Anti-Christian Sentiments Boil Over In Capital
Two violent incidents in East Delhi mark tensions ahead of elections this year.
2/29/08 NEW DELHI (Compass Direct News) Indias national capital witnessed two incidents of anti-Christian violence this week, including an attack last night on a relief organization official by a large mob of Hindu extremists.
At about 9:30 p.m. yesterday in New Delhis Kalyanpuri area, a worker from Gospel Mission of India (GMI), which is linked to Samaritans Purse, was helping to unload a truck carrying gift packets for poor children when a crowd of the Hindu nationalists led by a female councilor from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) approached.
Around 100 people, along with BJP Councilor Satyeshwari Jyoti, alleged that GMI workers were using gifts to allure poor children to Christianity, Roshan Lal, the station house officer of the Kalyanpuri police station, told Compass.
Peter Banerjee, state coordinator of GMI, told Compass that the GMI office assistant who was distributing the gifts, Samuel Masih, managed to run away from the mob to inform him about the threatening accusations. Meantime, the crowd took the gift packets to a police station to file a complaint against GMI.
When I reached the police station, Banerjee said, some people in the mob started using the filthiest possible language against me and Christians, accusing me of indulging in conversion by allurement.
The BJPs Jyoti and members of the crowd she was leading overpowered policemen, entered the station and beat Banerjee. Jyoti slapped Banerjee twice, after which he slapped her back.
I felt sorry, Banerjee said. I should not have hit her, as a Christian.
Police, however, managed to protect Banerjee and sent him to a room on the first floor. Soon the crowd swelled to over 500, Banerjee said. Although he did not need medical attention, his arm was swollen and he said the left side of his body was in pain.
Officers did not register the complaint of conversion by allurement against the Christians. Banerjee gave a written complaint requesting protection against any future attack but did not press charges against the assailants.
He was forced to spend the night in the police station, returning home at around 10 a.m. this morning. A mob of BJP supporters today protested at the police station, demanding action against the Christians.
On Sunday (February 24), around 30 extremists suspected to be from the Bajrang Dal, youth wing of the Hindu extremist Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council), pelted the Catholic St. Sebastian Church with stones and vandalized vehicles of church members in New Delhis Dilshad Garden area.
Bajrang Dal leaders denied members of their group took part in the attack.
The assailants shouted slogans ordering the Christians to leave the country (see Compass Direct News, India Briefs, February 26).
The BJP is gearing up for legislative elections later this year, and a representative of the Christian Legal Association (CLA), which assisted GMI, told Compass that the recent attacks can be linked to the forthcoming polls.
In some areas in Delhi, said the CLA representative, especially where the crime rate is high, the BJP finds it easier to create tensions and thereby polarize voters along religious lines.
Political parties are in election mode throughout the country as state legislative elections are expected to take place this year not only in Delhi but in Karnataka, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Tripura, Jammu and Kashmir, Mizoram, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. In addition, the next general elections are due next year.
Christians fear the incidence of persecution will increase this year. Last December 5, a mob of at least 150 unidentified people damaged a Catholic church under construction in Pitampura area of the national capital. The attackers threatened to break the bones of the site foreman and laborers, and said they feared people would convert to Christianity if the church were built. (See Compass Direct News, Attack On Christianity Reaches Cosmopolitan Pockets, December 18, 2007.)
There are 130,319 Christians in Delhi, which has a population of more than 13.8 million. The Congress Party is in power.