Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Minorities harassed in BJP-ruled states

Vineeta Pandey

Tuesday, June 27, 2006 23:16 IST

NEW DELHI: All is not well in some of the BJP-ruled states, according to the members of the National Commission for Minorities. The Commission, which submitted its report on atrocities on minorities in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh to the Prime Minister's Office on Tuesday, has surely stirred a hornet's nest over an issue that has been regularly plaguing the BJP-governed states.

The Commission, which was investigating complaints of atrocities, violence and rapes on minorities ---- mostly Christians ---- in MP and Chhattisgarh, has concluded that backed by the local police and the administration, the "goons" of Bajrang Dal, RSS and Dharamsena are "harassing" the minorities in these states.

But the report has not gone down well with the BJP and the party has accused the Congress of maligning its image. BJP spokesperson Prakash Javedkar told DNA: "I really wonder how this Minority Commission functions. The Congress is misusing every official organ to deride the BJP-ruled states".

A two-member team of the Commission that conducted on-the-spot assessment in districts of Jhabua, Bhopal, Jabalpur, Betul, Hoshangabad, Seoni, Dhar in MP and Jashpur, Raipur, Bilaspur etc in Chhattisgarh after receiving complaints from Christians, found that their complaints were genuine. The allegations were of intimidating, harassing and beating Christains on the plea that they were converting Hindus to Christianity. There were also allegations that the police and local administration remained mute spectators to the atrocities on minorities.

"In Jabalpur, 13 cases of conversion were registered against Christians. When the community protested, the local police filed five counter FIRs. This is the seriousness of the local police in such matters," said Harcharan Singh Josh, member of the Commission.

In its report, submitted to the Prime Minister, the Commission has suggested deployment of sensitive police officials in the minority-dominated areas, and penalising administrators in cases of atrocities that are not registered. It has also recommended an instruction from the union Home Ministry to the state governments to deal with atrocities on minorities in a strict manner and stringent action on those guilty.

Click here for source

First define conversion, says minorities panel

NEW DELHI, JUNE 26: The National Commission for Minorities (NCM) team that had conducted an on-the-spot assessment of the complaints of atrocities on Christians in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh has asked the government to define conversion.

Among the three main points in the report by NCM members Harcharan Singh Josh and Lama Chosphel Zotpa is the need to define conversion. Defining it will get rid of false conversion charges just like that, they say. Says the report "We have been told by many Bishops that only after baptism is performed in a church one person can become a Christian. The same person also has to file an affidavit before the SDM declaring that he/she is changing the religion."

The other two recommendations are that the Union Home Ministry should instruct state governments to deal with atrocities on minorities in a stern manner, and that stringent penal action must be taken against the guilty.

The report also pulled up the BJP and its ideological cousins for raising "frivolous and baseless" charges of conversion being carried out so as to commit atrocities on the minorities. It says the conversion charges are mostly the work of "political parties".

(Indian Express 27/6/06)

Minority Commission's new Christian member named

June 28,2006

Michael P Pinto, retired IAS officer and member of the expert group of the 12th Finance Commission, has been nominated as the Christian member of the National Commission for Minorities.

A government statement said last evening that it has "nominated four eminent persons as the Members of the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) for a period of three years with effect from the date of their assuming office."

Among other newly nominated members are Dileep Padgaonkar, former Executive Editor of Times of India and a prominent columnist. Also, Professor Zoya Hasan, Professor in Political Science, Centre for Political Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University and Lieutenant General AM Sethna, a member of the Parsi community and a former member of the IIIrd and IVth Minorities Commission.

The Government constituted the fifth Commission on March 3 this year with Mohammad Hamid Ansari, a former diplomat as the chairman. The government had then nominated Harcharan Singh Josh, a Delhi Congress leader to represent the Sikh community, and Lama Chosphel Zotpa to represent Buddhists.

Buddhist monk Zotpa from Ladakh is the former Vice-Chairman of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes.

Please click here for source

Monday, June 26, 2006

Church attacked, Pregnant Christian woman assaulted by Hindutva fanatics

25th June 06:
As many as 30 fundamentalists belonging to the 'Dharam Sena' (Army of Religion) disrupted a prayer meeting being conducted in a Christian home in Bothli village, Tehsil Gurur of Durg district in Chhatisgarh on the morning of 25th June.

The incident occurred when members of 6 Christian families in the village had gathered together for their weekly worship at the house of one of their co-villagers, a Christian. As the prayer meeting progressed, within a few minutes the house where it was being conducted was surrounded by more than a dozen anti-social elements shouting slogans against Christians immediately after which they barged into the house and started beating up those were present for the meeting.

The attackers inhumanly beat up the Christians and in a barbaric and ghastly act punched and kicked at the stomach of an 8 month pregnant Christian lady who was sometime later taken to the hospital after she complained of a terrible pain. However, due to inadequate facilities at the local hospital, the hospital authorities expressed their inability to provide treatment to the injured lady terming her injury as 'internal'. The local police were quick to take the hospital authorities statement and twisted it by explaining to the local media that it was a minor-injury as a result of which the hospital had discharged the lady without any medication. Thus, the police tried its best to avoid taking action against the culprits by trying to play down the entire matter.

