Hindu Extremists in India Attack Bible College Students

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Eight students are injured in Maraman.

by Vijayesh Lal

PATHANAMTHITTA, India, May 16 (Compass) -- A group of extremists of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) attacked and beat eight students from Beersheba Bible College, a school affiliated with the Indian Pentecostal Church of God at Maraman, Chettimukku, on May 12.

The Bible college students were on their way to attend a funeral when the band of RSS extremists mounted on motor cycles descended on the group and assaulted them with knives and other sharp weapons. Local police have confirmed that the assault came without provocation and have pressed charges against the assailants.

Beershebea students Blessen Abraham, George Abraham, Binu Babu, R. Ravindran, Rajesh, B. Rony, T.E. Varghese, and Vinod were treated at a district hospital in nearby Kozhencherry for injuries sustained in the attack.

Babu and Blessen Abrahanm were admitted to the hospital because of the severity of their wounds. The pair was discharged yesterday. Varghese also required a hospital stay to recover from lacerations he suffered in the attack.

Rajesh narrowly escaped being blinded in one eye, according to sources. He received a serious wound just above the brow.

According to witnesses, the students were attending a funeral service of a former Pentecostal Church of God member. The attack occurred as the body of the deceased was being transferred from his home to the cemetery.

The students were walking from the house to a main road to catch a bus that would take them to the cemetery for the graveside service when two RSS extremists passed on a motorcycle and noticed them. The RSS pair evidently decided to stage the attack on the group of Christians, probably because their organization was meeting the same day nearby in Kozhencherry.

Soon about 15 armed RSS extremists on motorcycles and riding in a jeep converged on the scene. They started beating the students without warning and shouted anti-Christian slogans.

The attackers, all under 25 years of age, are reportedly led by a man named Sunil who goes by the alias “Visham.” In the local dialect, “visham” means “poison.”

When the bus which was to carry the students to the cemetery arrived, they ran into it for protection. The RSS attackers followed them onto the bus and continued beating them until other Christians and bystanders started to arrive at the scene.

The incident has instilled fear in the students. Reports of further threats against the Bible college have added to the tension. On Saturday afternoon, a group of RSS extremists gathered outside the college shouting anti-Christian slogans and issuing general warnings against the student body.

Police have provided protection for the campus.

The Beersheba Bible College has been in existence for 12 years and currently enrolls nearly 40 students. The Pentecostal Church of God has ministered in the Maraman area since 1983.

The Bible school’s response to the incident has surprised residents of the area. The Rev. Shibu Nalweli, principal of the college and pastor of the local church, said the Bible school community has chosen to forgive the attackers and does not wish to press charges against them.

However, local police have registered a criminal case against the 15 RSS workers involved in the incident.