India Army "Attacks" Church, One Killed, Five Injured

Friday, August 25, 2006

NEW DELHI, INDIA (BosNewsLife) -- Tensions remained high Thursday in India's northeastern state of Manipur after a pastor was killed and five others injured when Indian security forces reportedly opened at a Baptist church.

Residents told reporters that Indian soldiers attacked the Evangelical Baptist Church in Churachandpur, the largest district of Manipur, late Sunday, August 20, during a worship service, killing the Baptist pastor, S Ngaite. At least five other worshippers, identified as Niangzaching, 22,, Songkhanlun, 16, Khamkhanlal, 16, and Thangmuanlal, 22, were injured and apparently rushed to hospital.

In a statement however, the Indian army denied wrongdoing saying the shootout happened when "an armed cadre of an underground group, attacked a patrol" nearby, "leading to a civilian casualty," Indian media reported. Army spokesman Lt Col S D Goswami reportedly denied that troops had fired at the church saying such reports as "baseless".

Several groups however, including the North East Students' Organisation (NESO), condemned the shooting. In published remarks, NESO Vice Chairman Lalmuanpuia Punte said NESO is "deeply concerned and finds it hard to understand" why security forces "had opened fire at a congregation of the Evangelical Baptist Church in Churanchandpur on August 20 while a sacrament service was being conducted."


Locals and rights activists have demanded compensation for the families of those killed and injured. The reported shooting comes amid rising religious tensions in India, a predominantly Hindu nation where militants have warned of what they see as the spread of Christianity in the country.

In the southern state of Andhra Pradesh the government has reportedly decided to enact a law banning preaching of any religion other than Hinduism in Tirupati, a famous “temple town.”

Indian media have said that the state government this week made the decision under pressure from Hindu groups that had "expressed resentment over missionaries preaching Christianity near the shrine." The daily quoted Endowments Minister J.C. Diwakar Reddy as saying that a bill would be introduced in the state assembly calling for imprisonment and a fine of 2,000 rupees (US$43).

The temple administration has jurisdiction over two of the township’s seven hills. "The state government plans on bringing all seven hills under the purview of the temple administration," reported Compass Direct, a Christian news agency investigating reports of persecution of Christians worldwide. (With BosNewsLife Research and reports from India).

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