India: Hindu Extremists Attack Christians in Madhya Pradesh

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Assaults over “conversion” charges leave three Christians severely injured.

INDORE, India (Compass Direct News) -- At least 125 Hindu extremists here yesterday attacked one of the oldest and best-known churches in Madhya Pradesh state, Masihi Mandir Church, brutally beating one of the fleeing members.

The assault followed an attack in Kosmi of the state’s Balaghat district on Friday (February 22) in which a mob of Hindu extremists dragged at least four people from a home where Christians were meeting and beat them with bamboo poles, rods and belts.

In Indore, the mob from the Hindu extremist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and Bajrang Dal arrived at 2:30 p.m. as the third of the church’s four Sunday services was about to begin, forcibly making their way into the church compound angrily shouting slogans.

“They came on Jeeps,” said eyewitness James Daniel, “beating drums and shouting slogans in Hindi, ‘He who talks in favor of only Hindus will rule the nation’ and, ‘Stop conversions.’”

The 15 Christians at the church immediately vacated the building and locked it from outside. The mob broke the windows of the church, shattering all window panes and destroying two expensive chandeliers before to damaging a cross outside.

Daniel told Compass that one of the church members had overheard members of the mob say that if they were able to break the church doors down, they would set it on fire. He added that they were armed with petrol bombs.

The Hindu extremists caught a Christian college student and beat him severely. He has requested anonymity to avoid further troubles.

Police arrived at the scene, preventing the mob from further harming the church property, and arrested four of the fleeing Hindu extremists. The rest escaped.

Some time later, however, when the church service had started, eight people from the same mob returned to attack again. Police, already present, promptly arrested three of them.

Christians filed a First Information Report and charges were filed against the attackers.

Indore, the largest city of Madhya Pradesh, has long seen attacks on churches and Christians. In 2000, Hindu extremists vandalized three churches as a protest against the inauguration of an orphanage run by missionaries. Indore also witnessed attacks on five Franciscan nuns last year in October.

House Attack

In Friday’s attack in Kosmi, four or five Hindu extremists from the Bajrang Dal entered the home of Najak Ji, where the Jeevan Jyoti Church had organized a Lent meeting.

Shouting “Stop conversions,” the extremists grabbed the collar of Tom George from Kerala, who was speaking, and dragged him out. Sunil Lal from Jeevan Jyoti Ministry, who lives in nearby Barweli, tried to protect George, and the extremists grabbed him also. They dragged them outside, where 15 to 20 people were waiting and severely beat them.

Using bamboo poles, sticks, rods and other weapons, they beat George and Lal as well as Vijay Patle, Aman Sri Nag and a woman named Leela Patle. Lal and George sustained severe internal injuries, with Lal also suffering wounds on his head, ears, cheeks, shoulders, hands, stomach, knees and left leg.

The extremists also reportedly tried to violate the modesty of women present at the meeting.

Bajrang Dal members then took Lal and others to the Navegaon police station and accused them of converting Hindus, as if that were illegal in India, repeatedly saying, “You should not be coming into our area.”

Police took Lal and George to the Budi Government Hospital around 10:30 p.m., where they were treated and released the next morning.

The Bajrang Dal leaders who started the incident were reported as Reagan Tiwari, Chotu Lodhi, Ranjan and Sanju Kawde. A First Information Report was filed today, but no arrests have been made so far.

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