Recent Incidents of Persecution

Andhra Pradesh, India, December 23 (CDN) — Hindu extremists from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh on Dec. 20 seriously injured a pastor and beat his wife in Decarakonda, Nalgonda. At about 7:30 p.m., Pastor R. Timothy, his wife Nirmala and their child were on their way to a neighboring village when the Hindu extremists stopped them and attacked them, reported the Global Council of Indian Christians. They hit the pastor on his head with an iron rod and beat his wife on her left leg. The pastor was bleeding profusely when passersby saw him and called an ambulance. He received hospital treatment, including five stitches on his head. A local Christian leader filed a police complaint against the extremists at Nalgonda town police station, and a First Information Report was registered against the assailants. No arrest had been made at press time.

Karnataka – Police on Dec. 20 arrested eight Christians after Hindu extremists filed a complaint of forceful conversion against them in Madugere, Tumkur. The Global Council of Indian Christians reported that police arrested pastors N. Nagesh, Joshua Abraham and one identified only as Jilani, along with five other church members, as they were heading toward a nearby area after Sunday worship. The Christians were accused of forceful conversion and charged under Sections 295-A and 153 of the Indian Penal Code for “malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class” and “giving provocation with intent to create riot” respectively, and they were locked up in Madugere jail. With local Christian leaders’ intervention, they were released on bail on Dec 21.

Karnataka – Police in Chikmagalur district on Dec. 19 disrupted a Christmas service of Christ Fellowship Church and falsely accused a pastor of forcible conversion. The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) reported that officials of Lingadahalli police station, acting on a false complaint from the Hindu extremists of the Bajrang Dal, barged into the house church and verbally abused the 80 Christians present, asking them if they were being given promises of money to convert. Police then told Pastor S. David to accompany them to the police station. A GCIC coordinator told Compass that officers questioned David for nearly 90 minutes. They sent him away after warning him of possible attacks from extremists if he conducted such large services at the house church.

Karnataka – Police arrested a Christian after Hindu extremists filed a baseless complaint against him of forceful conversion on Dec. 15 in Mandhya. The Global Council of Indian Christians reported a person identified only as Srinivas beat B. Bhaskar of a Brethren Assemblies fellowship after finding him praying for a sick friend in a hospital; Srinivas later alerted an area leader and member of the Hindu extremist Rashtriya Swamyamsevak Sangh. As is customary in India, police arrested the victim instead of the aggressor; Bhaskar was arrested under Section 153-A of the Indian Penal Code for “promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion.” He was sent to Mandhya jail and was released on bail on Dec. 17 with local Christian leaders’ intervention.

Karnataka – Police on Dec. 14 arrested a pastor and his wife after Hindu nationalist extremists beat them and filed a false complaint of forcible conversion in K.R. Nagara-Mysore. The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) reported that at 10:30 a.m. nearly 15 extremists from the Bajrang Dal stormed into a house church, verbally abused Pastor Herurer Manjunath, slapped him repeatedly and accused him without basis of forcible conversion. They also slapped his wife, Saraswati. The intolerant Hindus broke two chairs and tore up some Christian literature in an attack that lasted for nearly 45 minutes. After they left, Manjunath went to the local police station to file a complaint, but instead officers charged Manjunath and Saraswati under various sections of the Indian Penal Code. A GCIC coordinator told Compass that both were not released on bail until Dec. 18.

Karnataka – Police on Dec. 14 detained Christians in Kodagu district after falsely accusing them of converting people in local tribal villages. The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) reported that Thimmappa Rammana invited independent Pastor Benedict Sunil to his rented home in Ammathi village, about eight kilometers (five miles) from Gonikoppal, Virajpet Taluk, for a service of around 100 Christians. At around 11:30 a.m., Ammathi police arrived, insulting those present and falsely accusing the pastor of forcibly converting local tribal villagers. They questioned many about their faith and inquired whether they had permission from the landlord to conduct such a meeting. A local GCIC coordinator told Compass that police took Rammana, Sunil and 11 other Christians to the police station for further questioning, later transferring them to the Virajpet Rural police station where they were detained for a few hours. Sub-Inspector Santosh Kumar of the Ammathi Police outpost told Compass that he had received complaints from villagers that conversion activities were taking place at Rammana’s house – as if conversion were illegal in India – so he had sent officers to bring them to police outposts and warn them of the complaints. He added that, as a preventive measure to avoid future clashes, he advised Rammana against conducting prayer meetings in his house.

