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News Briefs on Recent Incidents of Persecution

11/6/07 India (Compass Direct News) Jammu and Kashmir – At least four Hindu extremists attacked two Christians from the Believers Church in India (BCI) on November 4 in Jammu , the winter capital of the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir . A representative of the Christian Legal Association (CLA) told Compass that four extremists came in a vehicle, which carried the name of Shiv Sena, a Hindu nationalistic party, and beat two Christians identified only as Rinku and Santosh. The two Christians were on their way to meet a pastor in Arnia area of Jammu . A local leader of the BCI told CLA that the victims were brutally beaten, though they were not hospitalized. Although police refused to register a complaint against the attackers, they helped the Christians and the Shiv Sena extremists reach a compromise, which included a written apology by the Hindu radicals. About 6.7 million people in the Himalayan state are Muslim out of the total population of more than 10 million, while only about 3 million are Hindu, mainly concentrated in and around the Jammu city.

Karnataka – Four Hindu extremists on November 4 beat an independent pastor and filed “prostitution” charges against him near Karnataka state’s Gundelpet town. Dr. Sajan K. George, national president of the Global Council of Indian Christians, told Compass that the 50-year-old independent pastor, M. Thankaraj, received injuries on his head, right hand and chest. He was attacked at about 1 p.m. on Sunday in Hosalli Colony area while he had gone to see off a 33-year-old woman of his church, identified only as Thulasiamma, who had visited him for prayer and counseling. Thulasiamma was facing opposition from her family due to her conversion to Christianity, George said. The extremists held the pastor hostage till about 8 p.m., and then dragged him to the police station, where they filed the complaint against him for “prostitution.” Police readily registered the complaint against the pastor, but refused to file his complaint against the attackers, George added. The pastor was recovering in the Gundelpet Government Hospital , while police were investigating the allegations against him at press time.

Rajasthan – Local villagers filed a police complaint against two Christian workers for “forcibly converting” people to Christianity on October 30 in Rajasthan state’s Jhunjhunu district. Panna Lal and Dhan Raj from the Believers Church in India (BCI) were arrested by police in Udaipur Vati area and kept in police lock-up for a night. The following day, police took them to a district official who granted them bail, a representative of the Christian Legal Association (CLA) told Compass. When CLA spoke to police, an officer said the Christians were arrested “under suspicion,” as they failed to prove their identities. The Christians were arrested while they were visiting one of the families that had recently received Christ. A few families in the area had become Christian by listening to a radio program aired by the BCI. The complaint was allegedly filed by the members of the village court who were opposed to the families’ conversion to Christianity.

Gujarat – Hindu villagers attacked a Christian man and warned him against attending his church on October 28 in Gujarat state’s Navsari district. Bharat Bhai, a farmer who worships in a church run by the Friends Missionary Prayer Band ministry in Ambapani village near Vansda Block, was attacked while he was returning from his field along with his family, according to the Evangelical Fellowship of India. Later the same day, the attackers went to the church and threatened the pastor, who was not identified, saying they would kill the Christians if they came together for worship. Police refused to register the victim’s complaint. Bhai then wrote to the National Human Rights Commission for intervention. A local Christian told Compass that supporters of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had stopped the church members from casting their votes during a local civic election last December. This led to a violent clash between the BJP activists and Christians, and tension has continued since then.

New Delhi – At least 30 Hindu extremists disrupted a Christian meeting and manhandled the speaker on October 28 in New Delhi . The attack took place on the last day of the two-day meeting for local Christians organized by the Rev. Ravi Samuel of the Baptist Church , in New Delhi ’s Kalyanpuri area. According to the Evangelical Fellowship of India, the extremists intruded into the meeting when about 250 people were listening to the main speaker, the Rev. Ivan Moses, and shouted anti-Christian slogans. They began pushing and shoving Moses and other believers on the stage. Police arrived and arrested a few of the attackers. Organizers did not press charges, however, against the extremists. Anti-Christian attacks are uncommon in New Delhi .

Orissa – Around 40 Hindu extremists beat a Christian worker while he was praying for the sick in a hospital on October 27 in Orissa state’s Bhadrak district. A 28-year-old independent worker, Phiroj Lima, was distributing Christian tracts and praying for patients at the Bhadrak Government Hospital , where a group of extremists came and began beating him, said Dr. Sajan K. George of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC). The attackers then called relatives of all patients in the ward and told them that Lima was trying to “forcibly convert” the sick. Finally, the extremists phoned the police, who arrived soon and took Lima to the police station. “While the police were taking Lima to the police station, the extremists followed the police vehicle shouting anti-Christian slogans,” George said. Police released Lima three hours later, after the GCIC intervened, but tensions continued in the area at press time.

Maharashtra – Pastor Victor Periera of Abundant Life Church was beaten in Vikramgadh, Thane district, Maharashtra on October 23. Periera told Compass that at around 12:30 p.m., as a healing and prayer service was in progress, three truckloads of 450 to 500 Hindu extremists belonging to the Vanvasi Kalyan Parishad (Forest Dwellers Welfare Council) and Bajrang Dal barged into the church shouting blasphemous curses. Accompanied by some villagers upset that their Hindu tribal neighbors had begun attending the healing services every Tuesday, the extremists began thrashing the congregation of 80 people, he said. “The extremists slapped and repeatedly kicked me on the stomach, back and legs,” said Periera, who was hospitalized for treatment. “I have a fractured rib and my right heel too is fractured.” Vivian Correia, a member of the Maharashtra State Minorities Commission, told Compass that Periera registered a complaint with police and that six persons had been arrested, but she said “the situation in Vikramgadh continues to be tense.”

