India: Christian Worker Beaten to Death in Assam

Monday, August 6, 2007

Hindu extremists suspected, but police have yet to identify culprits.

NEW DELHI, August 3 (Compass Direct News) -- A Christian advocacy group has asked the chief minister of the northeastern state of Assam to provide protection to believers after unidentified assailants suspected to be Hindu extremists beat a Christian worker to death in Guwahati.

Hemanta Das, a 29-year-old Christian worker whom Hindu extremists had warned to stop his ministry, succumbed to his injuries in a hospital on July 1, two days after he was beaten in Chand Mari area of Guwahati.

Das worked with a local Christian organization, Resource Centre Under Elohim (RESCUE). A convert to Christianity from Hinduism a few years ago, Das had been a supporter of the Hindu extremist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.

The All India Christian Council (AICC) on July 25 wrote to Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi requesting that he ensure that those who killed Das were arrested and the Christian minority community protected from such attacks.

“On several occasions, he was cautioned by radical groups of the dire consequences that would follow if he tried to convert people to Christianity,” the AICC quoted the executive director of RESCUE, Amzad DeCruz, as saying.

In a statement, the Rev. Dr. Ngul Khan Pau, general secretary of the Council of Baptist Churches in North East India, declared Das, a member of a Baptist church, as the “first Christian martyr in Assam.”

Pau also said that a murder case had been filed with police, but that the culprits had not been found.

The Rev. Madhu Chandra, an AICC leader from northeast India, told Compass the presence of Hindu extremist groups in the state was very high.

“When I was working with a Christian organization in the state till a few years ago, many of our workers would be attacked by extremists,” Rev. Chandra said.

Assam has 986,589 Christians out of the total population of 26.6 million.

On February 6, Hindu villagers beat and vandalized the thatched house of a Christian convert, Rahbindra Narzaree, for refusing to “reconvert” to Hinduism in Bashbari village, under the Beshmuri police sub-station in Kokrajhar district in Assam. (See Compass Direct News, “India Briefs,” February 9, 2007.)

To save their lives, Narzaree and his wife took refuge in the police sub-station and then moved to Narzaree’s brother’s house.

Copyright © 2007 Compass Direct