Recent Incidents of Persecution
Chhattisgarh, April 30 (Compass Direct News) – On April 20 a group of Sikhs in Dalli Rajhara, Durg district attacked Christian pastors who had converted from the Sikh religion. A source told Compass the pastors were guest speakers from New Delhi at a Christian event organized by Christian Community Church, where about 200 people were in attendance. At about 9:30 p.m., leaders from the Sikh community streamed into the church building and beat the visiting Christians, accusing them of forceful conversion and disrupting the community. Local Christian leaders denied that any forceful conversions were attempted. The Sikh community leaders were offended that the visiting converts, who still followed their cultural norm of wearing turbans and sporting beards, were preaching in the area; the Sikh leaders termed them traitors and demanded their arrests, later submitting memorandums of complaint to the state governor, chief minister and home minister. Police arrived and sent the pastors back to New Delhi. The state chief minister assured the Sikh community that the government would investigate, reported the Evangelical Fellowship of India, but host pastor Edison Sagar said no action has been taken against the converts and calm has returned to the area.
Maharashtra – Nearly 25 Hindu extremists on April 19 vandalized a 100-year-old church in Saoner, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Nagpur. The Times of India reported that during Sunday Mass the extremists stormed the Douglas Memorial Church chanting “Jai Shree Ram, Jai Bajrang [Hail Lord Ram, Hail Lord Bajrang],” tore up several books including the sanctuary Bible and ransacked the building, damaging furniture, musical instruments and the altar. Armed with sticks and swords, the 20 to 25 attackers also shattered windows of the mission school bus parked in front of the church, the national daily reported. The extremists hurled a sharp trident-like weapon at the Rev. Mark Madhukar Sakharpekar, who had just begun his sermon, but he escaped unhurt. One of the attackers reportedly told him, “Next time it will be worse.” Two women, Aruna Telkhande and Preeti Dongre, received minor injuries. Nagpur district police arrested seven persons for the attack, including two who belonged to the Hindu extremist Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal.
Chhattisgarh – Hindu extremists from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and other groups on April 15 falsely accused a pastor of keeping cartons of liquor on Church of Christ premises in Tarbahar, Bilaspur. A source told Compass that someone planted about 10 cartons of alcohol at his home on the church premises in order to falsely accuse the pastor, as it is illegal to store such large amounts of alcohol at home. The Hindu hardliners arrived at the church premises, accused pastor Markus Ram of illegally storing the liquor and dragged him to the police station at about 2 a.m., pressuring police to file a case against him. Police took a statement from the pastor, but local Christian leaders arrived and met with government officials, and Pastor Ram was released at about 2 p.m. A police investigation, however, was still underway at press time.
Chhattisgarh – Police on April 15 arrested a Christian on charges of forceful conversion in the Chakarbhata area, near Bilaspur. A source told Compass that the hard-line Hindus falsely accused Gyan Singh of illegally “luring” four people to Christianity by inviting them to a church service at the chapel of Mission Hospital in Bilaspur. Hindus Ramesh Bareth, Ganesh Kaushik and two identified only as Arjun and Dhuri, later accused Singh of forceful conversion, and word spread quickly. Soon a mob of Hindu extremists gathered at the Chakarbhata police station and filed a police complaint against the Christians. Unable to find evidence of allurement or forced conversion, police charged Singh with “promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion” (Section 153-A of the Indian Penal Code) and “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings” (Section 295-A). Local church leaders denied any wrongdoing by Christians in the area.
Karnataka – Hindutva (Hindu nationalist) extremists on April 12 beat pastor Rajesh Kurdekar and falsely accused him of forceful conversion after disrupting worship in Analekoppa, Sagar Taluk, Shimoga district. The Global Council of Indian Christians reported that an area extremist identified only as Chowdappa led some 20 assailants in the attack on the Patmos Prayer Hall. Some of the intolerant Hindus took photographs of the congregation and warned them against participating in any future worship at the site and threatened to use the photographs as evidence against the pastor of “conversion activities” – though conversion is not illegal in India. Sources told Compass that police at the Sagar City police station refused to accept Pastor Kurdekar’s complaint and warned him against creating a “nuisance” by conducting prayer services. “No worship was held on April 19, as no one came for the service for fear of the extremists,” said one source.
