Chhattisgarh, August 29 (News) – Two pastors were arrested on charges of “hurting religious feelings” and fraudulent conversion on August 26 after Hindu extremists and police disrupted a church’s Sunday worship following the baptism of five converts in Chhattisgarh state. Arun Pannalal, general secretary of the Chhattisgarh Christian Forum, said extremists from the Dharam Sena entered the church shouting anti-Christian slogans and, accompanied by police, made allegations of forcible conversion where 52 people were worshipping in Bhilai sector, Durg district. Independent church pastor Charles Patel had baptized five new converts in a nearby river before the service. Police summoned the church members to the Nevai police station, where they interrogated them and the newly baptized converts, “who insisted that they had willingly accepted Jesus as their Savior and that it was a conscious, personal decision to embrace the Christian Faith,” Pannalal said. Two strangers showed up telling police that co-pastors Samson Patel (brother of Charles) and Neeraj Martin had given them money to convert to Christianity. Charles Patel told News, “We have never seen those two men before, they are unknown to anyone.” Police Inspector Anil Bakshi told News that Samson Patel and Martin have been charged with “deliberately injuring religious sentiments” and with violating provisions of the state anti-conversion law.
Karnataka – At least 25 Hindu extremists on August 26 launched a violent attack on a house church in Kolar district, Karnataka state, stabbing one member and beating the pastor. In Raji Nagar area, Malur, the attackers beat 38-year-old independent pastor Emmanuel Venkatesh and M.S. Thimmakka and stabbed a church member identified as Venkattarajappa on his hand and hips, said Dr. Sajan K. George of the Global Council of Indian Christians. The attack took place during Sunday worship at Thimmakka’s house in Malur, about 55 kilometers (34 miles) from Bangalore. The extremists also vandalized Thimmakka’s house. All of the injured were admitted to Malur Hospital. Circle Inspector Shiva Kumar initially tried to defend the perpetrators when George contacted him, but the official later filed a complaint against them. No one had been arrested at press time.
Andhra Pradesh – Hindu extremists from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh on August 22 allegedly prompted a neighbor of a Christian shopkeeper, identified only as Justin, to beat the store owner after he accidentally broke an idol of a Hindu god outside his business in Nizamabad, Andhra Pradesh. Area shopkeepers intervened, sparing the Christian from further attack, according to the All India Christian Council (AICC). The Christian was cleaning the shop and the surrounding area when he tripped and fell on the idol made of mud, breaking part of it, an AICC official told News. The following day, the shopkeeper’s neighbor filed a police complaint charging that the Christian deliberately broke the idol to insult the Hindu god Ganesha. Police from Nizamabad arrested the shopkeeper, who was reportedly released on bail on August 25.
Karnataka – Hindu extremists of the Rashtriya Swayemsevak Sangh (RSS) thrashed students of the Full Gospel Church on August 21 in Davangere, Karnataka. Dr. Sajan K. George of the Global Council of Indian Christians said that six female and 12 male students were on a picnic when a person approached them and began questioning them. A mob of around 50 RSS extremists arrived on bicycles, motorbikes and cars and began hitting and kicking the students, swearing at and insulting them, and accusing them of forcible conversion, George said. The extremists dragged students identified only as Parasuram, Ramesh, Vani Jyothi, Pushpa, Vijay, Shilpa, Prasan, Nirmala and Chandra, to the Vidyanagara police station and filed a complaint of forcible conversion against them. Police initially told News the students were arrested but later said they were held “for keeping peace” and released on August. 27. “The case against the students was officially closed,” a police official told News.
Karnataka – About 50 people on August 19 beat some of the 30 people worshipping at Indian Pentecostal Church of God in Jakkur, Bangalore in Karnataka state. Entering the facility where congregants were worshipping at 11:30 a.m. and bolting the doors shut behind them, the attackers beat four church members. When church members managed to escape, the assailants chased them away, following them to a house. The attackers ran them from that place too. “These attackers had warned us not to conduct worship service today,” pastor Thomas Koshy told News. “Even a week before, these people had attacked our meeting and nothing extreme took place. But this time they made it severe.” A member of the church filed a police complaint, but the assailants indicated they would seek another opportunity to beat the pastor. The owner of the facility where the church worships has asked the pastor to vacate the hall.
Goa – Unidentified people suspected of being Hindu extremists vandalized a Catholic church compound on August 18 in Salcette area of Goa state. The attackers broke two crosses in the Church of Assolna and damaged glass panes of a school inside the church compound, said Dr. Sajan K. George of the Global Council of Indian Christians. The vandals also destroyed water and electricity pipes, lamps and a septic tank, he told News. The church, however, did not report the incident to the police, according to George. Religious tensions in Goa rose after the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lost the assembly election in 2005. Since its defeat, local reports indicate the BJP has been trying to create religious divisions in the state.
Uttar Pradesh – About 30 Hindu extremists from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh on August 15 beat two Christians from the Believers Church identified only as Pastor Santosh and Bible student Babu Lal, in Mohanlalganj area of Lucknow district in Uttar Pradesh. The two Christians, attacked while they were distributing literature, were hospitalized with head, chest and stomach injuries. The Christian Legal Association (CLA) said that initially the Mohanlalganj police station refused to register a complaint against the attackers, and police filed a First Information Report only after the CLA intervened. Police officials told a CLA attorney, “Why can’t these Christians sit at home peacefully on August 15 [India’s Independence Day]? Why are they forcing people to read the tracts?” No arrests had been made at press time.
Karnataka – Hindu extremists threw stones at Kalwari Prayer Centre in Ganeshpur, a suburban area of Belgaum, Karnataka, causing damages to the prayer hall, house and nursery late at night on August 15, according to the Deccan Herald News Service (DHNS). Pastor Sajan Philips told News that at 11:30 p.m. about a dozen youths threw stones at the center for about half an hour, “damaging the cement sheets of the roof and breaking all the windows and the portico of the church.” Phillips filed a police complaint, but at press time no one had been arrested. Police suspect the stoning might have taken place as the result of evangelization activities in the area, the DHNS reported. The center was attacked twice in 2005.
Rajasthan – Hindu extremists from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh stormed the showing of a film on Jesus Christ, “Daya Sagar” (“Ocean of Mercy”) on August 7 and forced Believers Church workers to stop the screening in Vardha village in Rajasthan state’s Dungarpur district. The extremists called local police and accused the Christians of converting Hindu villagers, the Christian Legal Association said in a statement. Police promptly arrived and detained four Christians – and Akash Kumar, Shantilal Kalasua, pastor Ruplal Nathat and pastor Iswarlal Kasota – and allegedly beat the Christians. They also confiscated film equipment. About 20 villagers were watching the film when the extremists arrived. The four Christians were released the following day. Police relinquished the equipment on August 13 and apologized to the Christians.
Karnataka – Hindu extremists from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh on August 5 disrupted and stopped a Christian prayer meeting for the dedication of a Seventh Day Adventist Prayer Hall in Sira town, Karnataka. Sajan K. George of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) said that subsequently, on August 16, police summoned the president of the Seventh Day Adventist church, Peter Alamane, along with secretary A.J. Devadas, pastor Leonard Anthony, and pastors identified only as P. John and Lazarus, to the local police station. After questioning, the pastors were taken to the magistrate, George said. Pastor Emmanuel Magimaidass told News, “One of the extremists had filed a First Information Report against us [Seventh Day Adventists] accusing us of alleged forcible conversions.” The pastors were arrested and charged with “hurting religious sentiments.” The GCIC secured their release on bail on August 18.
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