Sharp reactions against this kind of atrocity against the Christian community in general have poured in from different quarters of society. The Chhatisgarh Christian Forum which has been protesting against the increasing number of incidents against the Christian community in the state has been at the forefront in its protests against incidents like these.

When we spoke to Mr. Arun Pannalal of the Forum, he said that the Christian community particularly in the interiors was feeling intimidated because of such inhuman acts and feared that the state machinery was colluding with the perpetrators of such acts. Many Christian groups in the state alongwith the Congress party’s youth wing and the NSUI as well as the Brahman Samaj have expressed their outrage against the attack by the 'Dharam Sena' and have demanded an immediate ban on this organization for trying to ignite communal tension in the state and indulging in unlawful ghastly acts. The Communist Party has called a meeting to discuss the rapidly deteriorating law and order situation in the state in the light of the attacks on the Christian community.

It must be noted that these six Christian families in the village had been receiving threats for the last one month from the 'Dharam Sena' to give up their Christian faith or face dire consequences. It must also be noted that when some of the Christians reported the matter to the police and tried to lodge a complaint against the 'Dharam Sena' activists who were harassing them, the police turned a blind-eye to the plight of the Christians saying that they had orders from the top not to take any complaints from the Christian community. Later however, when the local Christians approached the Superintendent of Police he had assured them that no untoward incident would take place against Christians. That assurance however holds no weight after the recent attack on the Christians also involving the beating up of an 8 month Christian woman.

Words are not enough to condemn such merciless acts by anyone on any grounds more so when some anti-social groups try to justify such acts by citing their ideological allegiance.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

602 reconvert to Hinduism in Mayurbhanj

Statesman News Service

BARIPADA, June 22: About 602 people from villages near the Kaptipada area of Mayurbhanj district were reconverted to Hinduism at a function organised by the Hindu Jagaran Samukhya.

The function was attended by Puri Sankaracharya Swami Nischilananda Saraswati today.

The Puri seer blessed the reconverted persons and delivered a speech on basic principles of the Hindu religion. The reconverted persons included 207 men, 180 women and 215 children.

Besides the Puri seer, several important functionaries of the VHP and Bajrang Dal were present. Swami Laxmananda Saraswati of Chakapada ashram, BJP MLA Mr Pratap Sarangi were present at the function, which included a yagna and puja.

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Thursday, June 22, 2006

In Thane, Christian tribals victimised

Had filed case about assault by Hindus, say police turned on them instead.

Express News Service

Mumbai, June 20: "ASK Jesus to call me on my mobile phone," was the answer 20-year-old Kalpana Chaudhry allegedly got from a policeman when she and three other tribal Christians asked about progress on a complaint they had filed.

"Just because we had dared to approach the police after an attack on us by Hindu men," she says.

Along with her husband Sunil (24), Baburao Mahala (32) and Anil Chaudhry (23), Kalpana met Director General of Police Dr P S Pasricha on Tuesday.

"We were asked to demonstrate how we pray," said Sunil. "When we knelt down, policemen at the Kasa police station abused us, kicked us and mocked our faith."

Kasa, about 200 km north of Mumbai, near Dahanu, is a largely tribal pocket in Thane district.

Mostly tillers, about 45 Christian families of Toranpada village are in constant fear of being evicted from their homes, they said. "We are constantly abused by the Hindus," added Mahala.

Following an attack on June 8, they registered a police complaint. It was on June 15, when they returned to the police station to check on its progress, that the policemen turned on them instead, they allege.

"The police have, instead of assuring justice, booked the victims for so-called breach of peace and initiated Chapter proceedings against them under Sections 107 and 110 of the Criminal Procedure Code," said All India Christian Council General Secretary Dr Abraham Mathai, who accompanied the tribals to Mantralaya on Tuesday.

"This only intimidates the poor tribals, who will fear to report future attacks."

Superintendent of Police (Thane Rural) Archana Tyagi said she knew of the case. "I have already deputed an officer to conduct an inquiry," she added.

Click here for source

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

State to Take Over EMI Institutions in Rajasthan, India

Appeals dismissed; ministry founder and president to face trial in August.

NEW DELHI, June 19 (Compass Direct) - The Rajasthan government on Wednesday (June 14) announced plans to take over five institutions operated by Emmanuel Mission International (EMI).

EMI operates Emmanuel Bible Institute Samiti, Emmanuel Anath Ashram (Orphanage), Emmanuel School Society, Emmanuel Chikitsalaya (Hospital) Samiti, and Emmanuel Believers Fellowship. The organization leads a native church movement and serves over 10,000 children through humanitarian and educational work.

Mohammed Akram, EMI's attorney, said the state High Court on Tuesday (June 13) dismissed five writ petitions filed by EMI challenging the Registrar of Societies' decision earlier this year to revoke registration for these institutions.

"The state social welfare minister, Madan Dilawar, has said the state government will take over all five institutions," Akram told Compass.

