy and vandalized his kitchen. “Chinnaswamy has not filed a police complaint even once, as he fears that he would be killed if he did so,” George added.

Maharashtra – Hindu extremists demolished the house of Christian convert Arjun Pashi, 38, on July 16 in Nursery Baugh, Vasai, Thane district, Maharashtra . Vivian Correa, a member of the state minority commission, told Compass that about a dozen Hindu extremists led by Sagar Mhambre barged into Pashi’s house armed with wooden clubs. They slapped him, repeatedly hit him on the head, “and abused him in filthy language for his Christian faith,” she told Compass. Pushing his wife to the wall as she tried to protect their meager belongings, the extremists began destroying the furniture in Pashi’s home and then demolished his small, one room house. They left after threatening Pashi, who became a Christian a year ago, with more harm if he continued in his faith, Correa said. Fear of further persecution kept Pashi from registering a complaint, but Mhambre, facing the prospect of arrest after representatives of the Maharashtra All India Christian Council visited the scene on July 21, agreed to rebuild Pashi’s house within a week.

Andhra Pradesh – Five Hindu extremists on July 16 attacked a pastor and his associate and filed a police complaint against them for “forcible” conversion in Hyderabad , capital of Andhra Pradesh state. Dr. Sajan K. George of the Global Council of Indian Christians told Compass that the assailants, apparently members of the Hindu extremist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), beat the two Christians, identified only as Pastor Isaac and Yedbez from Bethel Church , while they were returning from a believer’s house in Afzul Gunj, near Charminar area in Hyderabad . The two had gone to the believer’s house to pray for him. “Pastor Isaac managed to escape, but the extremists dragged Yedbez to the police station and lodged a complaint against him,” George said. Police arrested Yedbez, who was subsequently released on bail. The two Christians received minor internal injuries in the attack.

Madhya Pradesh – Villagers allegedly instigated by the Bajrang Dal, youth wing of the Hindu extremist Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council), disrupted the screening of a film based on the life of Jesus Christ and threatened the organizers on July 15 in Bahera village, Detalath area, Madhya Pradesh state. “About 12 villagers, who were drunk, came to the site where an independent pastor, Heeralal Khushwaha, was screening ‘Daya Sagar,’ and caused a commotion, using filthy language against the pastor and other Christians,” said Sam Mathew, local representative of the Global Council of Indian Christians. The following day, the villagers threatened a believer identified only as Ramu as he returned from Pastor Khushwaha’s house. They said they would burn down his house if he attended any Christian meetings. Pastor Khushwaha on July 18 filed a police complaint against the assailants, but police did not register it. Hindu villagers submitted a written complaint to police accusing Inspector Sri Bhonsle, a local believer, of supporting “conversion activities” in the village. “Pastor Khushwaha did not conduct the Sunday worship on July 22 out of fear,” Mathew said. Extremists had attacked three pastors in the same district on July 2.

Karnataka – A police sub-inspector in Haveri district, Karnataka state, on July 15 beat Pastor Ravi Benjamin and an evangelist identified only as 23-year-old Vijay of Spirit Filled Church of Tadas village, Shiggaon Taluk. Local Christian sources said Sub-Inspector V.K. Manjappa disrupted the Sunday worship of Pastor Benjamin’s house church, called him and the evangelist outside, shouted obscene insults at them and beat them with his baton. Taking them to the Tadas police station, he angrily questioned them about their Christian activities for about three hours, and then released them. Rev. Peter Jamkhandi, director of Christian Outreach Ministry of India, told Compass, “Manjappa told me that the Christians were only taken for questioning, and he denied any manhandling of the Christians.” On July 16, Rev. Jamkhandi and about 100 believers from Shimoga district met the Haveri deputy superintendent of police to demand either the suspension or transfer of Manjappa for harassment and intimidation of the Christians.

Madhya Pradesh – Hindu extremists allegedly belonging to the Dharma Sena (Army of Religion) thrashed three evangelists from the Christian United Prayer Band Church on July 14 in Dohania village, Dindori district, Madhya Pradesh; police then questioned the victims for nearly four hours, according to the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC). The evangelists, Hamlin Paniselvan, Joseph Alphonse and one identified only as Sanjay, were standing at a bus stop when a group of about 15 extremists accompanied by two policemen approached them. The extremists grabbed the Christians’ satchels and emptied the contents – booklets of Bible stories and gospel tracts. They “slapped the three evangelists and cursed them with filthy abuses, stating that they had been closely monitoring the movements and conversion activities of these three Christians,” said the GCIC’s Dr. Sajan K. George. “The activists also made allegations of false conversions against them.” Police then angrily questioned the Christians and issued then a stern warning not to visit Dohania village again.

Karnataka – Hindu extremists allegedly belonging to the Bajrang Dal on July 13 threatened Pastor Calvin Jeffrey Vedarathna, 34, of Holy Mountain Prayer Ministry, in Bhadravati Taluka, Shimoga district of Karnataka state. The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) reported that at 6:30 p.m., Pastor Vedarathna, along with Magabhusan Babu, was attending a small prayer and fellowship meal at the house of a believer identified only as Jayamma, 63, in Hutha colony, Bhadravathi, when her Hindu neighbor identified only as Satish and five others came to the home and threatened the pastor with “serious consequences” if he visited the Jayamma house again. Satish, a member of the extremist Bharatiya Janata Party, also falsely accused him of forcible conversions before police, said Dr. Sajan. K. George of the GCIC. Pastor Vedarathna told Compass that police arrived at the house and took the believers to New Town police station, where they were questioned for an hour and released.

Andhra Pradesh – Hindu extremists allegedly belonging to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) – accompanied by Andhra Pradesh police personnel in Kanipackam – beat 50-year-old Pastor Swaminathan Devakumar on July 5, according to the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC). The VHP extremists barged into Devakumar’s house and kicked and punched him in front of his family members, also damaging furniture and destroying Bibles. Police then charged the victim with “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings” and violating a recent state ban on non-Hindus in 12 temple towns, including the Sri Varsiddhi Vinayaka Swamy Devastanam in Kanipackam. Pastor Devakumar was treated for internal injuries for three days at Christian Medical College in Vellore . “This is the first attack and arrest of non-Hindus in implementation of the unconstitutional [ban] passed by the state government of Andhra Pradesh,” said the GCIC’s Dr. Sajan K. George. Sam Paul of the All India Christian Council (AICC) told Compass that places in which non-Hindus are banned is “neither published clearly by the government in any newspaper, nor is it available. It is deplorable that police were watching the VHP activists assault the pastor.” Mary Bayya of the AICC state district legal cell demanded an enquiry into police behavior.

Karnataka – More than 50 Hindu extremists beat members of a missionary team of Seventh Day Adventists on July 5 in the Sira area of Karnataka state’s Tumkur district. According to a report by the Global Council of Indian Christians, the team of about 10 missionaries visited Sira to provide medical and other services. The same day, a local believer identified as Narsimha had a house-warming ceremony, to which the missionaries were invited. Soon after the ceremony, the assailants stormed the house and struck the missionaries with knives, chains and wooden sticks. At least four Christians, M. Emmanuel, Leonard Anthony, P. John and Narsimha, received head, stomach and shoulder injures.