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Church Attacked In Chhattisgarh; Young Man Killed
Local Christians say Hindu extremists responsible, but police deny claim.

11/27/07 India (Compass Direct News) – A mob allegedly led by a Hindu extremist group demolished a house church and beat the pastor and believers on November 19 in Chhattisgarh state’s Bastar district. The following day, a young relative of the pastor allegedly kidnapped by the extremists was found dead in a nearby jungle.

The attack on a house church belonging to the Christ Missionary Movement took place at about 5 p.m. in Mandwa village near Jadgalpur area of Bastar. The body of 21-year-old Aayatu Kashyap, a Christian and distant relative of the church’s pastor, Suduru Kashyap, was found about 15 kilometers (nine miles) from the village.

The superintendent of police of Bastar district, G.P. Singh, confirmed the incidents but denied the claim of local Christians that Hindu extremists were behind the attack and killing.

According to the All India Christian Council (AICC), the attack was led by the Bajrang Dal, youth wing of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad or World Hindu Council, whose members came in a jeep to attack the church and Pastor Kashyap, warning him not to conduct worship services again.

The extremists vandalized the church till it came to rubble, said an AICC statement, adding that they tied up Pastor Kashyap and his associates and severely beat them. Area Christians reportedly said the extremists tried to kill the pastor by throwing a heavy stone on his head.

A local Christian, on condition of anonymity, said the mob identified 21-year-old Aayatu Kashyap as Pastor Kashyap’s relative, and therefore they killed him.

Area Christians said the extremists abducted the young man the day of the attack, murdered him, and left his body in the jungle on the outskirts of the village. They said a police report showed the death occurred that night, November 19, between 7 and 8 o’clock, and that knife wounds were evident on the body.

The AICC quoted Arun Pannalal, general secretary of the Chhattisgarh Christian Forum, as saying that when Pastor Kashyap and his associates went to the Kodenar police station to lodge a complaint, they were detained for 24 hours without food and water and later released without their complaint being registered.

The police reportedly registered the complaint after the AICC issued the statement on November 22.

Police Version

Superintendent Singh said the killing of Pastor Kashyap’s relative was a “separate incident.”

“The body was found around 15 kilometers from Mandwa village, and the deceased was drunk,” he said.

Asked about the injuries found on his body, Singh said the young man was apparently killed from a heavy stone crushing his head.

He said police had registered a separate complaint against unidentified persons for the killing under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code, which concerns murder.

The police superintendent also told Compass that those who attacked Pastor Kashyap and members of his church were local villagers who had been objecting to the pastor constructing a church hall inside his house.

Police said the 21 people arrested were local residents who did not belong to any Hindu extremist groups.

“The villagers were also angry with the pastor because he used to criticize other gods,” Singh said. The superintendent claimed the pastor received only “minor” injuries.

“There is another pastor in the area, but he was not attacked,” Singh said. “Why was only Kashyap’s church targeted?”

There are around 40 converted families in Mandwa village, he said, adding that some of them attend Pastor Kashyap’s church while others go to the church of the other pastor.

Chhattisgarh is ruled by Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, political wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the most influential Hindu extremist group and parent organization of a plethora of militant organizations in India.

The north-central state is one of the most insecure states for the Christian minority community. Chhattisgarh has a population of more than 20.8 million, out of which only 401,035 are Christian.