Under the terms of the Registration of Societies Act, the government can take over property belonging to a society charged with mismanagement.

When the book Haqeekat (Reality) was discovered on EMI grounds, extremists told the Rajasthan government that EMI institutions were receiving significant sums of money for use in forced or fraudulent conversions.

Hindu extremists have hounded EMI since January. They accused EMI staff of hurting religious sentiments and breaking government regulations by distributing Haqeekat (Reality). After an official investigation, the government revoked EMI society registrations and froze their bank accounts. EMI President Samuel Thomas and his father, Archbishop M.A. Thomas, were charged with creating "communal disharmony" and both face trial in August.

Samuel Thomas was arrested on March 16 on charges of creating "communal disharmony." He was released on interim bail on May 2 but will appear in court on August 1.

His father, M.A. Thomas, was also charged but went "underground" and applied for anticipatory bail, before appearing at Udyog Nagar police station in Kota on May 15 to answer to the charges.

Society Rules

Social Welfare Minister Dilawar played a significant role in making the allegations against EMI staff, The Daily Pioneer reported on Thursday (June 15).

Acting on the extremists' complaints, the government carried out further inquiries and found EMI institutions to be violating basic society rules.

The Kota registrar alleged that board meetings of the EMI institutions were not being held regularly and the chairman and president were blood relatives – contrary to the stipulations of the Registration of Societies Act.

On these grounds, the registrar revoked the registrations of EMI institutions on February 20. The registrar gave EMI only three days' notice to respond to the charges, which were posted on the walls of the concerned institutions but not given formally to EMI directors.

Akram felt the cancellation of registrations was too stringent a penalty for EMI's failure to follow minor procedures.

When EMI officials responded to the charges, they were told that their reply was unsatisfactory and their licenses were revoked.

EMI bank accounts were also frozen in February, and remained frozen at press time.

Hostile Environment

A fact-finding delegation from the All India Christian Council (AICC) in March concluded that the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party had actively encouraged the Rajasthan government machinery, including the justice, law and civil administration systems, to oppose Christians in Kota district. (See Compass Direct, "BJP Pressured Indian State to Harass Christians, Panel Finds," March 21.)

Dr. John Dayal, Secretary General of the AICC and leader of the delegation, said as soon as the BJP came to power in 2002, clandestine inquiries were launched against all EMI institutions. A government department dealing with the registration of societies and charitable organizations subjected them to a harsh probe and financial audit.

According to the Hindi daily Rajasthan Patrika, Dilawar had earlier said on March 13 that he should be stoned if he was unable to "take action" against Thomas and his son.

Tensions first became obvious on January 25, when Thomas and his son received anonymous death threats warning them not to proceed with their annual graduation ceremony for orphans and Christian students, scheduled for February 25.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Attempt to Burn Pastor in Chattisgarh, Police collides with Goons to falsely accuse Christians and intimidate

By Vijayesh Lal

20th June 2006 (Delhi): Dharma Sena Goons disrupted a Church service in Bhilai, Chattisgarh attacking the Pastor and the congregation on the 18th June at about 10:30 am. They also tried to kill the Pastor by putting an old rubber tire around his neck and trying to burn it. They beat the Pastor continuously before handing him over to the police.

The attack took place at the Hossana Church located at Kosa Nala, near Nehru Nagar, Bhilai Chattisgarh when Pastor David Raj, the Pastor of the Church which meets in his home, was preaching.

"All of a sudden 20 - 25 men entered the Church. They went up straight to the Pastor and started beating and abusing him. They snatched the Pastor's Bible which also contained 3000 Indian Rupees and his mobile phone." Pastor Swami, a local Pastor told us describing the incident.

"They further dragged the pastor and placed an old tire on his neck and tried to burn him. When they were unsuccessful they beat him up more. The attackers did not spare the pastors wife, she too was beaten up along with her husband." Apran Tarun, Pastor of the Community Church in Bhilai told us. "They paraded the Pastor and dragged him to the Supela Police station handing him over to the police."

According to local sources the police acting in connivance with the Dharma Sena goons planned a way to register a case against the Pastor and his wife. The Pastor was detained in the police station till 6:00 pm that day before the Police Inspector of the Supela police station came and took notice of the situation. "This gave enough time to the police and Dharma Sena activists to frame a case against the Pastor."

While Pastor David Raj was detained at the police station during the night in custody, his wife was also arrested late in the night. "The police flouted all rules while arresting her. She was arrested by male policemen very late in the night; they put her in the police van and brought her to the police station." Arun Pannalal, General Secretary of the Chattisgarh Christian forum told us.

The couple was presented at about 3:00 pm the next day i.e. 19th June 2006 in front of the SDM (Special District Magistrate) and a case was filed against them under sections 295A
[i], 153A[ii], and 34 of the Indian Penal Code. A further case of forcible conversion was filed against them under sections 3 and 4 of the Madhya Pradesh Dharma Swatantrata Adhiniyam 1968. Sections 295 A and 153 A are non bailable offenses. For more information see footnotes.

