Hindu Extremists Attack Jailed Christian

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Authorities do nothing; High Court overturns quashing of ‘forcible conversion’ charge.

August 14 (Compass Direct News) -- A group of about 15 Hindu extremists in the southern state of Karnataka on August 4 entered a jail and attacked a Christian businessman accused of compelling his wife to commit suicide.

“About 15 extremists of the Bajrang Dal [a militant Hindu organization], seemingly in connivance with jail authorities, managed to get into the Mardala district jail and brutally beat up Chetraven Rajan, owner of a company making sweets,” Albert Lael, organizing secretary of the All India Christian Council (AICC), told Compass. “No jail official came to save the victim.”

Lael said Hindu extremist groups had long been threatening Rajan, who has been involved in Christian and social work especially among Dalits.

The attack came to light only when Rajan’s relatives visited him in jail and noticed marks on his body.

“Despite the fact that Rajan had several injury marks and said he could identify the attackers, jail authorities refused to register a complaint against the miscreants, nor did they take him to a hospital for treatment,” added the AICC leader.

After state Christian leaders insisted on giving protection to the victim against further attacks, however, authorities shifted him to the Mysore jail.

“Rajan’s wife committed suicide a few months ago after he sacked his worker, identified only as Murugeshan, who supposedly had an affair with his wife,” Lael explained.

Rajan’s wife was said to have insisted that he allow Murugeshan to continue to work, but he refused.

“Rajan’s friends believe that extremist organizations misused the situation by causing Murugeshan to allege that Rajan had an affair with another woman and he forced his wife to commit suicide,” Lael added. “Hence, Rajan, who got married three years ago, was implicated in the case.”

Supreme Court Ruling

On the same day that Rajan was attacked, the Supreme Court of India on August 4 overturned a Karnataka High Court judgment that had quashed a complaint against a pastor for forcibly converting Hindus.

The complaint had been filed against Pastor Paulraj Raju of the King Jesus Church in Mangalwarapete village. National daily The Times of India on August 7 reported that the Supreme Court judgment paved the way for local police in all Indian states to arrest – without mandate from federal or state authorities – Christian clergy accused of forcible conversions.

The report, later carried by several national and regional dailies, caused tensions in Mangalwarapete village, where Pastor Raju has his church. Samuel Jacob, director of Christian organization Harvest India, based in Bangalore, told Compass that those who had attacked Pastor Raju last year came to the house of an elder of the church, identified as Nagraj, and warned him against holding worship in the church.

“They told the elder that the Supreme Court judgment had clearly said that Raju was involved in conversions.”

As a result, Christians got frightened and stopped coming to the church, he added.

But Pastor Raju’s attorney in Delhi, Jawahar Raja, told Compass that media reports had misinterpreted the judgment. “The apex court merely allowed the Karnataka government to carry on with the investigation in the case against Raju,” he said.

The complaint against Pastor Raju was registered on January 14, 2005, when he visited a nearby village, Rampur, where some villagers caught him and beat him up, saying he had come to convert Hindus.

After the complaint, Hindus twice attacked Pastor Raju. On April 1, 2005, a mob of about 200 people gathered in front of his house, demanded that he close down the church and leave the district and took him to the Channapatna police station again, accusing him of forcible conversions.

On May 1, a crowd of nearly 500 Hindu villagers attacked Pastor Raju, his wife and other church members. The attackers sexually molested female church members and burned Bibles and other Christian literature.

Christians say the incidence of anti-Christian attacks has increased in Karnataka ever since the government of Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) party, in coalition with the Bharatiya Janata Party took power from the Congress party in February after the JD-S withdrew support from the then Congress-led government.

Most recently, two Catholic priests, Father Soby Thomas, vice principal of St. Francis de Sales High School, and school administrator Father Vinod Kanat, were attacked in Hebbagodi, near Karnataka’s capital of Bangalore on July 25.

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