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Hindu extremists attack pastors, disrupt worship, and “reconvert” 70 Dalit Christians on Easter.
NEW DELHI, April 11 (Compass Direct News) —At least three pastors were attacked and 70 Dalit Christians were “reconverted” to Hinduism on Easter Sunday. On Maundy Thursday police arrested a fourth pastor on false charges of “conversion.”
These incidents followed violent attacks on two Palm Sunday processions and the beating and torture of yet another pastor during the Lenten season.
Dharma Sena (Religious Army) militants attacked Christians April 1 (Palm Sunday), injuring seven Christians during final prayers at St. Paul’s Church, of the Church of North India denomination in Gokulpur, Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh. In the second incident, two Christians in Damoh district suffered serious head injuries in an attack by unidentified extremists on a procession largely comprised of Sunday school children from local churches. The attack occurred as the group stopped at a shop for sugar cane juice. (See Compass Direct News, “India Briefs,” April 3). Hindu extremists beat two pastors of Believers’ Church on April 8 (Easter) in Salwa village in Mandla district.
Extremists visited the house of two young pastors, Dinesh Toppo and Chandan Chhinchani, in Salwa village in Madhya Pradesh’s Mandla district on Easter and began interrogating them, a local source told Compass. Toppo and Chhinchani moved to Salwa village about three months ago to lead a local Believers’ Church run by Gospel for Asia.
The extremists ransacked the house and beat the pastors. Then they forcibly dragged them from the house, and hit and kicked them, hurling insults as villagers watched. The attackers alleged that the pastors were indulging in “conversion” and sex trade.
Later that day, local police summoned the Christians to the station for interrogation, as the attackers had lodged a false complaint against them. The police arrested the pastors April 9, but they were subsequently released on bail.
Hindu extremists had launched two earlier violent attacks on Christians on Palm Sunday (April 1) in two separate incidents in Jabalpur and Damoh districts of Madhya Pradesh. At least nine Christians received injuries in the attacks. (See Compass Direct News, “India Briefs,” April 3)
Himachal Pradesh Attack
In a similar fashion, about 60 extremists allegedly belonging to the Bajrang Dal youth wing of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP or World Hindu Council), stormed a house church’s Easter worship in Krotal village, Shirad Valley, in Himachal Pradesh’s Manali area. The attack occurred at about 11 a.m., when around 25 believers were worshiping.
Sam Abraham, secretary general of the Himachal Pradesh state chapter of the All India Christian Council (AICC), told Compass that the intruders beat the pastor, Yona Babu, of the southern state of Andhra Pradesh.
The attackers entered the prayer room and sat quietly in the meeting. One by one they started making noise, Abraham said. They demanded that Babu burn Bibles and forsake the Christian faith. When he refused, they beat him until he lost consciousness. The perpetrators fled with the church’s literature and musical instruments. Abraham told Compass that Babu had not reported the incident to the police at press time.
In addition, the same extremists who attacked Babu disrupted another small independent church in Pathilikundu, near Manali, Abraham said, but no casualties were reported.
Since the passing of the anti-conversion bill in Himachal Pradesh on December 30, 2006, the April 8 incident is the sixth reported anti-Christian attack in the state, Abraham said.
Andhra Pradesh ‘Reconversion’ Attack
A Hindu seer, Shankaracharya Sri Swaroopanandenda Saraswati, led the “reconversion” of about 70 Dalit Christians in a function held at Maridimamba temple in Recherla area in Andhra Pradesh’s Kakinada district on Easter, according to a report in the regional daily newspaper Andhra Jyoti. The “reconverts” reportedly took an oath saying, “We will live as Hindus and die as Hindus.” It could not be ascertained, however, whether the “reconverts” were actually Christian.
The seer, who is the head of Visakha Sarada Peetham sect, said he organized the function to protect Hinduism. He also accused “some culprits” of indulging in “forcible conversion” of “innocent people.” The reconversion program, he announced, would spread to Srikakulam, Chittoor and Hyderabad districts later this month.
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS or National Volunteers Unit), along with its numerous affiliate groups, on April 2 had staged a motorcycle rally in Kaviti area in Andhra Pradesh’s Tekkali division, alleging that Christians were converting Hindus through force and money enticements, according to the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC).
Meanwhile, an unidentified group brutally attacked a Christian worker on March 21 in Andhra Pradesh state. Dr. Sajan K. George, GCIC national president, told Compass that 29-year-old Samuel Bandaru was attacked at about 7:30 p.m. while he was returning on his bicycle from a Lenten prayer meeting in a believer’s house in Thumnalapalli, Srirangapuram area in Nalgonda district. The attackers covered Bandaru’s face with a mask and for three hours beat him while taunting him that Jesus was a “foreign God” and accused him of being a terrorist. The extremists dragged the Christian to a schoolyard and tried to strangle him. They pummeled his entire body, threatened him with a knife to his throat, and vandalized his bicycle.
The Mothey police station has registered a complaint against the group; however, no one has been arrested.
Andhra Pradesh is ruled by the Congress Party; its chief minister, Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, is Christian. Still, Hindu extremists remain highly active in the state.
Accusing Reddy of giving a free hand to Christian missionaries, the extremists launch frequent attacks against Christian workers.
Arrest in Uttar Pradesh
On April 5, Maundy Thursday, police in Uttar Pradesh state’s Chandauli district arrested a pastor of the GEMS ministry on a false complaint. The inspector of the Nawgad police station, Nandu Ram, told Compass that local residents had lodged a complaint based on a newspaper report claiming Pastor Munsi Lal had converted Hindu families by paying them.2,000 rupees ($45). Lal was jailed for one day before he was fined 111 rupees ($2.50) and released.
Lal told Compass that he was safe although the atmosphere in his village remained tense following the incident. Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections started April 7 and will conclude May 8.
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