The SDM rejected the bail application that was filed by the couple's lawyer so they remain in jail even as this is being written. The certified copy of the FIR (First information report) and the bail rejection copy are yet to be obtained by the lawyer, so that bail can be applied at the sessions court.

According to local sources the police acted cunningly threatening Christians present in the Church with dire consequences unless they gave a confessional. The police required two Christian women to sign documents that allegedly said that they were present at the venue where the incident took place. The women, fearful, agreed to sign the document which the police had written. According to local sources, the women were tricked into signing the document which did not contain their confessional statement of being present at the venue but a complaint against Pastor David Raj and his wife saying that Pastor David Raj and his wife had promised them money and motorcycle if they convert and become Christians.

"One look at the Pastor and you can see his economic condition. He is a poor man, how can he promise money to someone else?" Arun Pannalal said.

The timing of the attack could not be more emphasized. The attack took place within one hour of the leaving of the representatives of the National Minority Commission from the state.

The National Minority Commission had sent two of its representatives to Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh to investigate atrocities against minorities in the two states. One of the representatives Mr. H S Josh had given a statement to the reporters at Raipur, "Minorities are under attack in Chhattisgarh as well as in neighbouring Madhya Pradesh. Atrocities against them have increased sharply in recent months," This attack however clearly illustrates the indifference of the Dharma Sena and other Hindutva organization to the statements and findings of the National Minority Commission. This demonstrates that so long as the administration and the police supports the actions of the Hindutva brigade, there can be no stopping of the attacks on minorities.

[i] 295A. Deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs
Whoever, with deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of any class of [citizens of India], [by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise], insults or attempts to insult the religion or the religious beliefs of that class, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to [three years], or with fine, or with both.]

[ii] 153A. Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony
(1) Whoever-
(a) by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise, promotes or attempts to promote, on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, caste or community or any other ground whatsoever, disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will between different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities, or
(b) commits any act which is prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony between different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities, and which disturbs or is likely to disturb the public tranquillity, [or]
[(c) organises any exercise, movement, drill or other similar activity intending that the participants in such activity shall use or be trained to use criminal force or violence or knowing it to be likely that the participants in such activity will use or be trained to use criminal force or violence, or participates in such activity intending to use or be trained to use criminal force or violence or knowing it to be likely that the participants in such activity will use or be trained to use criminal force or violence, against any religious, racial, language or regional group or caste or community and such activity for any reason whatsoever causes or is likely to cause fear or alarm or a feeling of insecurity amongst members of such religious, racial, language or regional group or caste or community,]
shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.
Offence committed in place of worship, etc- (2) Whoever commits an offence specified in sub-section (1) in any place of worship or in any assembly engaged in the performance of religious worship or religious ceremonies, shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to five years and shall also be liable to fine.]

Monday, June 19, 2006

Minorities under attack in Chattisgarh

Minorities under attack in Chhattisgarh: panel
Raipur June 18, 2006 1:15:08 AM IST

Chhattisgarh's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government should take effective steps to stop atrocities against minorities, who are increasingly being targeted in recent months, the National Commission for Minorities said Saturday.

"Minorities are under attack in Chhattisgarh as well as in neighbouring Madhya Pradesh. Atrocities against them have increased sharply in recent months," H.S. Josh, a member of the Commission, told reporters here.

Josh held daylong meetings with various religious organisations here in the wake of reports that Christians were facing serious threats in tribal areas in rural and forested parts of the state.

Official sources said a Christian body told the commission member that minorities were facing harassment in Jashpur district as BJP cadres and sometimes even the district administration targeted them on charges of forceful religious conversion of local tribals.

The commission assured the Christian body that it would submit a report to central government soon about the condition of the minorities in the state and would also take up the issue with the state government. (IANS)

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Minority matters

A free for all at a recent press conference in Bhopal as the State Minority Commission chief faced the wrath of the saffron brigade but apparently instances like this have worried even the Prime Minister and the State Minority Commission has started an inquiry.

When the Commission realised that even the Prime Minister has received complaints of atrocities against minorities, the Commission decided to take up the matter.

"That's why I’m in Madhya Pradesh to inquire if there have been any atrocities," said National Minorities Commission member Harcharan Singh.

But it seems that the Commission is having a tough time investigating the cases against the minorities because state officials are not cooperating.

On the other hand, complainant the member of State Minority Commission Indira Iyengar said, "With the Prime Minister’s initiative, it looks that now somebody will hear our woes. And the Prime Minister will definitely take interest to see that the Christians are protected in Madhya Pradesh."

Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and his govt have denied charges of atrocities against Christians with the BJP calling it a campaign against it.

(By Rahul Singh)

Christians' gangrape complaint caught in conversion row

Milind Ghatwai

Posted online: Friday, June 16, 2006 at 0000 hrs

Day after two Christians allege gangrape, conversion charge against them, husbands; SP, DM report says victims' husbands at fault

BHOPAL, JUNE 15: The alleged gangrape of two Christian women in Nadia village in Khargone district has set off a chain reaction of allegations and counter-allegations here. A day after the rape complaint was lodged, an FIR has been has lodged against them and their husbands, charging them with forcibly converting locals.