Karnataka – On Dec. 12 in Bangalore, police detained a pastor and choir members of City St. Paul Methodist Church after Hindu extremists from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh accused them of forceful conversion. The Global Council of Indian Christians reported that the extremists arriving in Jeeps and on motorbikes stopped the choir members on their way home from visiting a church member’s home. They verbally abused the Christians. An area police inspector reached the site and took the pastor and choir members to the police station for questioning. Only with local Christian leaders’ intervention were the Christians released at 4 a.m.

Andhra Pradesh – Hindu extremists accused a pastor of forceful conversion and beat him on Dec. 9 in Kistapuram, Mahabubnagar, according to the All Indian Christian Council. Accusing Pastor Ninanapu Moses of forceful conversion, members of the Hindu extremist Bajrang Dal at about 8 p.m. attacked a prayer meeting led by Pastor Moses, verbally abused the Christians and beat them. The pastor received hospital treatment for internal injuries. Local Christian leaders filed a police complaint, but no arrests had been made at press time.

Karnataka – Hindu extremists from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh on Dec. 9 accused Christians of forceful conversion in Chikballapur. The Global Council of Indian Christians reported that at about 2 p.m. the extremists stormed into the prayer meeting held at the home of a pastor identified only as Joseph. In attendance was Pastor Franklin Prabakar and church members from Grace Gospel Church. At about 1:30 p.m., the extremists stopped the prayer meeting, threatened the Christians and accused them of forceful conversion. Alerted by the extremists, Chikbalapur Kasaba police arrived at the spot and took eight Christians to a local police station. The Christians were released at 11 p.m. later that night.

Haryana – Hindu extremists from the Bajrang Dal on Dec. 7 accused the operator of an orphanage of trying to forcefully convert street children to Christianity by providing shelter and food in Faridabad, Haryana, sources said. The extremists stormed the charitable trust orphanage home run by B.K. Mishra at about 7 p.m. and severely beat him, smashed his car and pressured the police to arrest him. Black and blue from the beating, Mishra sustained injuries on his face, back and legs, the sources said. Police refused to register a case against the attackers, and the home was closed down due to the extremists’ pressure.

Karnataka – Local Hindu extremists on Dec. 6 accused Pastor C. John Christopher, a leader of Grace Gospel Church Saythagiri in Anekal, near Bangalore, of forceful conversion, and Anekal police issued him a warning. The police barged into the church’s Sunday worship, searched the premises and took the pastor to the police station. Officers asked the pastor to submit his license for conducting worship meetings, as well as church property documents, and the pastor submitted the required papers. No case was filed against the pastor, but police warned him not to conduct future Christian meetings.

Karnataka – Hindu extremists accused a Christian teacher of forceful conversion and disrupted her class on Dec. 2 in Mandhya. The Global Council of Indian Christian reported that Hindu extremists entered the classroom of Gangothri Vadovasthan at Chikanahalli Government Primary School at about 2 p.m., falsely accused her of trying to forcibly convert the students to Christianity and verbally abused her in front of them. They also insulted the school authority for appointing a Christian teacher. The Hindu extremists filed a complaint against the Christian at Harakeri police station. School administrators forced Vadovasthan to take leave from the school due to the extremists’ pressure.

Andhra Pradesh – Police on Nov. 24 detained a Christian worker from Australia, Paul Jemison, on baseless charges of “forceful conversion” in Utnur. The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) reported that at 7:30 p.m. Jemison had gone to the Industrial Training Institute campus for the screening of a film for about 200 students, after which he began telling about Christ to students. Nearly 20 Hindu nationalist extremists arrived and accused him of “forceful conversion,” speaking derogatorily of his foreign origin. They forced Jemison to a police station, where they filed the complaint of “forceful conversions to Christianity” against him. A representative of the Adilabad Division of the All India Christian Council said Bharatiya Janata Party leader Sriram Nayak had complained to police after being alerted by District Tribal Welfare Officer Dasarath Nayak. A GCIC coordinator told Compass that Jemison was detained in the station until late that night and then released. Additionally, extremists warned a local pastor identified only as Premanandam, as well as his daughter, not to invite any more foreign workers to the town.

Report from Compass Direct News 


Orissa police confirm Maoists killed Saraswati; thousands flee amid continued violence.

