India Briefs: Recent Incidents of Persecution
Christians in India continue to face persecution at the hands of Hindu radicals. The Indian police, instead of protecting the persecuted, sides with the persecutors.
02/29/2012 India (CDN)-State police on Feb. 21 arrested a Christian after Hindu extremists from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) accused him of forceful conversion and beat him in Thuvakudi, Trichy district. The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) reported that the Hindu extremists made the accusation against Sahayam Chidambaran after arguing with his brother, pastor John Chidambaran. The pastor’s neighbor had demanded part of his church land, and after a quarrel had broken a water pipeline. When the pastor filed a police complaint, the neighbor brought about 10 extremists from the RSS to attack the pastor and falsely accuse him of fraudulent and forced conversion. They also beat his daughter, Mercy, who had to be rushed to the hospital for treatment, reported the GCIC. Police assured the pastor that they would amicably settle the matter and also took a statement from him, but the neighbor along with an RSS leader identified only as Mahendra subsequently attacked the pastor’s brother and raised the same false accusation to get him arrested and jailed. Sajan K. George, president of the GCIC, told Compass today that the Christian remained in jail at press time and that he and his team was working for his release. “We are expecting that he will be out from the prison in two days time,” he said on Tuesday (Feb. 28).
Kerala – Hindu extremists in Kanhagad, Kasargod, on Feb. 21 verbally abused a pastor and his children and damaged his car because of his faith in Christ. The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) reported that Hindu extremists barged into the house of a convert from Hinduism who had invited pastor Titus Ignatius Kapan and his family for dinner. The invading extremists tackled the pastor and his children, and then began dropping huge boulders and stones on his car, according to the GCIC. The assailant fled after learning Pastor Kapan had called police, who arrived about an hour later. Officers filed a charge-sheet, but no arrests had been made at press time.
Chhattisgarh – Hindu extremists from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) disrupted a prayer service organized by Bershebha church on Feb. 15 in Pandhi village, near Bilaspur. The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) reported that the church had organized a worship event for Feb. 14-16 and had prior police permission. On the first day of the meeting, 15 to 20 RSS members arrived and issued threats, telling pastors Daulat Ram and Sunam Kumar Besra to halt the event; on their way out, they slapped Pastor Besra. On the second day, about 50 RSS members told the pastor to stop the meeting and then started tearing down the tent, microphone and speakers. The mob then dragged the Christians and started assaulting them, resulting in severe injuries. Pastor Besra suffered head injuries that required stitches. Later that evening, the extremists came back and attacked pastor Immannuel Banchor and other church members, beating them badly with their fists and a leather belt. The pastor sustained an injury to his left eye, and another Christian’s ear was severely injured. The extremists also damaged the pastor’s motorbike. With great difficulty the Christians managed to take refuge at a Christian’s house near the event site. At around 3 a.m. some pastors and church members brought them to their houses in Bilaspur. A case has been registered against the extremists, reported the GCIC.
Andhra Pradesh – Members of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) threatened a church in Sutari Gudem village, near Medchal, during a worship service on Feb. 12. The All India Christian Council (AICC) reported that Timothy Paul, a pastor in Sutari Gudem for more than two years, received a warning six months ago from BJP members to stop leading services in his rented home. Another Christian provided a place for services where about 50 people meet on Sundays, and it was there that the Hindu extremists from the BJP stormed into the church service and had a heated argument with the pastor that nearly led to a physical attack. Pastor Suvarho Rao and a few of the church elders planned to meet with village elders to resolve the issue of church services in the village, according to AICC.
Karnataka – Police along with Hindu extremists on Feb. 2 searched the home of a pastor, took tracts and Bibles and filed a complaint against him of forceful conversion in Siddapura, Utara Kannada. The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) reported that officers in civil attire and area Hindu extremist leaders searched pastor Kiran Thippanna Das’s house without cause and questioned him. They took his vehicle, some books and Bibles and ordered him to meet with the inspector. Three days later he received a phone call from police ordering him to meet an official identified only as Almurthy, who told him he had received complaints from villagers that he was forcefully converting people to Christianity and that he had 24 hours to leave the village or go to jail. The pastor contacted pastor L.N. Gowda, state coordinator of the GCIC, who in turn informed the official about human and legal rights and said legal trouble could arise from his action on behalf of the Hindu extremists. The official summoned the pastor the next day and told him that he could ask for protection if necessary.