The women, in their complaint, alleged that they were raped on the night of May 28. The complaint was filed on May 31. A case under Section 3(4) of the Freedom of Religion Act, 1968, was registered against five people, including the two women and their husbands, with the Bhagwanpura police on June 1.

Following the complaint and other reports of attacks on the Christian community in the state, the Prime Minister sent a two-member team of the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) to Madhya Pradesh. Governor Balram Jakhar had also sought a report from the state government on the alleged gangrape.

The NCM has noted with concern the "counter-FIR" filed against the rape victims. NCM member Harcharan Singh Josh told The Indian Express on Thursday that he has sought a detailed action taken report in both cases where complainants were charged with conversion. "It seems the administration has done it to counter the main FIRs," Josh said.

Further, the superintendent of police and the district magistrate have, in their reports, given a clean chit to the alleged rapists, instead arguing that the gangrape complaint came after the women's husbands were confronted by villagers for forcibly converting tribals. Describing as "eyewash" the administration's action, Josh says, "How could a handful of poor tribals forcibly convert others when they had little to offer?"

The SP's and DM's reports, accessed by The Indian Express, say that on May 29, around 100 villagers had gone to the victims' houses to warn their husbands against conversion. The villagers later submitted a memorandum. "Before the conversion charges could be investigated, the women lodged rape complaints," the district magistrate said in his report. "Prima facie, it doesn't appear that the victims were prevented by anyone from filing complaints on May 28 and May 29," the report said.

District magistrate SK Pal said when an SDM sought to probe the incident, the victims avoided meeting them. "The reluctance to discuss the matter with officials raises doubts about the incident," he said.

The offence under anti-conversion law was registered after the charges in the villagers' memorandum were probed, SP RL Borna said. Further action, he said, would be taken after getting the results of the DNA tests.

Church vandalised ahead of NCM visit

BHOPAL: A day before the NCM team visits Jabalpur to investigate the alleged attacks on the Christian community, a church was vandalised by activists of the Hindu Dharma Sena on Thursday. They alleged that poor tribals from Mandla and Dindori districts were converting for money. In Bhopal, Bajrang Dal district convenor Devendra Ravat met the NCM and alleged that the police had not taken 26 cases of conversion to court. Ravat alleged that orphans and poor children from Jhabua were being offered Rs 2,000 to convert to Christianity.


Hindu Extremists Beat Pastor in Karnataka State, India

Assailants threaten to build temple on site of proposed church.

NEW DELHI, June 15 (Compass Direct) – Hindu extremists on Sunday (June 11) dragged an independent pastor to a police station in Karnataka state, accusing him of converting Hindus to Christianity.

They beat Pastor Sundar Rao severely both inside the police station and after he was released on Monday (June 12). The pastor has since been hospitalized with internal injuries and multiple contusions, but no fractures.

Rao was visiting his sister's house in Namthi village, Devangere district, on the day of the attack. A group of about 150 people gathered outside while he conducted a prayer meeting. When Rao emerged from the house at 4 p.m., they asked if he was a pastor. Around 50 people then forcibly dragged him to the Namthi police station and assaulted him.

The police were mute spectators to the beatings, a local Christian who requested anonymity told Compass.

"The extremists forced Rao to sign a piece of blank paper inside the police station," the source added. "They also told him the land he had bought for a church would instead be used for constructing a temple."

Rao conducts prayer meetings in his rented house on Sundays, and he had planned to build a small church on a plot of land nearby.

The police apparently asked Rao to leave the station at midnight, but he refused to go, knowing that a crowd of hecklers was still waiting outside.

Early the next morning, a legislator from the Bharatiya Janata Party came to the station to show solidarity with the attackers; he also asked the police not to release Rao.

Officers, however, released Rao at 3:30 p.m. on Monday (June 12) with no protection. The crowd waiting outside the police station assaulted him.

"He somehow managed to get onto a bus, intending to get home, but the mob stopped the bus and beat him once again," the source said.

When Rao's wife went to the police station on Tuesday (June 13), officers refused to accept a formal complaint.

Rao's wife and a few other Christian leaders then requested a meeting with Superintendent of Police Soni Narang.

"When I spoke to Narang on June 14, she said Rao had not filed a complaint," said attorney Nova Bethania, secretary of the Karnataka chapter of the Christian Legal Association of India. "She also said Rao's wife and the other Christians gave her nothing in writing, and that therefore she could not register a complaint."

Bethania also said the police told Rao they had detained him to protect him from his attackers.

In desperation, Rao's wife traveled to police district headquarters in Devangere, where she was finally able to register a complaint. At press time, however, police had arrested none of the attackers.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Preacher Murdered in Andhra Pradesh, India

Police say revenge is most likely reason for homicide; family points to Hindu extremists.

NEW DELHI, June 12 (Compass Direct) - The body of Prem Kumar, a 67-year-old preacher from the Church of South India, was found last Thursday (June 8) in a forest in Nizamabad district of Andhra Pradesh state.

