India: Militants Kill Prominent Christian Worker

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

(Compass Direct News) -- Two unidentified militants today killed a Christian convert from Islam on a busy road in Mamoosa village, Barmullah district, in the terror-stricken state of Jammu and Kashmir.

“Bashir Ahmed Tantray, a 50-year-old engineer working with the power department of the state government in Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir, was shot dead seemingly by Islamist militants while he was standing at a busy bus stand near his parents’ house in Mamoosa,” a local Christian source told Compass.

According to eye-witness accounts, two young men came to the bus stand on their motorbike at about 10:30 a.m. today and started inquiring about the timing of the buses. One of the militants took a pistol from his jacket and fired three rounds at Tantray.

Shot at point-blank range, Tantray died as the militants fled the scene.

Tantray, who had received Christ about a decade ago and had been an active Christian worker ever since, is survived by his wife, two daughters and two sons.

Tantray, who worked as a volunteer with various Christian organizations including the Global Council of Indian Christians, was one of the most prominent Christians in the Kashmir valley, he said.

“There is no doubt among the people, both Christian and Muslim, here that he was killed because of his identity of a Christian worker,” the source said. “We fear that we will be killed one by one. However, if we are to be killed, we would like to be killed together at one go.”

The slain Christian had come to Barmullah yesterday to visit his extremely ill father.

The people of the village arranged for a funeral according to Muslim rites, fearing further tensions if they buried him according to the Christian tradition, said the source, who added that they respected Tantray.

“There were very few Christians [at the funeral], as an atmosphere of fear gripped the miniscule Christian community of the area after they heard about the killing,” he said.

Outrage over Conversions

The source added that The Indian Express daily and a few local newspapers had mentioned Tantray’s name in “false and exaggerated reports” relating to “conversion activities” by Christian organizations in 2003.

National daily The Hindustan Times also attributed Tantray’s killing to his “Christian activities.”

Tantray was “a great evangelist, working for the spread of Christianity across the valley,” the daily reported. “He had reportedly influenced a large section of his village population with his new faith.”

It added that the village made headlines in March 2003 with reports of mass conversions to Christianity by local residents. The villagers denied conversion to the new faith, the newspaper reported, adding that some village elders privately admitted that several families had converted to Christianity.

The elders claimed that monetary benefit was the main motivation for them to take to new religion, the newspaper reported.

“With the outrage from various quarters over the conversions, Tantray, a resident said, ran away from the village and settled in Srinagar,” the newspaper reported. “Sources said that he continued to remain part of the Christian machinery, and shifted his area of activity to southern Pulwama district.”

According to the 2001 Census, there are only 20,299 Christians in the state, which has a total population of more than 10 million.

Jammu and Kashmir has long been hit by the confrontation between militant separatists and Indian Armed Forces, which has resulted in the deaths of thousands of people since 1990s. The Indian army maintains a significant deployment of troops to maintain law and order in the state.

The northern-most state lies at the heart of a bitter territorial dispute between India, Pakistan and China. India has fought three wars with Pakistan in 1947, 1965 and 1999, and one with China over Kashmir. India, which considers the entire state as its sovereign territory, has control of about half the area of Jammu and Kashmir.

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