India: Families Driven From Homes for Receiving Christ

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

November 20 (Compass Direct News) -- Adherents of a Bodo tribal religion in Assam, northeast India, forced nine families from their homes last Tuesday (November 14) for converting to Christianity.

The villagers destroyed six of the nine families’ homes, forcing the Christians to take shelter in a primary school. The nine families live in four villages in the Kokrajhar district of Assam.

Their ordeal began when Christians attended a Pentecostal meeting held in Haldibari village last Monday (November 13).

“This meeting infuriated the Bodo tribals, who organized their own religious gathering the next day,” a source told Compass.

At 8 a.m. on Tuesday morning (November 14), the tribal people of Haldibari gathered for their own meeting at the village council hall, said the Rev. Madhu Chandra, Delhi regional secretary of the All India Christian Council.

“Some of them were sympathizers of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh [RSS, a Hindu extremist group],” Rev. Chandra said. “Under their influence, the group resolved to evacuate Christian families from the village.”

At around 2:30 p.m. that day, 25 Bodo villagers went to the homes of three Christian families in Haldibari and attacked their houses. The violence soon spread to the neighboring villages of Moflabari, Jamduguri and Basdari.

The district administration rushed security forces to the area to guard the nine families, who had taken shelter in a lower primary school building.

Kokrajhar police officer Manoj Kumar Saikia told Compass that a case had been registered against the 25 alleged offenders. At press time, police had arrested seven of the 25 but released them on bail.

Advocates have submitted a memorandum to the Bodoland Territory Council, asking it to investigate the attack, pay compensation to the Christian families who lost their homes, and provide safety to other minority Christians in the district.

Attacks in Karnataka

In the southern state of Karnataka, Christians will hold a rally on December 2 in the wake of specious arrests for “forced conversion’ and vandalism of a church in the past week.

A quarry owner filed a police complaint against two Christians, including a pastor, accusing them of “forced conversion” on Wednesday (November 15), said Dr. Sajan K. George, national president of the Global Council of Indian Christians.

A pastor identified only as Hoysala and his companion, medical doctor Anup Kumar, were accused of forced conversion in Karnataka’s Mandya district.

The pastor and Kumar had gone to visit a friend at a quarry in Jaknahalli village in Pandavapura Taluka in Mandya District on Wednesday, George said. Not finding the friend there, they started back and a woman approached them requesting that they pray for her as she was suffering from a severe headache. As they were praying, the owner of the quarry came and shouted at them, accusing them of forcible conversion.

Nevertheless, the two were able to leave peacefully.

The following day, the quarry owner filed a complaint against them at the Pandavapura police station, accusing them of conversion. The two were arrested and released on bail the following day.

The Christians could not be released on bail the day of their arrest, Thursday (November 16), because all officers of the rank of inspector or sub-inspector were occupied on security for a visit of political leaders at a Bharatiya Janata Party rally, George said.

On November 17, a lower court refused their bail application and sent them to the Mandya jail. “However,” George said, “a higher court granted them bail in the evening.”

Also in Karnataka, on November 18 Hindu extremists vandalized a statue of Mary in a Catholic theological institution. About 10 unidentified people marred the statue in the Carmelram Theological College, on Sarjyapur Road on the outskirts of Bangalore, George said.

He added that spit and vermillion (red powder applied on the forehead by certain Hindus) was found in the vicinity of the statue. College authorities could not identify the attackers as they fled in a blue car and on a few motorbikes at 11:15 p.m.

Condemning the incident in a public letter, George urged the chief minister of Karnataka to “instruct the government machinery” to maintain religious harmony and peace in the state.

Representatives of various Christian organizations, mainly Catholic, had on Wednesday (November 15) urged Deputy Commissioner of Police M.S. Srikar to provide security to Christians in the wake of rising attacks on them in the Hubli-Dharwad region in Karnataka.

Copyright © 2006 Compass Direct