Villagers Brutally Beat Christians in Orissa State, India

Saturday, February 4, 2006

Eruption of Hindu violence linked to anti-Christian propaganda.

by Vishal Arora

NEW DELHI, February 3 (Compass) – Extremists encouraged Hindu residents of a village in Malkangiri district, Orissa state, to attack Christian residents on January 24. At least 10 Christians were injured and two were hospitalized.

The attack took place at about 8 a.m. while 14 Christian families and four missionaries from the Indian Evangelical Team (IET) were at a believer’s house in Koikonda village, said Satya Das Benya, IET’s district coordinator.

Only 15 of approximately 300 families in the village are Christian.

A number of Christians had gathered at the home of Salvam Gangi on January 23 for a worship meeting and stayed overnight. Members of the Hindu extremist group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) apparently heard the sound of singing and called for a village meeting on the morning of January 24.

Immediately after the RSS meeting, a group of about 50 villagers surrounded Gangi’s home and demanded that the four missionaries – Vijay Kumar, Baldas Gopal, Ramesh Sulah and Gideon Challan – come out of the house.

As soon as the missionaries complied, the mob started beating them and then attacked other Christians who were in the house.

Kumar fell unconscious after the beatings and did not regain consciousness until three days later. He and Gopal were both hospitalized with serious internal injuries, although doctors have now declared them “out of danger.”

Village pastor Salvam Samu received minor injuries, along with three men and four women.

Samu tried to lodge an official complaint on January 26, but the police said they were “too busy” to talk to him. When IET missionary Sulah approached police officials the next day, they accepted his written complaint but failed to give him a signed carbon copy as required by law.

Sulah’s report named 11 of the attackers.

At press time, police had made no attempt to arrest the accused. Fearing further violence, Christian residents did not meet for worship on Sunday (January 29).

When Compass spoke with Yatinda Koyal, superintendent of police in Malkangiri district, Koyal said the victims had not lodged a formal complaint. When he was given evidence that a complaint had been filed, he pleaded ignorance, saying he had been “away from the office for the last three days.”

Hindu residents had attacked Christians a year ago, in January 2005, injuring several people including a pregnant woman. The police helped both parties reach a compromise, but Hindu villagers have continued to express hostility to the Christian minority.

Spreading Violence

Orissa is ruled by a coalition government consisting of the Biju Danata Dal party and the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Anti-Christian violence has risen sharply in states ruled by the BJP since the beginning of the year. Christians blame hate propaganda distributed by the RSS and other extremist groups in preparation for a major Hindu “reawakening” event to be held this February in Dangs district of Gujarat state.

Four attacks on Christians in Madhya Pradesh, another BJP-ruled state, were reported last week, immediately after the attack in Orissa. (See Compass Direct, “Extremists, Police Beat Christians in Madhya Pradesh,” January 30.)

“The RSS wants no violence in Dangs at this time, but it wants the chant to continue in other states,” Dr. John Dayal, secretary general of the All India Christian Council, told Compass.

Dayal said he expected violence against Christians in Dangs to break out after the Hindu rally scheduled for February 11 to 13.

A compact disc distributed by the RSS in Dangs and elsewhere describes Christianity as a dangerous foreign faith that must be eradicated from India.

Copyright 2006 Compass Direct