NEW DELHI, October 10 (Compass Direct News) – After police in the eastern state of Orissa confirmed this week that Maoists killed Hindu nationalist leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati, a Hindu extremist group circulated allegedly forged documents in an attempt to implicate a local church in the Aug. 23 murder.

The Hindu Jagaran Samukhya (Society for Revival of Hinduism or HJS) circulated documents saying the plan to kill Saraswati in Kandhamal district was made at a meeting at Bethikala Church on May 25 attended by 17 people following a briefing and command from religious leaders, the Press Trust of India news agency reported yesterday.

Local Christian leaders responded by saying they will file defamation charges.

“We will file both civil and criminal defamation cases against the person who made such allegations,” Father Joseph Kalathil from the Catholic Archbishop House in Bhubaneswar and the Rev. Fr. Prafulla Ku Sabhapati, president of the Bethikala Parish Council of Kandhamal, said in a statement. “Not only our signatures were forged, the contents of the documents were also fabricated.”

On Oct. 6 Orissa state police confirmed that Maoists killed Saraswati, a day after the chief of the Orissa unit of the banned Communist Party of India-Maoist, Sabyasachi Panda, told NDTV 24X7 news that his organization was behind the murder.

The Maoists killed Saraswati because he was a key leader of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council or VHP), Panda told the channel. The VHP, he said, used non-tribal traders’ money to build VHP’s youth wing, Bajrang Dal, and ran a campaign against Christians, falsely accusing them of forced conversions and killing cows, considered holy by Hindus.

“This forced us to attack him,” Panda said. “We left two letters claiming responsibility for the murders. But the [Chief Minister Naveen] Patnaik government suppressed those letters. It is a BJP [Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party] government; they will support the VHP. The state government made it look like Christian groups were responsible for the attack. The Christian community in Orissa does not have any Maoist organization supporting them here.”

There were also reports, however, of the Orissa police having arrested three tribal Christians in connection with Saraswati’s murder. The Indian Express reported that the three had confessed their involvement.

A representative of the Christian Legal Association told Compass that according to sources, the police had tortured the three Christians to pressure them to confess a crime they did not commit.

After the assassination of Saraswati, Hindu extremist groups blamed local Christians and began attacks on them, their houses and their churches. The worst violence against Christians in modern India erupted in spite of the Orissa police and media stating on the day of the murder that suspected Maoists killed Saraswati.

According to the All India Christian Council, more than 60 people have been killed, more than 18,000 injured and around 4,500 houses and churches destroyed in the “retributive” violence. Two Christian women, including a nun, were also gang-raped. The violence, which later spread to at least 14 districts of Orissa, has left more than 50,000 people homeless.


Attacks Continue

Orissa’s Kandhamal district remained tense even 48 days after the violence began.

Yesterday about 15 houses were burned down by a mob in the Lansaripalli village in Kantamal Block of neighboring Boudh district, The Hindu reported. The attackers came from the Gochhapada area of Kandhamal district.

“Thursday’s was the third incident in Boudh district,” added the daily. “More than 100 houses were burnt down in two separate attacks in the past few days.”

On Wednesday (Oct. 8), a mob burned and looted at least 25 houses belonging to Christians in the Balligada village under Daringbadi police station in Kandhamal’s Nuagam Block, Father Ajay Singh of the Catholic Archdiocese of Bhubaneswar told Compass.

On Tuesday (Oct. 7), over five houses were torched in Jalespanga area under Phiringia police jurisdiction in Kandhamal. Another house was burned in the Sujeli village of G. Udayagiri Block the same day.

The Hindu also said the more than 16,000 Christians living in various relief camps were not returning to their villages, fearing attacks on them if they refused to convert to Hinduism.

Fr. Singh from the Bhubaneswar Archdiocese told Compass that over 12,000 Christians from various relief camps had moved out of Kandhamal to other districts and states, as they feared more attacks.


Supporting Violence

The president of the VHP, Ashok Singhal, told Zee News channel on Sunday (Oct. 5), “What Hindu organizations including the VHP, the Bajrang Dal and the RSS [Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, India’s chief Hindu nationalist group] are doing in Orissa is all legal and is the reaction of the murder of VHP leader Saraswati, who was like Jesus Christ to us.”

In an interview with The Week magazine (Oct. 5), Singhal said that Hindu youth are “ready to die and, if necessary, to kill. [Their] patience is ebbing.”

