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Two Pastors Stripped, Beaten – Then Arrested
Police refuse to book attackers; victims detained for ‘forced conversion.’

11/29/07 India (Compass Direct News) – About 20 extremists in Karnataka state’s Hassan district on Sunday (November 25) stormed a worship service, dragged out two pastors and another believer, stripped them and beat them after tying them to a pole.

The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) reported that pastors C.J. Joemon and C.J. Jojo and another believer, G. Anil, were attacked while they and about 15 others worshipped at Christ Vision Church, a house church associated with the Indian Pentecostal Church, in Balupette village in the Shakleshpur area.

“At around 10 a.m., at least 20 unidentified Hindu fundamentalists forcefully entered the house church and started abusing the pastors and believers,” Dr. Sajan K. George, national president of the GCIC, told Compass. “The fundamentalists threatened the believers and chased them away.”

After burning the believers’ Bibles, the Hindu extremists stripped Joemon, Jojo and Anil, and dragged them to the village junction about 500 meters away, George said.

“The three Christians were tied to a pole and kicked and punched by the gang,” he added.

The Hindu extremists continued to abuse the Christians till about 2 p.m., when seven policemen arrived and took the three victims to the police station.

“However, instead of protecting the Christians, the police charged the pastors with ‘forced conversion,’” George said, adding that officials refused to give medical aid to the Christians until the GCIC intervened.

The two pastors were later released on bail.

Asked why the attackers were not booked, Constable Krishna Gowda of the Shakleshpur rural police station pleaded ignorance, saying the sub-inspector handling the case was not available.

The Christians refused to press charges against their attackers, saying they had forgiven them. Joemon is 22 years old, and Jojo is 25. The house church started in the area three months ago.

Persecution High in Karnataka

In a similar incident, a mob of Hindu extremists on June 8 beat Pastor Laxmi Narayan Gowda, an independent pastor and representative of the GCIC, in Hessarghatta, about 30 kilometers from Bangalore, the state capital. (See Compass Direct News, “Hindu Mob in India Beats, Strips, Parades Pastor,” June 12.)

The attackers tried to set the pastor on fire before parading him naked in the area.

George said the incidence of anti-Christian attacks was highest in Karnataka. “The GCIC has documented atrocities against Christians in the last 20 months, according to which Karnataka has the worst record in this period with 87 cases,” he said.

He added the attacks were linked to the Bharatiya Janata Party, which in coalition with the Janata Dal-Secular or JD(S) took power from the Congress Party in February 2006. The coalition government, however, could not last its term, and a state assembly election is expected soon.

Effect of Political Turmoil

The state assembly of Karnataka was dissolved yesterday (November 28), after a split in the BJP-JD(S) coalition.

The tensions between the two parties began after the JD(S) refused to allow the BJP to appoint a chief minister from their party, as promised earlier as a condition for forming the alliance.

The JD(S) refused to transfer power to the BJP after its victory in a civic election late September, after which it wanted to form the government without the BJP.

But after H.D. Kumaraswamy from the JD(S) finally stepped down from the chief minister’s office, BJP leader B.S. Yeddyurappa was sworn in as the new chief minister on November 9. A new quarrel arose between the two parties, however, and Yeddyurappa too had to resign on November 19.

In the wake of the strained relationship between the two parties, the JD(S) said that the BJP was trying to make Karnataka a “laboratory of Hindutva,” according to national daily The Hindu on October 7.

Hindutva is a Hindu nationalist ideology which claims that India is essentially a land of Hindus, where religious minorities should live in subordination to the majority community.

END

SIDEBAR

India Briefs: Recent Incidents of Persecution

Karnataka, November 29 (Compass Direct News) – Four Karnataka state police constables beat Indian Mission Society (IMS) evangelist Solomaon Nayak in Savalgi village, Bagalkot district, on November 23, according to Dr. Sajan K. George of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC). At about 12:30 p.m., as Nayak and four Christian volunteers were making arrangements for the inauguration of the Sanjeevani Rehabilitation Centre (SRC) run by the IMS, four constables posted at the Savalgi police station came to the SRC and began rudely questioning Nayak, George said. “The police accused them of setting up the SRC with the intention of alluring villagers to covert,” he said. “The police slapped Nayak and repeatedly hit the volunteers on their backs and limbs with their batons.” Laxman Narayan Gowda, GCIC regional coordinator, told Compass, “The police left after an hour of angrily questioning and abusing the Christians, and with a stern warning that the SRC would be closed down if there was even the smallest complaint from the villagers.”