Kumar’s head was crushed beyond recognition, apparently with heavy stones, the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) reported.

A sub-inspector of the Kotagiri police station said the body was identified based on the description of the clothes worn by the preacher.

According to local media reports, a young man approached Kumar early Thursday morning requesting that he hold a prayer meeting in Rampur Thanda village later that day. Although Kumar suspected foul play, he agreed and asked his son Sunil Kumar to call his cell phone once every 30 minutes.

When Kumar arrived at the pick-up point, strangers were waiting to meet him. Kumar phoned his son and again asked him to call frequently.

Kumar's cell phone went dead at about 11 a.m. His body was later found in the forest near Rampur Thanda.

Extremists Suspected

Mahesh Chandra Laddha, superintendent of police in Nizamabad, told Compass that personal rivalry was the motive for the murder of Kumar. "There is definitely no religious angle," he insisted.

Laddha said Kumar was one of the accused in a murder case and that relatives of the victim could be behind the killing. He also claimed that, some time ago, Kumar's son had been involved in a kidnapping, and that after the kidnapped woman was released she had threatened him.

Kumar's son, however, said his father had no enemies, and he strongly suspected the hand of Hindu extremists. He also said he could identify the person who invited his father to hold the prayer meeting in Rampur Thanda.

The GCIC and the All India Christian Council said the involvement of Hindu extremists could not be ruled out. A number of similar incidents have occurred in Andhra Pradesh over the past six years, and at press time religious tensions in the state were high.

May 2005 Murders

Pastors K. Isaac Raju and K. Daniel were brutally murdered near the state capital, Hyderabad, in May of last year. (See Compass Direct, "Second Pastor Found Dead in Andhra Pradesh, India," June 6, 2005.)

Unknown persons called both pastors by phone before they disappeared, asking if they would act as wedding celebrants. Raju went to meet a caller in Anantpur district on May 24, 2005 and disappeared; an unidentified caller then phoned the police on June 2, describing where to find Raju's body.

Meanwhile, callers collected Daniel in a motorized rickshaw on May 21 and took him to a cemetery in Karwan, where they beat him severely before strangling him and dumping his body on the city outskirts.

An anonymous letter was sent to a local newspaper claiming the murders were carried out by an organization called the Anti-Christian Forum. The letter promised further killings.

An article in the New Indian Express on June 27, 2005, quoted a man identified only as Goverdhan, who along with his two friends allegedly murdered the two preachers. "I am not against Christianity, but Raju and Daniel converted hundreds of Hindu families," Goverdhan said. "They enticed them with money. We have done this to prevent further conversions. This act should be a lesson for others."

September 2000 Murder
Pastor Yesu Dasu, 52, was killed in a similar fashion in the state in 2000.

Two people riding a motorbike came to his home on the evening of September 11 and asked for Dasu, saying someone wanted to speak with him.

Assailants then took Dasu to the outskirts of Mustabad in Karimnagar district. They bound his hands together and hit him repeatedly with an axe, eventually severing his head.

Dasu's body was found in a pool of blood at a cattle shed near Kothakunta, along the Mustabad-Siddipet highway, three kilometers (nearly two miles) from Karimnagar. Several pieces of the body were found scattered at the murder scene.

Extremists had earlier warned Dasu to cease preaching or face the consequences. (See Compass Direct, "Murder of Christian Preacher Remains Unsolved in India," October 10, 2003.)

Andhra Pradesh state is ruled by the Congress Party, with Dr. Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, a Christian, as the chief minister. Hindu extremists have accused Reddy of giving a free hand to Christian missionaries in the state.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Police Arrests a Woman in Jabalpur on Charges of Forced Conversion

By Vijayesh Lal

7th June 2006:

Police raided a Christian home in the Ranjhi area of Jabalpur city, Madhya Pradesh late last night and arrested the Christians present there. The police moved on an alleged complaint of one person who claims that he was offered money in order to become a Christian by Meera Bai, whose home the police later raided.

Meera Bai (52), resident of Uday Nagar, Ranjhi, Jabalpur, works in the Gun Carriage Factory at Jabalpur and has been a Christian for the last 17 years. She claims that after many years of being barren, she was blessed by a child because of the blessings of Jesus Christ and the prayers of the Christian community. This prompted her to accept the Christian faith and follow the teachings of Jesus Christ some 17 years ago. Since that time on she is attending Church regularly and practicing her faith.

Sukhdev alias Guddu Usram (19 years) is a neighbor of Meera Bai. Late last night he flied a complaint with the local police that Meera Bai had been counseling him and pressurizing him to become a Christian. He in his complaint said that he had been suffering with stomach ache for a long time and that Meera Bai had offered to pray for him and also told him to pray to Jesus Christ so that his pain will go away. He further stated that Meera Bai also took him to a healing meeting held regularly at Jabalpur by Pastor Munnu Kujur. He further alleged that Meera Bai had offered him 2000 Indian Rupees every month if he became a Christian.