Singhal added that a “Hindu uprising” had begun, “and the political parties will have to rethink and reinvent themselves, for their own existence. If there is no arrangement for Hindus’ security, they’ll do it on their own. The Hindus will not die. If that self-defence is militancy, so be it … the Hindu never went around the world for suzerainty or to convert … now they are here, undermining us. That causes anger. In fact many want to fight back this harvesting of Hindus.”

In addition, a leader of the Bajrang Dal in the southern state of Karnataka admitted to supporting recent attacks on churches while speaking to The Week magazine. “We supported those who attacked the churches, as it is a justified fight,” Bajrang Dal convenor Mahendra Kumar said.

The violence in Orissa spread to several other states, including Karnataka, where around 20 churches were destroyed and 20 Christians were attacked in the recent weeks.

As many political parties and rights groups have demanded a ban on the Bajrang Dal for attacking Christians and churches in Orissa and other states, the federal government ruled by the United Progressive Alliance has mandated the National Integration Council to give its recommendations, reported the Times of India today.

The Bajrang Dal, however, warned that any such move would have “grave consequences” for the government politically, saying there was “no legal ground” for such an action.

There are 897,861 Christians in Orissa, which has a population of 36.8 million.  

Report from Compass Direct News


Still blaming Christians for assassination, Hindu fanatics continue attacks.

NEW DELHI, September 1 (Compass Direct News) – A Maoist group today claimed responsibility for killing Hindu extremist leader Laxmanananda Saraswati and four of his disciples in Orissa state on August 23, saying that fanatical Hindus’ claims that Christians murdered him were “lies.”

The violence that has claimed the lives of least 36 people, most of them Christians, and destroyed hundreds of churches and homes continued over the weekend as Hindu extremists continued to blame Christians for the killing of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council or VHP) leader.

The Central Committee of the Communist Party of India-Maoist, an extreme Marxist group banned by the Indian government, released a statement today saying that Sangh Parivar, the family of Hindu extremist groups led by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh or RSS, have deliberately misled people about Saraswati’s death.

“The Sangh Parivar leaders like Praveen Togadia have been trying to divert the people by uttering lies that it is not the Maoists but Christian organizations that had carried out the attack on the VHP leader,” the Marxist group stated.

The statement said Saraswati was a “rabid anti-Christian ideologue and persecutor of innocent Christians who was responsible for the burning down of over 400 churches in Kandhamal district alone.”

Saraswati, who had run a campaign against Christian missionaries for several decades in Orissa, was allegedly behind a spate of anti-Christian attacks in Kandhamal district last Christmas season. The violence lasted for more than a week beginning December 24, and killed at least four Christians and burned 730 houses and 95 churches.

The Maoist statement warned the VHP of “more such punishments if it continued violence against religious minorities in the country” and called for a ban on groups linked to the Sangh Parivar, such as the VHP, its youth wing Bajrang Dal, right-wing Hindu political party Shiv Sena and the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

On August 30 private news channel NDTV 24X7 quoted unnamed government sources as saying that their assessment was that Christians had no role in the killing of Saraswati, and that the probe was leading to Maoist culprits.

Christian leaders said that as a result of the violence more tha 50,000 Christians are living as refugees in jungles.


Fresh Attacks

According to the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI), today at least two churches and a motorbike were burned and a pastor was beaten in Koraput district.

The Orissa Missionary Movement Church and the Bible Mission Church were set ablaze by mobs in Jeypore town, according to EFI, and also in Jeypore a pastor of the Blessing Youth Mission was attacked.

The state government today said 543 houses had been burned in Kandhamal alone thus far, IANS reported.

Although the number of incidents has come down compared with last week, fresh attacks were reported yesterday. Indo-Asian News Service (IANS) reported today that the violence had spread to three more districts of Orissa.

“Security forces had been deployed in nine districts [of Orissa] since August 23, but policemen are now being deployed in an additional three districts,” Inspector General of Police Pradeep Kapur told IANS.

Security forces had been deployed in the districts of Bolangir, Bargarh, Kandhamal, Gajapati, Ganjam, Koraput, Rayagada, Bhadrak and Kendrapada. Kapur, however, refused to tell the three additional districts where police personnel had been deployed.

Yesterday several churches and houses were burned in Bataguda and Parampanga areas of Kandhamal district, Boriguma area of Koraput district and in parts of Rayagada district, according to IANS.

The Hindu newspaper reported that eight prayer houses were damaged in Kundra area of Koraput district on Sunday.

