Christian Workers Attacked in Two States in India

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

YWAM director charged with illegal conversions; RSS convert draws mob attack.
by Vishal Arora

NEW DELHI, March 27 (Compass) -- Hindu extremists broke into a Youth With a Mission (YWAM) training center on March 17 in Madhya Pradesh state, beating students and significantly damaging furniture and equipment. YWAM director Mukesh Jacob and his wife have since been charged with illegal conversion under the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act.

Hindu extremists also attacked three pastors during a street outreach in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh on March 19; all three required hospital treatment. Local Christians say the attack was sparked by the presence of a Christian convert who was formerly a member of the Hindu extremist group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

In the Madhya Pradesh attack, four men, apparently members of the Bajrang Dal (the militant youth wing of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, theVHP or World Hindu Council), entered the YWAM training center in Jabalpur city on March 17 while trainees were praying and worshiping.

The YWAM center operates in the home of Jacob, the YWAM Central India director.

Jacob, who was away when the attack happened, said the intruders identified themselves as officers of a government investigation agency and began asking questions about YWAM activities.

An additional 12 men then barged into the house and began to beat the trainees. Jacob said at least six YWAM trainees received minor injuries in the attack.

The attackers groped female trainees until the men present forced them to stop. They also tore up Bibles and damaged a television, computers, furniture and windowpanes.

One of the attackers then phoned Jacob, identifying himself as a member of the Bajrang Dal, but hung up in the middle of the conversation. Jacob immediately called the police, who arrived while the attackers were still present. Police managed to detain one of the men, but the rest fled.

Though initially reluctant to do so, the police registered an official complaint against the four men who had originally broken into the house: Kedar Namdev, Indra Bhan, Pushpendra Singh and Arun Pillai. The men were accused of house trespass, defiling a place of worship and deliberately causing harm.

All four were arrested but since these were bailable offenses, according to police inspector Rajesh Tiwari, they would soon be released on bail.

Acting on allegations by the attackers that Jacob and his wife were converting Hindus to Christianity, the police have also registered a complaint against Jacob and his wife under the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act 1968.

On March 21, Jacob received a letter from the Madhya Pradesh Intelligence Bureau asking him to submit the registration number of YWAM, its aims and objectives, and a list of members. The bureau also asked for YWAM’s registration number under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) and a description of how and where any foreign funds had been used.

The letter was issued by the office of the police superintendent, but when Compass spoke to Superintendent Srinivas Rao, he pleaded ignorance. “I have not issued any such letter,” Rao said, “but then, I don’t sign all the letters sent from my office. If there is anything objectionable in the letter, Jacob can contact me.”

Compass also spoke to Prabha Kant Pandey, a member of the federal Intelligence Bureau, who said the Federal Home Department had, in 2005, asked state bureaus to collect details of all non-profit organizations registered under the FCRA throughout India.

“We were not given the name of YWAM at the time, and when we read about the attack in the newspaper, we came to know that this organization also receives foreign funding,” said Pandey. “That is why they have received the letter now. It has nothing to do with the attack.”

Andhra Pradesh Assault

In the Andhra Pradesh state incident, a mob of around 30 people attacked a group of Christians who were conducting a street outreach in the town of Nellore on March 19.

Local Christians said the attack was a reaction to a former Hindu extremist taking part in the outreach. “The former RSS member has been receiving threats ever since he became a Christian,” the Rev. Yellasiri Satyam, a local representative of the All India Christian Council (AICC), confirmed.

Three independent pastors in the group, identified only as Nirmal Raj, T. Timothy and A. Ruben, were hospitalized after the attack but at press time had been sent home. Children in the group escaped unharmed.

Christians in Andhra Pradesh held a protest rally on March 20 and submitted a memorandum to local authorities demanding the arrest of the attackers.

Witnesses said a man named Santosh Kumar, believed to be a member of a Hindu extremist group, led the attack.

A second protest rally was planned for today. The AICC also planned to send a fact-finding team to the area on March 30.

Copyright 2006 Compass Direct