Chhattisgarh – Police arrested a pastor and another Christian on Feb. 1 after Hindu extremists accused them of forceful conversion in Jorapara, Raipur. A source told Compass that pastor Harish Sahu of New Life Fellowship led prayer meetings at the house of a Christian identified only as Baghel. The extremists confronted Baghel’s relatives, Upendra Pande and Purnima Pande, at about 1 p.m., accusing them of forceful conversion, and beat them. As the Christians reported the matter at Modhapara, Raipur police station, the extremists filed a police complaint against Pastor Sahu and Baghel of forceful conversion and allurement, the source said. Police summoned Pastor Sahu and charged him and Baghel, who were later sent to Central Jail, Raipur. Both of them denied the charges, and they were released on bail on Feb. 2, the source said. Purnima Pande, Baghel’s niece, filed a complaint against Hindu extremists Suneel Gaikwad, Raju Shendre, Ajay Sahu, one identified only as Goldi and others. The extremists were arrested but later released on bail.
Chhattisgarh – Hindu extremists from the Bajrang Dal disrupted a gospel film screening, destroyed equipment and beat a pastor on Jan. 31 in Indira Nagar, Dongagarh. The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) reported that pastor Rajendra Masih of a Believer’s Church congregation was screening the movie in front of the residence of one of the members of his church when the extremists charged in. They caught hold of Pastor Masih and began thrashing him, leaving lacerations on his face and wounding his left eye. The extremists phoned police at about 11:30 p.m. complaining that the Christians were forcibly and fraudulently converting Hindus to Christianity. The police inspector visited the place along with a few constables and took the pastor to the station for further questioning. Finding no basis for the accusation, he closed the case after the two groups worked out an agreement.
Chhattisgarh – Hindu nationalists surrounded Nirmala Convent School on Jan. 31 in Korba to try to force those present to make a ritual offering to a Hindu goddess. The Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) reported that the extremists from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh entered the school chanting slogans and accused staff members of forceful conversion. A student carried an idol of Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of knowledge, with the intention of performing “puja,” or ritual offering, in class, and the Hindu extremists were on hand to support the act, according to the EFI. Soon police arrived and ordered the principal, Sister Mary, to lead the Hindu ritual. When she refused, a Hindu teacher was told to conduct the offering. A local cable TV channel, Abhi Tak, subsequently broadcast false reports that the idol had been desecrated by Christians at the convent school. Police ignored an attempt to file a complaint against the channel, which repeated the fabricated news for 48 hours. Despite several attempts by school authorities to file a case against the radicals, none was taken.
Jharkhand – Christians in Chaibasa district were forced to leave their village after a series of attacks against them by local villagers. The Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) reported that in the latest attack, on Jan. 29, a mob closed down all the exit points of the village and attacked the Christians with iron rods, axes, arrows and other sharp weapons. The Rev. Rajendra Babu received a blow with iron rods while trying to leave the village, breaking the helmet he was wearing, the EFI reported. The mob also beat three other Christians – Madan Muduiya and two identified only as Sunil and Vinod – and broke doors, windows, furniture and other belongings in the house of a Christian. They also dragged some Christians, including children, to a room, locked it from the outside and attempted to set it ablaze. The arrival of police halted the violence. The Christians have taken refuge on church premises outside the village, without adequate food and clothing. Their animals have been slaughtered and their harvest stock destroyed, EFI reported. A First Information Report was registered against the attackers, but no arrests were made. On Jan. 29 the village head called for a reconciliation meeting and identified the assailants, but the Hindu extremists boycotted.
Gujarat – Unidentified people on Jan. 26 used a bulldozer to destroy tombs in a Christian cemetery in Sabarmati, Dharamnagar. The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) reported that a local councilor along with ultranationalist Bharatiya Janata Party members had incited the assailants. “When we reached the cemetery, cars were parked in the area where tombs used to be,” said Martin Hector Harris of the Methodist Church in Dharamnagar, according to the GCIC. “We also saw the desecrators pile mud from the tombstones on a nearby sidewalk. Police have not arrested anyone yet, or even started an investigation.”
Karnataka – Four Dalit Christian families have been receiving threats since nine Hindu extremists charged into the house of a Christian identified only as Puttamma as she was celebrating her son’s 25th birthday on Jan. 9 and injured 10 people. The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) reported that the attackers, alleged to have come from Sarjapur six kilometers (less than four miles) away, fled when the commotion attracted other villagers. Puttamma reportedly said some villagers had threatened to cut off the water supply to the Chritians’ homes and remove their names from a rationing list. She was hit on the leg when she tried to stop the Hindu extremist assailants from assaulting the pastor. The GCIC reported that the Hindu extremists have also told people not to employ the Christians.
India Briefs: Recent Incidents of Persecution