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India: News Briefs – Recent Incidents of Persecution

1/28/08 Uttar Pradesh, India (Compass Direct News) – The Rev. Yashwant Paul was arrested on January 21 in the Ghaziabad district of Uttar Pradesh on charges of fraud in a case originally registered against him in 2004, reported the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI). Ramesh Chand accused Rev. Paul and his wife Monica Paul of offering him 20,000 rupees [US$508] and a job to convert to Christianity. Rev. Paul and his wife have vehemently denied the charges, according to the report. Rev. Paul was charged under the Indian Penal Code with cheating (Section 420) and criminal breach of trust (Section 407) and was locked up in the district jail of Ghaziabad; a magistrate rejected his initial bail plea. “This is an increasing and worrisome trend of pastors being accused by people who are goaded by Hinduvta [Hindu nationalist] extremists to register false cases against pastors of fraudulent conversions, to falsely implicate them,” a representative of EFI told Compass.

Karnataka – Hindu nationalist extremists belonging to the Bajrang Dal on January 17 attacked Baswamma Sangappa, 44, in Ullal, Mangalore Taluka, Karnataka for converting to Christianity, reported After attending a prayer meeting in a village home, Sangappa made a phone call from a public telephone booth at a local shop. “The petty shop owner, who overheard her conversation, asked her name and whether she was a Hindu,” Donald Menezes, chairman of the Mangalore unit of the Karnataka Mission Network (KMN) told Compass. “Baswamma told him that she had converted to Christianity 15 years ago. The shop owner then alerted a few people present there about her conversion, following which a group of extremists who were present beat her up.” Police arriving at the scene also hit her with their batons and took her in, Menezes said. Only after local Legislative Assembly Member U.T. Khader intervened was Sangappa released, he added. In a meeting with Superintendent of Police N. Satish Kumar, the KMN demanded that he take action against those responsible. Kumar ordered an inquiry into the incident, but at press time no arrests had been made.

Chhattisgarh – As if evangelizing or conversion were illegal in India, a group of Hindutva (Hindu nationalist) extremists on January 13 dragged a new convert returning from a Christian friend’s house to a police station and demanded that he be arrested for converting others in Kunkuri area in Chhattisgarh state’s Jashpur district. “A group of people from the Hindu Jagran Manch (Hindu Revival Front) brought Raju Soni to the police station and alleged that he was converting people in his neighborhood to Christianity,” a constable from Kunkuri police station, Jabarius Ekka, told Compass. “However, we refused to register any complaint against the convert.” Soni, who has been telling of God’s love since receiving Christ recently, was detained for a few hours, said Sudhir Teerthi, pastor of the independent Agape Gospel Mission church, where Soni worships. Soni, a jeweler, was baptized on January 1. Pastor Teerthi feared the extremists might now target him for asking his church members to tell others about Christ.

Madhya Pradesh – Police on January 11 arrested a pastor and five others on charges of luring a Hindu woman to convert to Christianity in Madhya Pradesh state’s Barwani district. Bhuri Bai filed a complaint against the pastor, identified only as Rawat, and the five believers for trying to convert her by offering monetary incentives, the Evangelical Fellowship of India said in a press statement. The six Christians deny the allegation, saying it is a ploy of Hindutva (Hindu nationalist) extremists, and they were released on bail. Besides the charge of allurement, they were arrested under Section 3 of the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act (anti-conversion law) and under Sections 147, 294, 323, and 506 of the Indian Penal Code, for rioting, obscene acts, voluntarily causing hurt, and criminal intimidation, respectively. Praveen Kumar Mathur, superintendent of police of Barwani, told Compass that tensions began when some food items of Bai’s family were burnt. She claimed that local Christians burned it, but the Christians maintain that Bai’s family set fire to their own food items to implicate them in a false case.

Chhattisgarh – Hindutva (Hindu nationalist) radicals disrupted a prayer meeting and beat five Christians on January 10 in Chhattisgarh state’s Raipur district. The attackers then filed a police complaint against three of the victims, who were arrested. The incident took place at around 9 a.m. in Gathapar area, 50 kilometers (31 miles) from the state capital of Raipur. Those injured included three pastors, Dev Singh Manikpuri, Dhananjay Manikpuri and Dilip Manikpuri, all from the English Prayer Service Society (Horeb Prarthana Seva Samithi), and two other Christians, Gopal Manikpuri and Pradeep Verma. Dr. Sajan K. George, national president of the Global Council of Indian Christians said that Dev Singh Manikpuri fell unconscious after the beating and the other four also were severely injured. The attackers threatened to further harm the Christians if they conducted future meetings. The pastors, who had been invited by non-Christian villagers to conduct the meeting attended by more than 150 local people, were arrested by the Bhakhara police station and remained in jail at press time.

Chhattisgarh – Pastor Laxman Mankhi and five believers were arrested on Jan 9 after Hindu nationalists belonging to the Hindu extremist Dharma Sena filed false complaints of “forcible conversion” against them at Jagdalpur police station, Chhattisgarh. The Rev. Ajay Abraham told Compass, that Mankhi of the Beersheba Church of God in Bade Kaneri, Bastar district, was invited to pray for healing at the house of a Hindu villager, identified only as Amru, who had been regularly attending Beersheba services for a month. As Mankhi was praying over Amru, nearly 25 extremists led by a villager named Phoolchand Patel barged into the house shouting at them in abusive language, slapped Mankhi, punched and kicked the other Christians and made false allegations of forced conversion. The extremists had them arrested under Indian Penal Code Section 295 (A) for “hurting religious sentiments,” Abraham explained. Those arrested were Shyamlal Patel, Ramlal Patel, Malik Patel, Charan Patel and Laxminath Bharti.

Haryana – A mob of around 100 people from the Hindu extremist Bajrang Dal beat seven Christians and vandalized their house church on January 1 in Haryana state’s Jind district. According to the Christian Legal Association (CLA), the extremists stormed a New Year’s worship service attended by at least 20 Christians conducted by independent pastor Ashish John. Fearing for their lives, the Christians ran away as the attackers continued to damage church property. The pastor and six preachers whose names were not disclosed were injured. The Christians did not press charges, said a representative of the CLA, but the attackers tried to file a complaint accusing Pastor John of “forced” conversions. Police did not register the complaint.