Recent Incidents of Persecution
Karnataka, May 19 (Compass Direct News) – Police on May 12 arrested Christians in Chennarayapatna, Hassan district on trumped-up charges of fraudulent conversions after a group of Hindu extremists attacked them. The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) reported that at 3 p.m. nearly 25 assailants led by a Hindu extremist identified only as Lokesh barged into Sidda Vinayaka School, where members of Every Home Crusade ministry were holding a prayer meeting. The attackers beat pastors K.K. Ramesh and P.S. Anjaneya and falsely accused them of fraudulent conversion; the intolerant Hindus also snatched Bibles and hymnals, piled them up and burned them. A GCIC regional coordinator told Compass that three Christians identified only as 25-year-old Sangarasimha, 35-year-old Calton and Manjunath were beaten as they tried to protect women present. Manjunath was bleeding from his ear and from cuts on his face. Officers from the Chennarayapatna police station arrived at around 4 p.m. and, as is customary in India, arrested the victims of the attack. Along with Sangarasimha, Calton and Manjunath, officers took K.K. Ramesh and P.S. Anjaneya to a police station, and only with GCIC intervention were they released without charges that night at 10:45 p.m.
Orissa – Hindu extremists attacked Christians in Mondakai relief camp on May 11 in Kandhamal. The Global Council of Indian Christians reported that, under cover of darkness, extremists beating drums and chanting Hindu devotionals tried to enter the camp where about 1,500 Christian refugees have stayed since last August’s anti-Christian violence. The Hindu hardliners attacked Swasti Nayak, a Christian who was standing near the camp’s main gate, leaving him with minor injuries. Police patrolling the camp intervened soon after, keeping the crowd of attackers at bay. Christian leaders met with state authorities to demand additional police protection. At press time, no additional forces were deployed.
Manipur – Alleged Hindu nationalists burned two church buildings in Phumlou and Phayeng on May 10 and another in Taolong on May 11. The Evangelical Fellowship of India reported that at about 10:40 p.m. on May 10, a newly organized group attacked the Baptist and Catholic churches in Phumlou and Phayeng and the next day attacked the Evangelical Churches Association building in Taolong. Gutted in the fire were parts of the buildings and furniture, pulpits, curtains, mats, microphones and sound system speakers. Madhu Chandra, general secretary of the All India Christian Council, told Compass, “A Hindutva-like communal force is suspected to be behind the serial attacks on churches targeting the Meitei Christians. We have submitted a memorandum to the state’s chief minister expressing our concern and to take appropriate action.” Police registered a First Information Report but no arrests had been made at press time.
Jammu and Kashmir – Police in Plaura on May 10 stopped Sunday worship and arrested pastor Virender Joseph and a church member identified only as Eddie, booking them for “suspicious persons roaming around” under section 109 of the Police Act. A Compass contact said officers took the two Christians to the police station and baselessly accused them of harassing people and creating problems in society because of their faith. The Christians were released on bail the next day. Waris Gill, president of the Jammu chapter of the Christian Legal Association, told Compass that the two Christians will appear in court on June 2. “Arresting the two innocent Christians on baseless grounds,” he added, “is simply an abuse of power by the state police.”
Tamil Nadu – On May 8 members of the Hindu extremist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh interrupted a Good Shepherd Community Church screening of the “Jesus Film” and accused pastor Kandha Swamy of forceful conversion in Erode district. The All Indian Christian Council (AICC) reported that the attackers, led by an extremist identified only as Murgesab, barged into the house of the pastor, verbally abused him and warned him to vacate his house. Police arrived during the middle of the film and took all equipment, including a ministry team vehicle, to the police station. Moses Vatipalli of the AICC told Compass that due to the police pressure, the assailants and the victims reached an agreement whereby the Christians stated in writing that they must obtain permission from police prior to any Christian activities in the area.
Madhya Pradesh – Police arrested five Christian workers on charges of forceful conversion on May 7 in Narshinghpur. The Evangelical Fellowship of India reported that five Christian guests from Jeevan Lal Church and Campus Crusade for Christ were invited to a home for Bible study when Hindu extremists shouting Hindu devotional slogans stormed in. The assailants beat the visitors, including Melar Selwan, who sustained a broken arm. Police arrived and, as is customary in India, took the five victims to Amgaon police station. Both parties filed police complaints, but the Christians were arrested under Section 295(A) of the Indian Penal Code for “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.
