Suspected Hindu radicals attack Christian churches in Madhya Pradesh
BHOPAL: Suspected Hindu
radicals attacked two churches in Madhya Pradesh recently. The attacks came a
few days after police in Rajasthan state, allegedly tortured 20 Christians,
In Madhya Pradesh,
where a law against forced or fraudulent conversions exists, members of the alleged
Hindu outfits Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal, with a contingent of
police officers, on March 4 stormed into a prayer meeting at a private
residence at Haldad, near Julwania in Barwani district.
The right wing extremists
accused Pastor Lal Singh and Indram Chauhan of fraudulently converting poor
tribal people and the police officers arrested the duo.
“The Hindu group
members caught hold of Pastor Lal Singh and Indram Chauhan, manhandled them and
passed them over to the police, after creating much disturbance in the area,” Pastor
Anar Singh told Morning Star News. Police reportedly have confiscated the Bibles
belonging to Pastor Singh and Chauhan as evidence.
The incident took place
near Julwania police station, but the police took them to Rajpur police
station, which is about 15 kilometers away from the place of incident. The law
requires that the arrested persons should be presented before a magistrate
within 24 hours, but the Christian leaders of the area alleged that the process
for Pastor Singh and Chauhan was delayed intentionally.
In New Delhi, Vijayesh
Lal of the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) said he had received reports
that the alleged Hindu extremists with the Dharm Jagran Samiti had surrounded
the Julwania police station and prevented police from going to Rajpur to
complete formalities necessary to present the arrested Christians before a
judge. “It appears that the Hindu groups want the Christians to stay in the
police station for a longer time,” Lal said.
Barwani District has a
history of attacks on Christians. According to the Religious Liberty Commission
of the EFI, Christians in Barwani were targeted in October and November of last
year, resulting in the arrest of Pastor Ashok Pratap and Kallu Rai Singh. At
least four people received hospital treatment for serious injuries.
On March 1, about 75
kilometers away in Alirajpur District, about a dozen Hindu extremists shouting
anti-Christian slogans tried to break into a church service in Rampura village,
sources said. The village is three kilometers from Jobat, a century-old
Christian mission station.
While about 300 people
were worshipping, the Hindu extremists led by Pratap Singh Dawar, head master
of the government school in Jobat and leader of the Hindu Jagran Manch (Hindu
Revival Platform), tried to force their way into the building, pastor Pastor
Kanhaiya Lal (pictured) told Morning Star News.
“They were shouting
slogans against Christianity and using abusive language,” said Lal, whose
church worship site moved from Jobat to the village three years ago. “I had not
seen most of them before and think they are from nearby villages, because I do
not recognize them as residents from Jobat city.”
“The sloganeering and
abuse continued for over an hour, till the police reached the spot,” said
Emmanuel Ariel of the Church of North India in Jobat. “They were vilifying the
Kanhaiya Lal said police
told church members to return to the building and continue their worship, which
they did. Police continued talking with the extremists, eventually persuading
them to pursue the matter legally and file a complaint, he said. In the
complaint they named Noel Immanuel, who had given the church its land, and
assistant pastor Pratap Rawat.
“Three of them have
alleged that Pastor Pratap gave them money to convert to Christianity, when the
fact is we have never seen these people before,” Kanhaiya Lal said. “I have
heard that they even made affidavits to this effect and have deposed before
authorities against us.”
Policemen have been
visiting church leaders continually to record their statements, he said.
“I have been called to
the police station tomorrow with four of my church members for statements
again,” the pastor said. “It is troublesome, but what can we do?” Alirajpur and
surrounding areas also have a history of violence against Christians, said the
EFi’s Vijayesh Lal.
“It was particularly
violent in 2004, as many Christian homes were damaged, church buildings
demolished and destroyed, Christians beaten up and at least one Christian woman
was raped as a result of mass violence against Christians,” he said. “Incidents
of attacks against churches have continued on and off, but largely calm has
prevailed till last year.”
Three years ago
Kanhaiya Lal’s Filadelfia church moved from a rented location in Jobat to
Rampur village after Immanuel provided the land as a gift.
In October 2014, Hindu
Jagran Manch (HJM) protested and threatened to burn the 100-year-old church
building in Jobat after a Christian, Joseph Pawar, and a Hindu woman, Ayushi
Wani, eloped. Under pressure from HJM extremists, police found the adult couple
and annulled their marriage, ignoring their protests.
Human rights defenders
criticized the administration actions as Wani was sent to a government shelter
for women and Pawar was sent to Indore under strict police orders to refrain
from contact with her. They were later reunited after the High Court of Madhya
Pradesh declared the actions of the administration illegal.