Acting on his complaint some 20 – 25 policemen raided the home of Meera Bai at about 10:00 pm on the 6th June 2006. The family had guests at that time and they had just finished dinner. The names of the guests are Satish and Leela Bai. Meera Bai along with her guests and her son was taken to the police station, where they found members of the Dharma Sena, a Hindu fundamentalist organization, waiting for them in large numbers. The police also confiscated Bibles and pictures of Jesus Christ from Meera Bai's home.

Dharma Sena has been responsible for a large number of false cases and attacks against Christians in the near past. The Dharma Sena was led by Yogesh Agarwal, who, in the presence of the police, threatened Satish and Leela Bai, that he will burn them alive. "Yet the police did nothing," Meera Bai told us, "The police only said, 'don't panic at least he has not burned you now'". Yogesh Agarwal has long been responsible for troubling and attacking the Christian community.

After registering a case against Meera Bai under the Sections 3 and 4 of the Madhya Pradesh Dharma Swatantrya Adhinitam 1968, the police let them go on a bail bond of 5000 Indian Rupees.

When we spoke to Meera Bai, she informed us of the scene inside the Police station. She said, "As soon as we reached there, the Dharma Sena people led by Yogesh Agarwal started shouting slogans against Christians and started threatening us in front of the police, who laughed and cooperated with the goons. The Dharma Sena people were openly spreading hate against Christians saying that Christians should be kicked with shoes and killed."

"While we were there, many phone calls came pressurizing the police to register a case against us by hook or by crook. When the police expressed their inability to register a strong case against us, they brought in Guddu. But even he did not say anything; they just took his signatures on a paper." She continues, "The police even forced us to sign on blank papers and since we had no alternative, we did so. The papers are now with the police and they can do anything with them against us."

The most interesting part of the story came later, when according to Meera Bai, Guddu i.e. Sukhdev, the main complainant came to her house and told them that even he was forced to register a complaint against Meera Bai. "He said that he was having his food when Dharma Sena people along with police men came to his house, took him away forcibly and forced him to give a statement against me." Meera Bai explained.

We spoke to the Police Inspector Mr. Vajpayee of the Ranjhi police station and he seemed convinced about the charges of conversion against Meera Bai. He even seemed to hint that the Dharma Sena led by Yogesh Agrawal was doing a fine job and a service to the society. He however added that evidence against Meera Bai was scant and that they could not recover anything from her house except Bibles and pictures of Jesus Christ, but continued to say that there was "…a Christian conspiracy in the area facilitating conversions."

Jabalpur, located in the heart of India, is fast becoming a lab for Hindutva elements to trouble the Christian community. Since January this year there have been close to 15 incidents of attacks and false cases against Christians in the city.

Recently Pastor Peter Lal was troubled by the same elements and a false complaint was sent against him. Pastor Rajesh Choudhary too faced the ire of the local police when they arrested him at about midnight some days back. Though he is bailed out, he says that the police continue to harass him. The police had forced him to submit all his personal financial accounts to them for verification. They keep asking him, "Where do you get money from?"

This is not without significance. In the whole of North and Central India the Christian community has a major presence in Jabalpur and according to Rev. Cyril Cornelius, the Executive Director of CARAVS - a Christian media organization based in Jabalpur, "This is a systematic attempt to provoke the community. But the Church has not retaliated and has not taken the bait which the Hindutva groups are offering. This is also sign which the Hindutva elements want the Church in India to see - If we can harm you in Jabalpur we can do so anywhere in the North and Central India."

Mrs. Indira Iyengar, member of the Madhya Pradesh State Minority Commission has expressed her anger and anguish over the situation in Jabalpur. "This is a systematic attempt by the administration and the Fundamentalists to trouble innocent Christian in Jabalpur." she says.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Govt disapproves disrupting press meet

Bhopal June 05, 2006 10:59:42 PM IST

The Madhya Pradesh government today disapproved the attempt by the Bajrang Dal workers to 'disrupt' a press conference organised by the State Minority Commission to highlight the 'atrocities' on Christians during the BJP rule.

''Nobody has the right to disturb the press meet if such an incident took place'', Public Relations Minister Narendra Singh Tomar told reporters after claiming that he had no information about such an incident. ''Such incident should not have happened'', he said.

The Minister's comment came when his attention was drawn to an incident earlier in the day when local Bajrang Dal leader Devendra Rawat stormed into a press conference addressed by Commission member and prominent Christian leader Indira Iyengar to highlight the atrocities and gangrape of two tribal Christians in Khargone district and reluctance of the police to act on their complaint.

Asked what message the BJP government wanted to convey with such frequent incidents, Mr Tomar said the government was going ahead with programmes to achieve its intended aim.


Bajrang Dal disrupts Christian body's press meet

Bhopal June 06, 2006 1:15:15 AM IST

Bajrang Dal activists Monday barged into a press briefing organised by the Madhya Pradesh Christian Association (MPCA) here and threatened its leaders to stop making accusations that bring a bad name to their Hindu right wing organisation.