Maharashtra – About 30 Hindu hardliners who are followers of Swami Narendra Maharaj on May 5 attacked a revival meeting, injuring 10 Christians, including a 5-year-old girl at Damodar Hall, Nalasopara (east), Mumbai. The Hindustan Times reported that at 1 p.m. the extremists broke into a meeting organized by the Vasai Taluka Christian Pastors Association, locked the doors and windows of the hall and forced the Christians to chant “Jai Shri Ram (Praise Lord Ram).” Those who refused were beaten. Pastor James Samuel received hospital treatment for head wounds, while 10 others including the young girl were left with bruises. Police have arrested Sanjay Keer, his wife Sushma, Deepak Vairagade, Pramod Viraskar and Rajesh Kanade, all followers of Narendra Maharaj. The extremists were arrested and charged with rioting, unlawful assembly and voluntarily causing grievous hurt. Dr. Abraham Mathai, vice chairman of the state minorities commission, told Compass that a plainclothes constable from the Nalasopara police station “led the mob attack on a Christian prayer meeting, and this reflects poorly on the secular principles of our police force.”
Andhra Pradesh – Hindu extremists on May 4 set ablaze Holy Spirit Church in Warrangal, resulting in property damages of 100,000 rupees (US$2,061). The All Indian Christian Council reported that at around 2 a.m. the attackers broke down the door and burned the church building from the inside, destroying it and furniture, Bibles, gospel literature, the sound system and carpets. Area church leaders filed a police complaint. Pastor Emaddi Clinton told Compass that the church was completely burned down. At press time a police investigation was underway.
Chhattisgarh – Members of the Hindu extremist Bajrang Dal, youth wing of the World Hindu Council, on May 3 attacked a youth prayer meeting led by a Christian woman, Neeshi Nath, in Bilaspur, a source told Compass. At the evening meeting, the intolerant Hindus burned Bibles and gospel tracts, broke household goods and threatened further harm if those present continued Christian activities. The Christians filed a police complaint, and officers registered a First Information Report at Koni police station. No arrests had been made at press time.
Himachal Pradesh – In Salon, Hindu hardliners on May 1 attacked and threatened pastor Suresh Masih Bhatti of the Believers’ Church as he was working in the Subhathu area. A church representative told Compass that about six extremists led by Sunil Sheena stopped the pastor after he had visited church members’ homes. The intolerant Hindus accused the pastor of forceful conversion, beat him and threatened further harm if he conducted future Christian meetings. The pastor filed a police complaint, and officers registered a First Information Report against the attackers. The Rev. Biju Solomon of Believers’ Church in Salon told Compass that there was no attempted forcible conversion. “Hindu extremist Sunil Sheena made a public apology to the pastor and gave in writing that he would not repeat such things in future,” he added.
Chhattisgarh – Members of the Chhattisgarh Sikh Youth Association on April 30 beat Jaspal Singh Saluja in Shyamnagar for converting to Christianity, according to a Compass contact. The extremists barged into Saluja’s house at about 10 p.m. and assaulted him, also damaging furniture and household goods. The Christian received minor injuries. Saying he forgave the Hindu extremists, Saluja opted not to file charges against them.
Jammu and Kashmir – A 70-year-old pastor in Bashi Nagar village who was arrested on April 8 after a flurry of false accusations, from kidnapping to fraudulent conversion, was reportedly tortured while in custody. By the time radical Hindus had persuaded police to arrest A.K. Captain Samuel, officers were claiming the pastor of a 350-member church was a terrorist. Eventually police charged him under Section 153(A) of the Ranbir Penal Code for “promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion and doing acts prejudiced to maintenance of harmony.” Marcus Gill, president of the Jammu and Kashmir Christian Forum, told media that there was no case for fraudulent conversion, adding, “We condemn the arrest of the pastor, who is innocent . . . He was falsely accused and arrested without any proof.” Christians in Jammu said the incident was part of a larger targeting of the Christian community. With police ordering him to halt his evangelistic efforts, Samuel was released on bail on May 14 on the condition that he leave Jammu. At press time, he had relocated to the state of Punjab but was expected to appear in court again on May 25.
Report from Compass Direct News