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India Briefs: Recent Incidents of Persecution  

ICC Note

India is said to be the world’s biggest democracy. But ironically the biggest democracy is also one of the top persecutors of Christians.

  04/29/2011 India  (CDN)-A group of Hindu extremists on April 24 disrupted the Easter celebrations of Christians at Dasturipada in Palgha, attacking them with clubs. One unidentified tribal Christian sustained a fractured bone in his hand, reported the Global Council of Indian Christians. The attack came three days after a mob disrupted a Maundy Thursday prayer service on April 21 at Devkuppada in Palghar. No arrests have been made in either incident. Following the April 21 attack, police were deployed in large numbers at Devkuppada, near Dasturipada. “Ever since a newspaper carried a report on mass conversions, tribals are being assaulted,” Abraham Mathai, vice-chairman of the Maharashtra state minorities commission, reportedly said.  The All India Catholic Union reported one of the tribal Christians as saying, “I have not stepped out of my house since the attack on Maundy Thursday. We are living in fear.”
Karnataka – Hindu extremists on April 22 stormed a Good Friday service at Muttaldinni village in Bagalkot district and ordered the congregation to convert to Hinduism. The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) reported that the demand by about 50 club-wielding Hindu extremists led to heated arguments, and that the assailants told pastors Gurappa Powar and Ashok Motilal Powar to apply Hindu symbols to their foreheads and offered them 10,000 rupees ($US223) to convert to Hinduism. The pastors declined, saying they believed only in Jesus Christ. The Hindu extremists beat them – Gurappa Powar later received hospital treatment for his injuries – tore Bibles and hymn books, and filed a false police complaint against them of forceful conversion. The GCIC reported that local police refused to help the Christians, but that eventually Sub-Inspector Shankar Rathode helped to bring calm.

Maharashtra – Police on April 21 arrested six Christians on a complaint of alleged fraudulent conversion of Hindu tribal people in Thane district. The Indian Express reported that Vincent Benedict, Alfansoi Davre, Cyger J. D’Souza, Santia Manvel D’Souza, Solomon Shinde and Hari Rama were arrested soon after scores of tribal Hindus protested in front of the Palghar police station. Santosh Laxman of Deokop village had filed a complaint accusing them of repeatedly coming to their village and preaching on the “benefits” of conversion, after which many had converted. The Christians were arrested under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, including one for “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings or any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs.” The Christians were released on bail the next day.

Kerala – Hindu extremists on April 20 verbally abused Christians and beat them for distributing New Testaments and gospel tracts in Mudakolly, Sultanbathery. The Global Council of Indian Christians reported that at about 12:30 p.m., Hindu extremists interrupted an evangelist identified only as Joseph and three other Christians as they were offering people gospel tracts. The Hindu extremists suddenly rushed the Christians, destroyed the literature, struck them and tore their clothes. The Christians did not suffer serious injuries.
Orissa – Hindu extremists in Sundergard district on April 13 held a Christian family captive, imposing a socio-economic boycott on them and other Christians for helping Christian neighbors rebuild houses burned in 2008 violence. The Global Council of Indian Christians reported that Hindu extremists laid siege to Keshav Digal’s house in Bodimunda village, and held his family captive, including four women, for one night. Announcing the boycott, the extremists said they would fine shopkeepers who sold goods to him and other Christians. Subsequently, all truck owners refused to transport goods to Christians, as the Hindu extremists had already damaged one truck Digal had leased. The GCIC reported that police did nothing to help Digal’s family even after they arrived, though Superintendent of Police Praveen Kumar said a case had been registered and was under investigation. Naveen Nayak, a local Christian leader, said that no vehicles were even allowed to bring Christians to hospitals, according to the GCIC. Another village resident, Joseph Digal, said, “When I brought housing materials in a rented tractor, the vehicle was damaged. Police filed a case only when the superintendent of police was informed about it.” At least 97 area Christian families whose houses were damaged during the 2008 violence were trying to rebuild their dwellings after the state government released initial funds for repairs.