Extremists had attacked mission base after sale of book ‘criticizing’ Hinduism.
March 8 (Compass) -- Approximately 15 policemen from Rajasthan and Karnataka states forcefully entered the home of prominent Christian leader Sajan K. George on Monday (March 6) in his absence.
They searched the house and questioned family members about his involvement with Emmanuel Mission International (EMI, known outside India as Hopegivers International), based in Rajasthan, and its founder, Archbishop M.A. Thomas.
George is national president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), which defends the rights of Christian individuals and organizations across India – including EMI. He is also heavily involved in a human rights campaign for the Dalits or “untouchables” of India.
Hindu extremists had earlier attacked the EMI headquarters in Kota, Rajasthan, on February 14 after discovering a book called The Truth on sale at the campus. The book allegedly contained negative references to Hindu gods and goddesses and prominent Hindu leaders.
Police arrested R.S. Nair, the administrative officer of EMI; Denis Nathaniel, who translated the book; and the manager of the bookstall where the books were offered for sale, identified only by his surname, Bhupendra.
Fearing further violence, EMI officials canceled their annual convention, which was scheduled for February 23-27 this year.
Police paid the unexpected visit to George’s home in Bangalore at around 8:30 p.m. on Monday while he was away on a business trip.
“My wife and married daughter asked them to leave since we have a 4-month-old nursing baby in our home,” said George.
Asking questions about George’s involvement with EMI and Bishop Thomas, police raised points leading George’s wife to believe that his phone conversations were being recorded.
Despite assertions that George was not home, and the lack of a search warrant, police officers searched the house thoroughly.
“My only crime is that I try to defend the cause of the voiceless and marginalized,” George complained. “My wife and daughter were humiliated. My 4-month-old grandchild was frightened and cried incessantly after the police left.”
George has asked that the National Human Rights Commission and the central government take action over this invasion of privacy. “I fear that the Kota police and their political masters will now stage-manage attacks on me and my family.”
John Dayal, a member of the All India Christian Council (AICC), has appealed for personal intervention from the Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh, to ensure the safety of George and Thomas, who has received threats from Hindu extremists.
Abraham Mathai, general secretary of the AICC, said lawyers had already applied for anticipatory bail in Kota district court for Thomas, fearing his arrest in connection with the book.
According to Dayal, the raid on George’s house is the latest in a string of incidents carried out by police against EMI and people connected with the organization.
Hindu extremists have attacked several EMI workers and social service projects in recent months. Police have also detained several EMI staff members this year, while others have received death threats.
The mission runs 103 orphanages nationwide, more than 140 schools and 11,000 churches. It also provides aid to victims of natural disasters such as the Asia tsunami in 2004, and more recent disasters such as severe flooding in Bombay in 2005.
EMI founder Thomas received the Mahatma Gandhi award in 2002 and the Padma Sheri award, India’s highest civilian honor, in 2001 for his services to the poor.
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