India: Serial Violent Attacks on Christians Leave Several Needing Hospital Treatment

Thursday, February 2, 2006

London, UK (Christian Solidarity Worldwide) -- Three separate attacks on Christians in Madhya Pradesh, central India, have occurred within a period of four days, leaving a number of people needing hospital treatment. Latest reports suggest that yet more attacks on Christians have since taken place in the communally tense state.

The first was during a prayer meeting in a Christian home in Chapri, Jhabua district, on January 25. Police are alleged to have assaulted two tribal church leaders, Raj Singh Amblia and Hateh Singh Rawat. The two were then taken to the police station where they were told of serious consequences if they continued their Christian activities.

The pair are still thought to be in police custody. They have been repeatedly assaulted, and their faith mocked. When they were taken to hospital, they were refused treatment after hospital staff said they needed written authorization from the police.

The following day, three leaders belonging to the Church of the Nazarene in Nagpur, Maharashtra, were beaten by Hindu extremists and arrested.

Pravin Pawar, Sanat Pawar and Maclin Masih were arrested after being accused by members of an extremist Hindu group of attempting to forcibly convert 23 tribal people. The police also confiscated Christian literature and a number of other documents.

The group of tribal Christians were staying in the Madan Mahal area of Jabalpur before going on to a convention held by the church. Hindu extremists forced them to sign affidavits, stating they were being taken to the convention by the three church leaders against their will. Even while the three church leaders were being arrested, a crowd, incited by Hindu extremists, attacked and beat them.

The final and most violent attack was in the state capital Bhopal on January 28. About 30 people threw stones at the building where a Christian meeting was taking place and shouted anti-Christian slogans. They also accused the organisers of carrying out forced conversions and attacked ten of those taking part with sticks and rods.

Pastor Sam Francis of the Hallelujah Church was one of six victims taken to hospital after suffering fractures in his hands and legs.

Another Christian, Kidshore Sadhwani, sustained a fractured hand, and was given stitches to a head wound. There are also reports he suffered a blood clot and has been vomiting blood as a result of his injuries.

Pastor Francis' car was damaged, as was the scooter of Freddy Prasad, in whose home the attack is reported to have happened.

Sources in India blame the Bajrang Dal, the militant wing of the Hindu fundamentalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), for this attack.

Indian Christian groups have expressed concern that such an attack could have taken place in the state capital, exemplifying the vulnerability of religious minorities under the BJP State Government.

Alexa Papadouris, CSW's Advocacy Director, said: "These attacks against Christians have left several people badly injured and many more with their faith in the protection of the state deeply shaken. The severe injuries suffered by those attacked in Bhopal show the determination of extremist groups to terrify Christians into silence. CSW will continue to work to ensure the safety and religious freedom of all faith communities in India."