Beatings, Threats Continue in Madhya Pradesh, India

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Extremists test provisions of strengthened anti-conversion law.
by Vishal Arora

NEW DELHI, September 26 (Compass Direct News) -- Hindu extremists severely beat two pastors on September 24 in Madhya Pradesh, India, before dragging them to a police station and accusing them of “forcing” conversions. Two days earlier, extremists had attacked and injured two evangelists in the same state, later accusing them of “hurting Hindu sentiments.”

More than 20 members of two extremist groups, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the Bajrang Dal (the youth wing of the World Hindu Council) barged into a church in Nana Badvani area in Badvani district last Sunday and attacked two pastors, identified only as Sukhlal and Jorsingh.

The mob spit on a Bible and then tore it up, according to a local Christian who witnessed the attack. They also told Sukhlal and Jorsingh to abandon Christianity or they would forfeit their lives.

The extremists forcibly took the two pastors to the Nana Badvani sub-police station, accusing them of eating beef – an offense to Hindus – and carrying out forced conversions.

Both men were held in police custody until Patras Habil, a member of the Madhya Pradesh State Minorities Commission, intervened. Sukhlal and Jorsingh eventually reached a compromise with the extremists, who then withdrew their complaint.

Two Evangelists Beaten, Still Detained

Meanwhile Bajrang Dal extremists attacked two evangelists in Betul district on September 22, accusing them of forced conversions and hurting Hindu sentiments.

A local source said people in Khedli village had asked Lakhan Pawar to come and pray for them at their home. As he traveled to the village with another evangelist, Shailendra Pawar, extremists launched an attack.

When police were notified, they took Lakhan Pawar, who was seriously injured, to the hospital for treatment – while his associate was taken directly to the police station.

By the close of the day both evangelists were in police custody, and Bajrang Dal members had filed a case against them for insulting the Hindu religion, an offense under the Indian Penal Code. The men appeared before a magistrate on Saturday (September 23) and still remained in police custody at press time.

A local source who spoke with Compass yesterday said the situation was still very tense. “They don’t want to file a bail petition, because they could be attacked again,” the source said.

Reportedly the Bajrang Dal also asked district authorities to investigate the funding of all Christian non-profit organizations in Betul district.

Following the arrest of the two evangelists, local television channels broadcast accusations against a Dr. Victor Choudhrie and his daughter, accusing them of involvement in forced conversions. Choudhrie’s daughter apparently owned the motorbike used by the two evangelists.

In the past two months, at least 14 other Christians have been accused of attempted forced conversions or hurting Hindu religious sentiments in Madhya Pradesh.

The Bharatiya Janata Party government in Madhya Pradesh on July 25 passed a bill strengthening the state anti-conversion law. Clergy and “prospective converts” are now required to notify authorities of the intent to change religion one month before a “conversion ceremony.”

Copyright 2006 Compass Direct News