Karnataka – Police arrested five Every Home Crusade evangelists for alleged conversion by allurement on November 18 at the state-run ESI hospital, Indiranagar, Bangalore, Karnataka. Dr. Sajan K. George of the Global Council of Indian Christians said that the Christians, identified only as Manjula, 48, Pal Santhosh, 27, Chandru, 24, Chandran, 38, and Prasad, 30, were praying for the recovery of hospital patients at about 8 p.m. when some patients alerted Dr. Anand P.S., the casualty medical officer. Shortly afterward a large group of Hindus interrupted the ministry and informed police. Officers seized two bags of pamphlets and many blank Bible Training Centre for Pastors forms, reported the Deccan Herald News Service on November 19. Dr. Anand registered a complaint at the local police station against the Christians for “illegally” converting patients to Christianity, the report stated. The Christians were charged with “communal disharmony” under Indian Penal Code, section 153-A, and were released on November 19, said George.

Karnataka – Hindu extremists allegedly belonging to the Bajrang Dal, youth wing of the Hindu extremist Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council) on November 18 stopped Christian worship at Praise of Righteous Ministry in Ananda Nagar, Old Hubli, Karnataka, and then beat a pastor identified only as Gokhavi and filed a false complaint of forcible conversion against him. Dr. Sajan K. George of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) said that Gokhavi was preaching when 22 to 25 extremists led by a local villager identified only as Raghavendra barged into the worship shouting the Hindu chant “Jai Haunman (Victory to Lord Hanuman),” slapped Gokahvi, grabbed the microphone from his hand and struck him on his head with it. “The extremists lifted up the Bible and tore up some pages while cursing the Christian faith,” George said, “and began punching and kicking the believers, flinging chairs at them.” They extremists also damaged musical instruments and the sound system, and piled hymn books and Bibles outside the Church and burned them, said Laxmi Narayan Gowda, regional coordinator GCIC. Injured were Rekha Gokhavi, wife of the pastor, and others identified only as 25-year-old Somu, 27-year-old Satish, 24-year-old Anand, and 26-year-old Shivanda. “Police photographed the burning of the holy books and took Gokhavi, Rekha Gokhavi and the other injured believers to the local police station, where the extremists registered a complaint of forcible conversion against Gokhavi,” Gowda told Compass. The Christians were released at 6 p.m., he said. George said that GCIC and representatives of the Pastors’ Fellowship in Hubli, will meet with the police commissioner to seek security for the area Christians.

Karnataka – Hindu extremists from the Hindu extremist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and Bajrang Dal, youth wing of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council), broke into the house church of pastor Durgappa Gangadhar’s Resurrected God’s Ministry’ on November 11 in Malai Bennur village, Adiyara Taluk in Davangere district, Karnataka. Dr. Sajan K. George of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) said that the Christians were worshiping when about 30 extremists barged into the house shouting curses and halted the service. The Hindu extremists photographed the congregation of 70 people and threatened to harm them if they continued practicing their faith. Gangadhar told Compass, “Police Inspector Brijesh Mathew of Malai Bennur police station refused to register a complaint against the extremists – instead, he shouted angrily at me, accusing me of disrupting the peace in the village.” After the GCIC intervened, however, police accepted the complaint. On November 13, the Pastors’ Committee of Davangere met with Davangere District Superintendent of Police Ravindra Prasad to inform him about the harassment.

Karnataka – Hindu extremists forcibly stopped a Christian prayer fellowship, beat a pastor and congregants and filed a false complaint of forced conversion on November 8 at Nandeshwar, Gadag district, Karnataka state. Dr. Sajan K. George of the Global Council of Indian Christians said that independent pastor Yelumalai Nayak was at the house of Dharma and Mangalavva Singh conducting his weekly prayer fellowship attended by around 15 believers when some 25 Hindu extremists led by Shankar Tavarappa stormed into the house. They repeatedly slapped and punched Nayak and the other congregants, including women, and warned them not to conduct prayer services in their house again, said George. “The extremists then went to the Mundargi Taluka Police station [Gadag district] and filed a false complaint of [forced] conversion against the pastor and the couple,” George said. Police detained the pastor and the couple and released them at 2 a.m. the next day. Mangalavva Singh was hospitalized for internal injuries at the CSI Basel Mission Hospital in Gadag-Betgeri; she was discharged on November 10, Laxmi Narayan Gowda, GCIC regional co-coordinator told Compass. “On November 11 at 10 a.m., Nayak and Dharma Singh were summoned for questioning to the Mundargi Taluka Police station and were released at 6 p.m. the same day without any charges,” said Gowda.

Chhattisgarh – Hindu extremists on November 2 disrupted a prayer and healing service of the India Church Growth Mission (ICGM) in Timnar Village, Narayanpur district, Chhattisgarh. Dr. Sajan K. George of the Global Council of Indian Christians said that about 15 extremists charged into the house church of pastor Wesley Nagaranjan, shouting curses against the Christian faith. They slapped and punched the congregants and robbed them of their wallets and watches, leaving six women and seven men with injured arms, legs and ribs. Pastor Nagaranjan told Compass he and others went to the Narayanpur police station to file a complaint, but police declined to register it. On November 4, during Sunday worship, the extremists once again disrupted the service and even slit the tires of parked bicycles outside the house, he said. “Police again refused to register any complaint, but informed us that they would request the extremists to refrain from any intimidation of the believers,” Nagaranjan told Compass.