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‘Missing’ Pastor’s Family Suspects Police Killing

7/26/07 India (International Christian Concern) – The family of a pastor from the northern state of Haryana who went missing two years ago has now begun suspecting that he may have been killed by the police, who allegedly took him to Maharashtra state for an investigation.

The pastor of a New Life Church in Gohana area of Haryana’s Sonepat district, Jung Bahadur Singh, went missing ever since a team of Haryana police took him to Mumbai, the capital of Maharashtra , in August 2005 to investigate a case in which he was the prime suspect.

Pastor Singh, who hails from Dalit hamlet Nai Basti on Thanpur Road in Gohana, was accused of kidnapping his own younger brother Manish Kumar and his uncle’s daughter Manisha Ridlal in March 2004.

However, the pastor’s wife, Mona Singh, and his brother Ashish Singh maintain that the underage boy and girl eloped, and that Pastor Singh was falsely accused by his own aunt Anita Ridlal and other villagers who disliked him due to his conversion to Christianity. The family also suspects that the police might have killed Pastor Singh in Mumbai when he was in their “unofficial custody”.

“A team of Haryana police took Singh to Mumbai to locate the missing boy and girl two years ago, as there was a rumor that he had taken the pair to that city. When the police could not find them, they returned, but without Singh, who is missing since then,” Dr. Abraham Mathai, the vice president of the Maharashtra State Minorities Commission and a leader of the All India Christian Council, told ICC.

Mathai insists that the onus to produce the priest is on the police.

Mathai and the pastor’s family met Haryana Director General of Police (DGP) R.S. Dalal on July 20 to request an independent inquiry into the case. DGP Dalal is understood to have promised to form a special committee to look into the case. The committee is likely to be headed by Additional General Director of Police John V. George.

“My husband has been facing opposition from his own family members and other villagers after he converted to Christianity from a Dalit family a few years ago. They spread rumours that he was hypnotizing people and kidnapping girls to make them Christians. This is what led to the false accusation against him after his brother eloped with the girl,” the pastor’s wife Mona Singh told ICC.

Mona Singh also filed a writ petition against the police in the state high court in November 2005, but the police claimed that they did not travel to Mumbai with Singh. The case is still pending.

“I can name and identify the policemen who came to our house and took my husband on August 16, 2005. Besides, he called me from Mumbai and told me that he was staying in a hotel with the police, and that was the last time I spoke to him,” added Mona Singh, who is left alone to look after their three daughters and a deaf-and-dumb and blind son.

Mathai agreed with her, saying that he personally confirmed that according to the records of Hotel Yatri in Mumbai’s Santa Cruz area, Haryana police checked in with Singh and spent a few days there.

However, Superintendent of Police (SP) Navdeep Singh indicated that Singh was not missing, but hiding. “Singh disappeared a few days before his bail was to be cancelled, as the court had granted him bail, saying it would be annulled if he failed to produce the missing boy and girl within a month’s time,” he told news agency Indo-Asian News Service on July 23.

The SP also claimed that religion was not an issue in Haryana, “which only witnesses caste-based conflicts”.

However, Christian agencies do report on anti-Christian violence in several parts of the state from time to time. Local Christians say although the state government is ruled by the Congress Party, Hindu extremist organizations are active in various regions in the state.

According to the latest Government Census (2001), Haryana has merely 27,185 Christians. The total population of the state is more than 21 million.