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News Briefs on Recent Incidents of Persecution

8/17/07 India (Compass Direct News) Karnataka – Hindu extremists allegedly belonging to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council) on India ’s Independence Day (August 15) barged into a church in Karnataka, disrupting worship and forcibly taking believers to police. Dr. Sajan K. George of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) said about 20 extremists shouted insults and accusations at the 70 congregants of the Full Gospel Church , Taluka Mysore district, before marching four of them to the Nanjengode police station. Calling Christianity a foreign faith as they entered the church, the Hindu extremists walked up to the dais and slapped pastor Vinod Chacko, 32, and then punched him on the head and back, said George. They then dragged Chacko and an assistant pastor, C.T. Joseph, along with two other congregants, to the local police station and made a verbal complaint against them. Police Inspector Lakshimkant Talwar told Compass “We held a brief enquiry about the details of the complaint and have called Pastor Chacko to the police station on Saturday, August 18, to conduct an investigation and ascertain whether the charges made against the pastor are true or false.”

Karnataka – Hindu extremists allegedly belonging to the Ram Sena (Army of Lord Ram) on August 9 beat independent pastor Victor Paul and filed a complaint of forced conversion against him in Bijapur district, Karnataka. Dr. Sajan George of the Global Council of Indian Christians said Pastor Paul, 46, of Rehoboth House of Worship, and his wife Glory Shanti were distributing gospel tracts at houses in the Jala Nagar area of Bijapur district. Ashok Halleppagol, owner of a grocery store, invited the couple inside his home, he said. Pastor Paul told Compass, “As we were speaking about the tracts, a group of Ram Sena activists entered Halleppagol’s house and angrily questioned our presence there. The activists snatched the tracts from my hand, abused me and began punching and slapping me on my face and head.” They then dragged the pastor and his wife out of Halleppagol’s house and shoved them into a motorized rickshaw, took them to the local police station, and filed false charges of forcible conversion against the pastor and his wife, he said. Sub-inspector of Police Deve Singh told Compass that Pastor Paul and Shanti have been arrested and charged with hurting religious sentiments under the Indian Penal Code. The couple was released on bail on August 10.

Chhattisgarh – About 50 Hindu extremists disrupted the Sunday worship service of a church and attacked the pastor and an elder on August 5 in Chhattisgarh state. The Christian Legal Association (CLA) reported that in Baba Deep Singh Nagar in Bhilai city, Durg district, a mob led by Rajesh Thabre and Sudeep Banerjee, allegedly from the Bajrang Dal, youth wing of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, beat with sticks pastor Babula Chandra Paik of the Mid-India Christian Services ministry and church elder Adi Narayan. The crowd also shouted slogans against Christianity, accusing the pastor of forcible conversions, tearing up Bibles and vandalizing the house where the church meets. The Supela police station registered a complaint against Thabre, Banerjee and others, but no one was arrested. CLA attorneys W.P. Massey and Kanti Kumar are helping the victims.

Rajasthan – About 200 masked men on August 4 demolished a parish house under construction at Chavand, 50 kilometers (31 miles) from Udaipur in Sarada town, Rajasthan, according to the daily newspaper The Hindu. At around 2 a.m. Hindu extremists entered the mission compound and bashed down the priest’s residence, which was nearing completion with only the roof yet to be built. Joseph Pathalil, bishop of Udaipur , told Compass he suspected the attackers belonged to the Hindu extremist Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council or VHP). Father Paul Ninama was away and was unharmed, but the extremists hit and injured the two watchmen on duty, Pathalil said. “The VHP had earlier attacked Fr. Ninama and threatened him against going ahead with the construction of the building,” Pathalil said. “I suspect this to be the handiwork of the same Hindu extremist group. The extremists in this area have been opposing our social welfare work among the tribal people and also make false allegations of forced conversion.” Church authorities have filed a complaint, but at press time no arrests had been made.

Rajasthan – Five armed people beat up a worker of Emmanuel Mission International (EMI) and threatened to kill EMI founder Archbishop M.A. Thomas and his son, the Rev. Dr. Samuel Thomas, EMI president, on July 25 in Deen Ganj Mandi area in Rajasthan state’s Kota district. The attackers, two of whom were identified as Nafees and Kalu, entered the EMI head office and beat an EMI assistant identified as Jetha when he tried to stop them, EMI attorney Mohammad Akram told Compass. Before fleeing, the five, who were carrying pistols and swords, threatened that they would kill Archbishop Thomas and his son. Kalu is allegedly associated with nearby Rajendra Hotel, and Akram said the owner apparently holds a grudge against the archbishop and his son. “The attack was launched to take advantage of the ongoing opposition to the EMI by Hindu extremists, but I don’t think it was arranged by extremist forces,” Akram said. Police allegedly refused to register a complaint against the attackers. In early 2006 police arrested the younger Thomas and other EMI workers for allegedly distributing the book Haqeekat (The Truth), which supposedly denigrated the Hindu faith. This was followed by cancellation of registration of all EMI institutions and several attacks by extremists. The courts, however, temporarily restored the registration of the institutions and granted bail to the EMI leaders.