India: Mystery Shrouds Death of Christian Convert

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Believers suspect Hindu extremists pushed 18-year-old from train.

NEW DELHI, January 31 (Compass Direct News) -- An 18-year-old convert from Hinduism breathed his last on January 12, four days after he was found lying wounded near a railway track in the north-central state of Madhya Pradesh. Christians say he was pushed out of the train by Hindu extremists.

Passersby noticed Bansi Lal, an independent Christian worker, lying with a severe head injury at the S-12 signal post near the Bolai railway station in Shajapur district at about 7 p.m. on January 8.

Lal, who hails from Madhya Pradesh’s Dewas district and attends a house church, accepted Christ in 2004. He was reportedly returning from a Christian meeting when the incident took place.

Lal died before he could give a statement to railway police, who have reportedly registered a case of suicide.

Station master of the Bolai railway station, Chinmay Rai, told Compass that as soon as he was informed about it, he made arrangements to send Lal to a hospital in nearby Ujjain district.

Rai, who said Lal had a deep head injury and was lying unconscious near the railway track, ruled out the possibility of a suicide.

“The kind of injuries he had sustained and the way he was found lying do not suggest it was a suicide,” he said.

Asked if Lal was pushed out of the train, he said, “It is difficult to find out now, as he alone could say what exactly happened.”

Rai claimed that someone on the train saw Lal sticking out of the door too much. “He could have possibly hit against the signal post and fallen out of the train,” he said.

He also said that the police had not questioned him.

The railway police could not be contacted for comments.

Christian organizations, including the All India Christian Council (AICC) and the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), condemned the incident, alleging that Hindu extremists had thrown Lal out of a moving train.

Dr. John Dayal, secretary general of the AICC, demanded a “full-fledged” investigation of the case by government agencies as well as independent human rights organizations.

Dayal said it seemed like “murder, and nothing else.”

Dr. Sajan K. George, national president of the GCIC, said Christians were saddened by the tragic death of the Christian youth.

“This attack on Bansi Lal is to be condemned in the strongest terms,” he said. “Lal had on earlier occasions received threats from Hindu extremists groups, and it is unfortunate that the police are claiming that it was a case of suicide.”

The incidence of Christian persecution is high in Madhya Pradesh, which is ruled by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The state BJP government on July 25, 2006 passed a bill strengthening the state anti-conversion law to make it mandatory for clergy and “prospective converts” to notify authorities of the intent to change religion one month before a “conversion ceremony.”

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