There is no doubt in my mind that political changes have led to and will cause an increase in persecution of all minorities in India.
INDIA: Pastor beaten unconscious in Madhya Pradesh
A pastor in Madhya Pradesh state is recovering after Hindu extremists beat him unconscious and left him in a pool of blood.
On 10 September, about 20 Hindu extremists kicked, punched and beat with a club pastor Ajmer Singh Damor of Shalom Church, after storming into a home prayer meeting in Fattiguda, Jhabua. Local Christian leader Amiya Jal told Morning Star News, “Pastor Ajmer remained unconscious for about five hours, and the local doctors transferred him to the district hospital due to the severity of his injuries. He was treated in the hospital for more than a week.”
Most of the Christians at the gathering scattered and escaped harm, but the Hindu extremists also abducted church member Dilu Katara and beat him before releasing him later that evening. He received hospital treatment for abrasions and internal injuries. The assailants also beat Pastor Damor’s wife Runita Damor, but she was able to flee with her 18-month-old baby.
Shouting that all Christian worship meetings must cease, the attackers destroyed household items and slaughtered a goat belonging to the host of the prayer meeting, Tihiya Vasunia.
“They killed the goat of Vasunia that was tied outside as they continued to shout that no such prayer should take place in the village in future,” said Amiya Jal. “It was a male goat worth about 6,000 rupees [€82]. Vasunia is only a poor farmer, and he also lost most of his household items.”
Police registered a First Information Report against the attackers after the intervention of local Christian leaders, but it does not include the damage to Tihiya Vasunia’s house and the killing of his goat.
Christians attacked, arrested
Christians in Madhya Pradesh have grown increasingly alarmed over recent violence and false charges against them. The following three cases also occurred in the state in September.
On 6 September, the authorities in Barkhat village, Dhar, arrested 14 Christians after village head Chetan Singh summoned a meeting and threatened to kill Pastor Dayal Davar of Gram Barkhat Church.
“At 9 am on 5 September, the village head along with the Hindu extremists threatened to beat up Pastor Davar if he continued to conduct any kind of Christian meetings, told him that they will not allow him to stay in the village and threatened to kill him if he did not renounce Christ,” said pastor Suresh Mandloi.
At about 6 pm, Pastor Davar and other local church leaders reported the matter to officers and sought police protection. Two hours later, police summoned Pastor Davar and ordered him to stop leading prayer meetings in the village, making him sign a paper stating that only he and his family would pray in his house.
The next day, however, about 100 Christians arrived before the pastor was able to notify them not to gather for Sunday worship. Hindu extremists arrived and beat them.
“They beat up the congregation with their hands, clubs and footwear, including a woman, Sagar Bai, 50 years old, and tore up the clothes of one teenage girl, Bhawanti, and claimed that no Christian meetings should take place in the area,” Pastor Mandloi said.
Officers took 14 Christians to the police station, including an 11-year-old boy who was later released without charges. The other 13 were charged with disturbing the peace.
The Christians also submitted a complaint against the attackers, but the police have not filed a First Information Report against them.
Also on 6 September, in Kesla Kala village, Seoni, police arrested Christians Sunny Oman and John Alexander after a villager filed a police complaint against them of forceful conversion.
“Oman and Alexander were visiting a friend in Kesla Kala when a mob surrounded them and took them to the police station and falsely accused them of forceful conversion,” said local church leader Rev Jaykar Christy. “The two were just visiting the village on the invitation of Chand Gedam, and there was no case of forceful conversion.”
The Christians were charged under Madhya Pradesh’s Freedom of Religion Act, an “anti-conversion” law that prohibits forcible or fraudulent conversion. They were released on bail later that evening.
The previous day in Amjhera, Dhar, police arrested Pastor Paras Bilwal and two other Christians after a Hindu extremist mob harassed them for their faith in Christ.
“Pastor Bilwal and two Christians, Raju and Roop Singh, were visiting some church members in the Nankhodara area when the anti-Christian people manhandled them, threatened them with dire consequences if they visited the village again and filed a police complaint against them of forceful conversion,” said Rev Paul Munia, a local church leader.
The Christians were arrested under Section 295 of the Indian Penal Code for deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of others, and under the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act. They were released on bail after four days.
Local church leaders said the Christians had not engaged in forceful conversion.
Indian Parliamentarians propose national anti-conversion law
Two members of India’s ruling BJP party, one in the Lower and one in the Upper House of the national Parliament, plan to introduce a Private Members’ Bill in each House, to introduce a national law against conversion from Hinduism. This would force a debate in Parliament.
The MP in the Upper House, Tarun Vijay, a former journalist, comes from Uttarakhand state. The MP in the Lower House, Yogi Adityanath, is a senior BJP legislator and head priest at a Hindu temple in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh.
The two Private Members’ Bills come as a sixth Indian state, Maharashtra, is debating the introduction of an anti-conversion law, otherwise known as a Freedom of Religion Act.
(Morning Star News, World Watch Monitor)