“Violence erupted in the district following a clash between two groups in Jeypore town on Saturday and five churches were damaged,” the newspaper reported, adding that a curfew was still in force.

Although the violence began more than a week ago, police are still saying they are not able to reach interior villages of Kandhamal. The state government has now reportedly asked for additional central paramilitary forces to control the violence.

While many parts of Orissa remained under curfew today, over 13,000 people were reportedly living in relief centers set up by the state government in seven places in Kandhamal.



With violence continuing with little or no police protection, Christian leaders said many fearful believers have been forcibly “reconverted” to Hinduism.

According to The Indian Express, more than a hundred Christians “reconverted” to Hinduism in Kandhamal on Friday and Saturday (Aug. 29-30).

“I have heard that reconversions are taking place and I am looking into it,” Kandhamal Revenue Divisional Commissioner Satyabarat Sahoo told the newspaper.

A number of reconversions have reportedly taken place in Raikia, Baliguda, Barakhama and others areas of Kandhamal, the newspaper reported.

Dr. Sajan K. George, president of the Global Council of India Christians, told Compass that Hindu extremist groups are “reconverting” Christians by force.

“We have collected evidence and given it to authorities,” he said. “However, the police and other state government authorities are not doing anything.”

George led a sit-in protest with local Christians in front of the state legislative assembly building in state capital Bhubaneswar, and submitted a memorandum to the state governor on Saturday (Aug. 30).

Brahmachari Shankar Chaitanya, successor of the slain Saraswati, asserted that the conversions were “purely voluntary.”

“If misguided people want to come back to Hinduism they will do so, and it is our duty to extend all necessary help and embrace them,” Chaitanya told The Indian Express.


‘Punish the Killers’

Christians noted that the violence by VHP extremists is in a state ruled by a coalition of Biju Janata Dal party and the BJP.

A delegation comprising a noted filmmaker and Christians from various denominations today submitted a memorandum to the Indian President Pratibha Patil demanding action against the VHP and other groups for leading mobs to kill and attack Christians.

The delegation urged the president to invoke Article 355 of the constitution, which states that the federal government has a duty to protect states against external aggression and internal disturbance.

The delegation included film director Mahesh Bhatt; Dr. Abraham Mathai, vice chairman of the Maharashtra State Minorities Commission; Dr. John Dayal, member of the National Integration Council of India; Mehmood Madani, member of Parliament; Archbishop Raphael Cheenath from Orissa; Delhi Archbishop Vincent Concessao; the Rev. Dr. Babu Joseph, spokesperson of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India; Joseph Dias from the Catholic Secular Front; the Rev. Madhu Chandra of the All India Christian Council, and Jenis Francis of the Federation of Catholic Associations.

“More than 50,000 Christians are living as refugees following the violence in Orissa,” Mathai told reporters. “All the political parties are sitting as mute spectators.”

Christians make up 2.4 percent of the state’s population, or 897,861 of the 36.7 million people.  

Report from Compass Direct News


Two people burnt alive, churches torched in Orissa state.

NEW DELHI, August 25 (Compass Direct News) – The killing of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council or VHP) leader Swamiji Laxmanananda Saraswati and four associates by suspected Maoists on Saturday night (August 23) led to renewed anti-Christian attacks in Orissa state, with churches torched and two people burned alive.

Accusing local Christians of killing their leader, Hindu extremists set an orphanage on fire in Khuntapali village in Barhgarh district, burning a Catholic nun to death, according to the All India Christian Council. The attack on the orphanage in Khuntapali, 250 miles west of the state capital of Bhubaneswar, also left a priest at the orphanage hospitalized with severe burns.

Over the weekend, VHP extremists in Nuagon, Kandhamal district burned alive a man suffering from paralysis, whose identity and religious affiliation were still unknown at press time, and assaulted pastors.

The Indian Express reported that a mob torched a house in Nuagaon near Pasara outpost in Chakapada area last night. The paralytic man stranded inside the house reportedly burned to death.

The Hindu extremists also launched arson attacks on at least 10 churches, several prayer houses, shops and vehicles in various parts of the eastern state.

Numerous Christians have fled to jungles to save their lives, according to the AICC, which has written to the federal internal minister demanding security for the community.

Saraswati allegedly incited the attacks on Christians and their property in Kandhamal during last Christmas season. The violence lasted for more than a week beginning December 24, and killed at least four Christians and burned 730 houses and 95 churches.