Orissa – Hindu extremists belonging to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council) on October 23 dragged four pastors to the Hindu temple in Mouza village, Cuttack district, Orissa state, and later filed false charges of forcible conversion against them. While the four pastors were distributing tracts and selling New Testaments, 15 to 20 extremists walked up to them, grabbed the New Testaments and tracts from their hands, cursed them and asked them their purposes for visiting, said Asit Mohanty, local co-ordinator for the Global Council of Indian Christians. After they had dragged the frightened pastors to the village temple, some extremists were guarding them while others went to arrange for a Hindu priest in order to tonsure the pastors and to “purify” them with cow’s urine, he said. “Fortunately for the pastors, the ‘purification rite’ could not take place, so the extremists took the pastors to the local police station and made false allegations of forcible conversion,” Mohanty said. Police charged the pastors with violation of the Orissa Freedom of Religion Act. The pastors, Pran Ranjan Mali , Santosh Kumar Majhi, Jayson Badra and Roshan Lima, of Jagatsingpur district, west of the Cuttack district, were released after nearly 12 hours of being detained, Mohanty said.

Andhra Pradesh – Local residents of Andhra Pradesh state’s Adilabad district forced Christians to eat meat offered to a Hindu goddess on October 21. The Hindu residents of Krishnaraopet, near Nirmal area of Adilabad district, were distributing the meat offered to goddess Durga to the local people, but pastor Bikku Lal and some of his church members refused to take it, the All India Christian Council (AICC) said in a statement. Devotees of Durga began manhandling the Christians, who later went to the Mamidala police station to file a complaint, only to have police refuse them. When the Christians returned to the area, Durga devotees further harassed them, tore the clothes of some of them and ridiculed the Christian faith. Only after the intervention of the AICC did police finally file a complaint against the attackers. But at press time reports indicated no one had been arrested.

Chhattisgarh – Hindu extremists of the Dharam Sena (Religion Army) on October 20 secretly filmed a baptism ceremony by a church and filed a police complaint against the organizers, charging them with forcible conversion in Raipur , capital of Chhattisgarh state. Dr. Sajan K. George of the Global Council of Indian Christians told Compass that the incident occurred during the six-day general convention of the Church of God , held October 16 to 21, in Raipur ’s Rajatalab area. The baptism ceremony was a part of the convention. The Christians learned about the film in the evening of the same day, when Dharam Sena extremists came with senior police officials to the convention for investigation. Police interrogated the organizers, including the pastor, Thomas Mammen, and asked them to give details of all those who were baptized. The investigation continued as tensions persisted.

Karnataka – Hindu extremists from the Bajrang Dal threatened independent pastor Vijay Kumar on October 18 in Chikkaningahalli, Hassan district, Karnataka. Hindu villagers approached five Christian families for a contribution for some temple festivities, said Kumar’s brother, Mohan Kumar. “The Christians refused to either contribute money or even participate in the Hindu festival, and this angered the Hindus,” Mohan Kumar told Compass. The local extremists groups accompanied by villagers waylaid Vijaya Kumar on his pastoral visit to the village on October 18 around 6 p.m., his brother said. “They threw Vijaya off his bicycle and caught him by the scruff of his collar, and angrily questioned him about the behavior of the Christians in the village,” he said. “The extremists accused Vijaya of forcibly converting them and warned him not to enter the village again, and they threatened to kill him if he refused to obey their orders to stay away.” Police refused to register any complaint by Pastor Kumar, but instead registered a complaint filed by villagers against the pastor for forcible conversion.

Rajasthan – A Hindu extremist who was the primary suspect in a televised attack on a pastor in Rajasthan’s capital of Jaipur earlier this year has now accused a Christian orphanage of human trafficking and prostitution. On October 15, local police came to the Father’s Children Home in Jaipur and interrogated its warden, Jacob John, said Dr. Sajan K. George of the Global Council of Indian Christians. Police told John that Veerendra Singh Rana, who is out on bail, had filed the complaint with the state home minister, Gulab Chand Kataria, charging them with flesh trade. About 30 children live in the orphanage. Rana, a leader of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council), had led a violent attack on Pastor Walter Masih before a private TV channel’s camera on April 29. “It is extremely unfortunate that the perpetrators of the horrific televised attack are roaming scot-free and targeting innocent orphans for their divisive agenda,” said George. Christians complain that the state government ruled by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party is giving a free hand to Hindu extremists to launch anti-Christian attacks.

Karnataka – Hindu extremists attacked a Christian worker on October 15 in Karnataka state’s Shimoga district. Mani Kumar of Grace Baptist House Church , in Jay Pee Nagar in Shimoga’s Sagar area, had gone to visit his friend in S.N. Nagar, who was not home. Some youths approached him and asked him to come with them to a nearby village, Itheri, to preach Christianity, said Dr. Sajan K. George of the Global Council of Indian Christians. Since Mani regularly traveled to the area to share the gospel, local villagers knew him. When they reached the village, however, the youths called extremists of the Bajrang Dal, youth wing of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council), who beat him up, accusing him of “forced conversions.” The 32-year-old Mani, who received injuries in his head, legs and arms, was rushed to a hospital for treatment. Police have registered a complaint against the attackers.