India State Forces Thousands of Dalits to Leave Homes; Pastors Attacked

Monday, September 11, 2006

By BosNewsLife News Center

NEW DELHI, INDIA (BosNewsLife) -- Thousands of Dalits in India's Tamil Nadu state faced a difficult Saturday, September 9, amid fresh reports that they may be deported from their homes. Elsewhere in India, pastors were attacked on charges of "forcibly converting" villagers.

The All India Christian Council (AICC), a major Christian advocacy group, said that the "countdown has begun for over 3000 Dalit people to vacate the Megamalai forest area in Theni district of Tamil Nadu."

It was unclear how many Christians were among these Dalits, seen as the 'lowest caste' or 'untouchables' in India's controversial ancient system of Hinduism. But groups like the AICC have increasingly expressed concerns that Hindu militant organizations and authorities want to stop the spread of Christianity among Dalits.

"The forest department, which gave them land and made them settle at Megamalai to develop the forest 40 years ago, is now ironically asking them to vacate, as this area will soon be declared a reserve forestland," the AICC added in a statement monitored by BosNewsLife.


Over the years, "even a government school has been built in this forest to educate the children of this backward community," the AICC recalled. There was no immediate reaction from authorities.

It came as in other states pressure is reportedly growing on pastors to stop preaching to non-Christians, BosNewsLife learned.

On Saturday, September 9, police of Madhya Pradesh state detained 38-years-old pastor Nawal Singh from Puniyawad of Jhabhua District on "14 counts of charges" including "murder, unlawful assembly [and] conversion," said Sajan K. George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), another major religious rights group.

He said the move was "in retaliation of the release of falsely accused Christians in a case where the militant tried to kill Christians." In January 2004 when armed Hindu militants targeted Christians of Jhabua, a central district of Madhya Pradesh, burning their homes, while "property was looted and vandalized and their religious effects desecrated," George added.


Police arrested 12 Christians and held them in jail from January 2004 to May this year in Jhabua. Elsewhere two pastors in the coastal town of Akkiallur in Haveri district of Karnataka state, were reportedly arrested last Sunday, September 3, after a mob of about 150 people allegedly led by militants of the Hindu Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh group stormed a house church meeting.

Santosh George and Madhu Mohan both worked with Marthoma Mission, an arm of the Marthoma Church. The mob demanded that the pastors bring out all the literature, including Bibles, kept in the house – which they confiscated as “evidence” that the pastors were forcibly converting Hindus in surrounding villages, reported Compass Direct News, a Christian news agency.

The militants also forced the pastors and three underage children in the church to kneel down and took a photo of them, which later appeared in a local daily, the Vijaya Karnataka, news reports said.

Earlier a police inspector and a large crowd of Hindu extremists allegedly disrupted a prayer meeting in Ambedkar Beedhi, Malur town, Kolar district. They allegedly dragged guest speaker Rev. Peter Muniappa and several others outside and punched them in the face. The officers and Hindu extremists then took the Christians to the police station, where they severely beat a church leader, identified as Rev. Muniappa, Christians said.


Also in Karnataka state, Hindu militants investigating activities of Evangelist Varghese Thomas, reportedly laid a trap for him Sunday, September 3, and were later beating him and his wife. Thomas, 60, and his wife, Leelama, 57, established a small congregation in his home village of Guttigar that meets in a believer’s home.

On his way to a meeting Sunday evening, Thomas and his wife saw the apparent victim of a motorcycle accident lying in the middle of the road, and he left his car to assist the victim. As soon as Thomas bent over the victim, however, the man threw red chili powder into his eyes, temporarily blinding him, said Compass Direct News.

A group of around 15 Hindu extremists hiding in the bushes nearby then jumped out and assaulted Thomas, accusing him of tricking people into coming to prayer meetings, Christians said. Human rights groups have repeatedly urged the Indian government to become more active in protecting Christians in India, especially those preaching the Gospel or involved in mission activities.

Christians comprise just over two percent of India's nearly 1.1 billion, mainly Hindu, population. (With BosNewsLife Research and reports from India).

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