Assaulted Christians Pressured in Maharashtra, India

Friday, September 30, 2005

Radical Hindus beat Christian visitor to village, demand that others renounce faith.

by Vishal Arora

NEW DELHI, September 29 (Compass) – Radical Hindus of Jamanya village, in Maharashtra state’s Jalgaon district, remain hostile to Christian families who were attacked on May 16 – threatening to beat them if they refuse to renounce their faith, detaining and beating a Christian visitor, and attacking the house of another believer.

Pastor Sarichand Chauhan, area coordinator of the Indian Evangelical Team (IET), told Compass that Gulab Barela, the village head of Jamanya, asked all believers to come for a “conflict resolution” meeting from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on September 25. About 20 believers showed up at the meeting.

“Initially, the believers were asked to renounce their faith in Christianity,” Chauhan said. “But when they strongly refused to do so, the leaders of the village asked them at least not to allow any Christian from outside to enter their village.”

The believers, however, did not agree to the ban on Christians from outside the village either. They said that they needed Christian teachers to come and teach them about their Scripture, he added.

“Finally,” Chauhan said, “the leaders left the meeting, saying that if Christians from outside the village were beaten up, they [the leaders] would not be responsible.”

The meeting was allegedly led by a local strongman known only as Mangilal, of Talalvi village in the Malkhera area. Also presiding over the meeting was the sub-head of Jamanya, Pratap Deeta Barela, and officials from nearby villages.

Afraid to Go Home

On September 23, Neta Gyansingh, a 25-year-old Christian from the neighboring Sirval village who was also one of the victims in the May 16 attack, was detained and beaten by radical Hindus.

“When I went to Jamanya village to visit a believer’s family at 6 p.m., a few villagers came to me and forcibly took me to the Panchayat [community] room,” Gyansingh said. “They handcuffed me for five minutes and then made me sit on a cot. Later, they punched me in my face, chest and back, and hit me with sticks on my hands before locking me up in the room.”

At 3 p.m. the following day, Hindu extremist Kuchriya Patel and another Jamanya resident came and took Gyansingh to his village, Sirval. They presented him before Pandya Patel, the village head. “Before Patel, the two warned me that I should never visit Jamanya again or they would chop off my hands and legs,” Gyansingh said.

A day before the September 23 incident, the house of a local Christian, Saimal Mohan Singh Barela, had been attacked by three men allegedly sent by Hindu extremists.

“On September 22, three men armed with sharp weapons came to the house of Barela to attack him,” said Chauhan. “But, fortunately, Barela had fled away with his family as he had learned about the intended attack.”

The three men, however, broke the lock and entered the house, he said. They ransacked Barela’s kitchen and destroyed two stoves made of bricks and soil.

“Barela has not yet returned to his house and is living in his relative’s house with his wife and children for fear of his life,” Chauhan added.

When Compass spoke to S.P. Naik, police inspector of Jamanya village, he initially said the situation was peaceful. “The situation is normal; my policemen go to the village every night on patrol,” he said.

When told about the three recent incidents, however, he said, “I will go to the village personally and see the situation.”

Referring to the September 23 attack on Gyansingh, Naik said, “The attackers were drunk, and it was not because of the religion of the victim. They had some personal enmity.”

He added, “I will arrange a meeting between the Hindus and Christians in the village to sort out the problems.”

Radical Hindu villagers had attacked 11 Christian families, sexually molesting the women, in Jamanya village on May 16, when they refused to give up their faith. These families were later ostracized by their fellow Hindu villagers.

Copyright 2005 Compass Direct