Mob Attacks Prayer Meeting in Madhya Pradesh, India

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Christian couple and their 2-year-old child brutally beaten.

by Vishal Arora

NEW DELHI, August 31 (Compass) -- A mob of Hindu extremists violently attacked a prayer meeting in the town of Indore in the north-central state of Madhya Pradesh on August 21. At least 10 people, including women and a 2-year-old child, were injured.

The attack seemingly targeted Jagdish and Grace Nayak, independent Christian workers who are awaiting trial on charges of forced conversion. Grace Nayak is a convert from Hinduism.

The attack took place at around 11:30 a.m. “About 50 people allegedly belonging to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh [RSS] threw stones at the prayer room, where about 15 people were praying, and beat them up,” Indira Iyengar, a member of the Madhya Pradesh State Minorities Commission, told Compass.

“The prayer room was completely ransacked and stones were lying all around the place,” she added. “The attackers had vandalized all the equipment inside, including the public address system. They also tore Bibles into pieces.”

The Nayaks and their baby were brutally beaten, she added. “When I went to the hospital to see them, I was horrified. They were beaten up as if they were not human beings, but animals. It was difficult for me to even look at them, as her husband was still bleeding profusely.”

All the injured Christians were treated at a local hospital.

The Nayaks were able to identify three of their attackers; Shalik Ram Pawar, Chauhan Singh and Prem Singh.

All three men were named in the initial police report, but at press time they remained at large.

The police have denied that the RSS, a Hindu extremist group, was behind the attack. Adarsh Katiyar, the superintendent of police in Indore, told Compass, “The attackers were local people of that area, who claimed the family was converting Hindus to Christianity. They were not from any organization.”

Katiyar said the attackers had lodged a counter complaint against the Nayak family after the attack, accusing them of attempted forced conversions.

Members of the Dharma Raksha Samiti (DRS, or Religious Protection Committee) and the RSS had filed a similar complaint against the Nayaks on July 19. The Nayaks were immediately arrested under the state anti-conversion law, held in police custody overnight and released on bail the following day.

“The police, while releasing Grace, issued a warning to her, saying she was not to return to her locality for at least eight days, nor was she allowed to conduct any prayer meeting,” Iyengar, of the minorities commission, said. “The complainants also put up posters and distributed pamphlets saying Grace was converting people to Christianity using fraudulent means.”

Judges have yet to set a date for the first court hearing.

Tension between Hindu and Christian communities increased after the Madhya Pradesh state government released the Narendra Prasad Committee Report on religious conversions in late July.

Prasad, a retired director-general of police, claimed missionaries were forcibly converting large numbers of people in the state. His report also blamed government laxity for the “huge” numbers of conversions.

The Prasad Committee was set up following an incident in which the Hindu community blamed Christians for the brutal rape and murder of a 9-year-old girl identified only as Sujata.

After making the report public, the state government announced its plan to amend the Dharma Swatantraya Adhiniyam (Freedom of Religion) Act of 1968 to tighten controls on conversion of tribal people to Christianity.

Copyright 2005 Compass Direct