At least 15 similar incidents have occurred so far this year, say local Christians.
by Vishal Arora
NEW DELHI, INDIA (Compass Direct) -- Hindu extremists yesterday vandalized an independent church in Gauri Nadi village, about 12 kilometers (seven miles) from Jabalpur city in the north-central state of Madhya Pradesh. The mob beat a church member and lodged a police complaint against a pastor for “forcibly converting” Hindus.
About 50 members of the Dharam Jagran Sena (Army for Religious Revival) threw stones at the Anant Jeevan Marg church after the Sunday worship was over, a local Christian leader told Compass, requesting anonymity. After throwing stones, the mob entered the church and vandalized furniture and equipment – all the while shouting anti-Christian slogans and accusing the church of illegal conversions.
The attackers beat Dinanath Tiwari, 35, a new believer whose wife was recently healed of cancer after Christians prayed for her; the mob said Tiwari should not have converted to Christianity. Tiwari received injuries on his face, hands and knee. He was taken to a government hospital for first aid and a full medical examination; the doctor’s report had not yet been released at press time.
The mob also roughed up Pastor Munnu Kujur, who repeatedly denied that his church was forcibly converting people. The Hindu extremists threatened to throw acid on Kujur’s face and bomb his church if he did not stop converting Hindus to Christianity.
Following the attack, the mob took away all the Bibles kept in the church as “evidence” that the church was indulging in illegal conversions by distributing them. They then took Kujur in their vehicle to nearby Barela police station to lodge a formal complaint against him.
When they reached the police station, the police promptly arrested Kujur on charges of illegal conversion under the Madhya Pradesh Dharma Freedom of Religion Act and put him in a holding cell.
Church members and Christian leaders soon reached the police station and lodged a counter-complaint against the attackers, with Tiwari as the complainant.
Their complaint named four of the attackers – Yogesh Agarwal, Sudhir Agarwal, Kedar Namdev and Indra Bhan – who had earlier attacked a house church belonging to the Assemblies of God and lodged a complaint against seven church members in a similar fashion on April 7. (See Compass Direct, “Christians in India Attacked, Charged with Illegal Conversion,” April 13).
The Barela police station did not release Kujur until a lawyer from the Christian Legal Association of India (CLAI) called Sub-Inspector Vaishnav and asked for evidence against the accused, said CLAI secretary Lansinglu Rongmei.
“Vaishnav claimed he was waiting for Christians to come and sign a bail bond,” Rongmei added.
Local Christians immediately drove to the police station and signed the bond for Kujur, who was released at 7 p.m. Police were investigating the complaint made against him at press time.
The pattern of extremists attacking a church and then lodging a complaint to get Christians arrested on charges of “illegal conversion” has become common, a local source told Compass.
He said that at least 15 such incidents had taken place since the beginning of the year in Jabalpur alone.
He also said that despite several assurances from Srinivas Rao, the superintendent of police of Jabalpur, and from District Collector Sanjay Dubey, the incidence of attacks and false charges against Christians continued to increase.
Copyright 2006 Compass Direct