Just when MPCA president Indira Iyengar was talking to reporters about the saffron brigade's alleged atrocities on Christians, the activists arrived at the venue of the press meet, hardly a kilometre away from both the chief minister's residence and the state police headquarters.

The Bajrang Dal activists were led by city convenor Devendra Singh Rawat, who entered into a verbal duel with Iyengar. He alleged forced religious conversions of poor tribals by the community's leaders and presented a tribal couple of Bhopal that claimed it was forced to convert.


Bajrang moral cops strike again


Bhopal, June 5: After a brief lull, the Bajrang Dal is on the rampage again, targeting the minorities and acting moral police.

Today, it disrupted a news conference in which two Christian women, who were allegedly gangraped, were being presented. A day earlier, its activists had harassed two government officials, a man and a woman, for apparently getting cosy in private.

State Bajrang Dal convener Devender Rawat and his men forced their way into a news conference that was being addressed by state minorities commission member Indira Iyenger.

Shouting at the top of his voice, Rawat said: "I will not allow you to tarnish the image of nationalist Hindu organisations."

As Iyenger rose to respond, the gang began vandalising the venue. The police took their time arriving and, instead of making arrests, merely asked the Dal activists and Iyenger to leave.

Yesterday, Rawat and his gang had barged into a house in upscale Char Imli where a senior government official was in the company of a woman colleague.

Rawat accused them of "inappropriate behaviour" and dragged both to a police station. The police, however, could not register a case as the matter involved consenting adults getting together at a private place.

An unfazed Rawat justified his action. "They were doing dirty things and we caught them red-handed," he said. "It's a shame the police didn’t take stringent action."

Monday, June 05, 2006

Pastor arrested in Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh

Pastor Jagdish Bharti was arrested at 11 am on June 4, 2006 in Ujjain from the home of Ramesh Thakur, where a prayer meeting was going on. He has been charged under the section 295A of the Indian Penal Code in the neighbourhood of Hira Mill ki Chawl, in the Mayapuri area of Ujjain. When last heard he had not been granted bail and was still behind bars.

A total of fifteen people, including Pastor Jagdish had been taken to the prison in Ujjain along with Ramesh Thakur, in whose home the prayer meeting was being held.

These included: Miss Kiran, Miss Kaushalya, Miss Aruna, Ms Sarla, Ms Anita, Ms Prem Bai, Ms Sharda, John DeCosta, Ramesh Thakur, Miss Lakshmi, Jagdish Bhai, Ms Bhagwati Bai, Ganju Bhai and Stuti (small child). Ramesh and thirteen others were let go on bail after four hours of interrogation at 3 in he afternoon.

We spoke with Ramesh Thakur after his release from the police station and got to know how the fundamentalists had come and attacked their prayer meeting in the morning prior to the arrest.

As was the custom, the prayer meeting began at 10 in the morning. There were 25 people who had gathered together for prayer. However, in an hour's time a big crowd of men belonging to the Bajrang Dal of the RSS gathered outside the premises of Ramesh’s home. They were a group of fifty men shouting slogans and raising their voice against Christians. They knew that the prayer meeting was going on, and that Pastor Jagdish was there for this meeting. He was asked by the fundamentalists to come out and meet with them.

Wanting to quieten them down, Pastor went out to ask them the matter. He was instantly hurled with accusations and asked to answer why Christians were bent upon destroying the Hindu faith. They asked him to relinquish his faith in Lord Jesus and instead look upon their god 'Bajrang' or 'Hanuman' as the one to be worshipped. Not content with Pastor's reply, they barged inside the house and forced the people inside to go with them to a temple nearby. They forced them to bow down before the temple gods. Among those present for the prayer meeting were nine women and a small child who were roughed up as well. The women were threatened with dire consequences including rape if they did not stop attending the Christian prayer meetings.

In the big commotion taking place, a police Thana Inspector came to find out the matter. A lady whose son is an RSS activist lodged a complaint with the police against Pastor Jagdish accusing him of forceful conversions and causing social disharmony on religious grounds.

The police are investigating the matter. It seems that the Hindu fundamentalists are carefully planning their strategies to come against Christians in Ujjain. Pastor Jagdish and Ramesh had been receiving threats for the last three months to stop their prayer meetings. Every Sunday since the last couple of months, it was noticed that a group of fundamentalists would come and observe the goings on of the prayer meetings; they would make a note of who all were attending these meetings.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Pastor beaten in Punjab, Hospitalized

2nd June 2006: Pastor Harbans Lal from HLP church in Pangila village in Kaputhala district , Punjab was badly beaten up at about 9:00 pm on the 1st June 2006.

He is now admitted with injuries in his head under the Neurosurgery department in Christian Medical College (CMC), Ludhiana.

He was praying in his church at 5 PM when a group of 15-20 people came to the church and beat him on his head. He became unconscious and was then taken by the assailants in their vehicle to a house. There they left him bleeding.

The church members informed the Police who went to the house and took him to the Government Hospital from where he was referred to CMC Ludhiana. By God's grace he is stable. Please continue to pray