Chhattisgarh – Hindu extremists assaulted pastor Somnal Bhagal of Jehovah Pentecostal Mission as he was returning from a prayer meeting on April 7. A source told Compass that a man identified only as Patel objected to the prayer meetings and had threatened to harm the pastor if he continued leading them. As Pastor Bhagal was returning home from the April 7 prayer meeting, Patel’s wife stopped him and accused him of staring at her. Patel and three others then beat Pastor Bhagal, disparaging him and Christianity. The pastor filed a police complaint but no arrests had been made at press time. Local Christians said they believed that the attack was premeditated.
Chhattisgarh – Police arrested Christian social workers on charges of forceful conversion on April 7 in Pratap Chowk. A source told Compass that workers from the Hindu extremist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) accused the social workers travelling in election-duty vehicles of carrying Christian literature and anti-Hindu stickers. The BJP workers found the books and accused the Christians of forcible conversion and trying to “pollute the minds” of people against Hinduism. The Christians steadfastly denied the charges, maintaining that the extremists planted the books to falsely implicate them. Police detained the Christians for about eight hours and were released on bail.
Andhra Pradesh – In Dharmapuri village, Karimnagar district a about 40 Hindu extremists shouting slogans broke into the house of a Christian on April 6 and, using abusive language, dragged a visiting pastor and three women to the police station. The pastor, 67-year-old Prabhu Dass, told Compass that the family living in the house had invited him and the other Christians for prayer, but the Hindu extremists charged him with attempting forcible conversion, registering a First Information Report against him. “Along with three Christian women visiting their house, I was taken to the police station while one man among us escaped,” Pastor Dass told Compass. He and others were released on bail after much difficulty on April 9, he said. “They have threatened sister Radha, the lady of the house I visited, to give witness against me in the court,” said a terrified Pastor Dass. “They shot my photograph, and it was telecast on the local television channels and three local newspapers the very next day.” He termed the incident part of a larger conspiracy of Hindu extremists against area Christians.
Karnataka – Hindu nationalists on April 5 attacked pastor M. Abel as he was on his way to preach as a guest at the House of Salvation Church in Chamrajnagar district. The Global Council of Indian Christians reported that at about 1 p.m. a mob led by Goundar Gurupadappa, along with two policemen from Anoor police station in Vadarpalaya village, stopped Pastor Abel; an officer identified only as Suresh began beating him and falsely accusing him of forceful conversion. At the church’s rented facility, the intolerant Hindus also took Senior Pastor Samuel Ravi and the local church pastor who had invited him to speak, identified only as Abraham, to nearby Lingayat Mutt and warned them not to conduct any further worship or prayer services. They also warned two other area churches, Pentecostal Church and Bethesda, in the same village against holding worship services. Ravi told Compass that no Christian worship was held April 12 and April 19, as the landlord made them vacate the premises, and no one was willing to rent them a hall out of fear of the Hindu extremists.
Andhra Pradesh – A member of the Hindu extremist Bajrang Dal, youth wing of the World Hindu Council, on March 28 threatened to kill pastor G. Timothy of the Brethren Fellowship if he did not leave his village in Warrangal within 48 hours. The All Indian Christian Council (AICC) reported that a Bajrang Dal worker identified only as Ravi barged into the pastor’s house and told him to come outside with him. When the pastor refused, Ravi began insulting the pastor and his faith and threatened to murder him. A group of extremists had recently attacked two new converts of the church and had reportedly threatened to continue the violence if the fellowship continued to meet. Additionally, the church sound system had recently been stolen, according to the AICC. The pastor filed a police complaint but no arrests had been made at press time.
Andhra Pradesh – Hindu hardliners on March 27 attacked a pastor and other Christians in Hyderabad. The All Indian Christian Council reported that pastor Pramodam Joshua of Shalom Bible Church and members of his leadership team were on their way back home from the meeting at a church member’s rented home when three Hindu extremists stopped them. They accused the pastor of forceful conversion and started beating him, his son and a Christian identified only as Yaeeru. The pastor received hospital treatment for internal injuries. The Hindu extremists also threatened the landlord of the hosting church member’s house for allowing them to hold a prayer service there. Local Christian leaders filed a police complaint at Amberbet police station, but no arrests had been made at press time.
Andhra Pradesh – Hindu extremists in Chitoor on March 24 burned a church building, resulting in damages totaling 30,000 rupees (US$600). The Global Council of Indian Christians reported that Hindu hardliners set ablaze the Jesus Prayer House Church, damaging Bibles, hymnals and furniture and destroying the thatched structure. A church representative told Compass that the pastor had received several threats from the Hindu extremist Bajrang Dal, youth wing of the World Hindu Council, warning him not to lead worship meetings in the area. The pastor filed a police complaint at Renigunta police station, but no arrests had been made at press time.
Report from Compass Direct News