The attacks were allegedly carried out mainly by VHP extremists under the pretext of avenging an alleged attack on Saraswati by local Christians. Hundreds of Christians were displaced by the violence in Kandhamal, and they are still in various relief camps set up by the state government.


Maoists Suspected

At around 9:30 p.m. on Saturday (August 23), around 30 armed men carrying sophisticated rifles and AK-47s launched an attack on Saraswati’s ashram (religious center) in the Jalespata area in Kandhamal’s Tumudiband Block, killing five people, including Saraswati, reported CNN-IBN news channel.

A warning letter found at the Saraswati religious center and the use of expensive arms suggested Maoists were behind the attack. Christian groups, including the Global Council of Indian Christians, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, the AICC, and the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) condemned the killing of Saraswati and his associates.

The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a partner in the state’s ruling coalition led by the Biju Janata Dal party, and the VHP called for 12-hour a strike in which inflammatory speeches were made accusing Christians of killing Saraswati.

“Swamiji [Saraswati] was opposed to religious conversion taking place in various parts of Orissa,” BJP state leader Suresh Pujari told Press Trust of India. “Those opposed to Swamiji’s anti-conversion activities killed him.”

On Sunday, the Kandhamal district administration imposed a curfew in all sensitive areas in Kandhamal and issued orders prohibiting the gathering of four or more people throughout the district.

All borders of the district were also sealed. Defying the orders, VHP extremists took Saraswati’s funeral procession from the Jalespata religious center to the main ashram in Chakapada, covering around 70 kilometers (44 miles), apparently to incite violence. According to media reports, they launched attacks on Christian institutions along the way.

“A large number of supporters of Laxmanananda entered the district headquarter town of Phulbani in violation of curfew restrictions on their way to Chakapada and targeted churches and houses,” Kandhamal District Collector (administrative head) Krishan Kumar told The Indian Express newspaper.


Numerous Attacks

The newspaper also reported that two police officers suffered injuries when they tried to prevent the mob from attacking churches, prayer halls, houses and vehicles on the route of the procession.

Eyewitnesses told the newspaper that a Baptist church and its parsonage, a Roman Catholic church, three houses and some vehicles were attacked by the extremists in Phulbani town, the district headquarters. Nine shops and two vehicles were also torched in Raikia, and two jeeps in Udayagiri.

In Nuagaon, Kandhamal district, Hindu extremists reportedly gang-raped a young Catholic nun of the Cuttack-Bhubaneswar diocese working with the Jan Vikas Kendra social service center before destroying the building.

John Dayal of the AICC reported that less than a kilometer away from the social service center, a senior priest and nun were injured when Hindu extremists attacked the facility. Calling for their blood, Hindu extremists took the director of the Diocesan Pastoral Center in Kanjimendi, known only as Father Thomas, and a nun to a local police station, then set the center on fire.

The Pioneer newspaper reported that VHP extremists burned a small thatched prayer house on Saturday night in Tentulijhari area in Sundargarh district.

EFI reported that pastor Jeebaratna Lima of the Believer’s Church from Khurda district was attacked on Sunday while he was going to his church to conduct the prayer service. The mob almost set him on fire after spraying him with gas, but police arrived in time to save him.

Another Believer’s Church pastor, Bahumulya Paik, was attacked the same day in Bamunidei village in Ganjam district.

The violence continued today. The VHP and its youth wing, the Bajrang Dal, with the support of the BJP enforced a dawn-to-dusk closure across the state, organizing numerous protests and road and rail blockades and launching more attacks.

As a precautionary measure, the state government ordered closure of all schools and colleges. According to Indo-Asian News Service (IANS), the protestors today attacked more than 10 churches and dozens of vehicles in different parts of the state and clashed with police in some places.

According to the EFI report, a Believers Church was also vandalized in Chandrasekharpur area in the state capital, Bhubaneswar.

“It was a spontaneous response of the people to the shutdown,” national coordinator of the Bajrang Dal, Subash Chauhan, claimed while speaking to IANS.

While the district administration has suspended the officer-in-charge of the Tumudiband police station, Orissa state chief minister Naveen Patnaik has ordered a judicial probe into the incident and announced a compensation of 200,000 rupees (US$4,617) to the next of kin of the deceased.

The population of Kandhamal is 600,000, which includes around 150,000 Christians.

According to The Pioneer, police have arrested three Christians in connection with Saraswati’s murder, but at press time police had not confirmed the report.

Report from Compass Direct News