Police contribute to Hindu extremist violence in India
NEW DELHI (Morning Star News) – Refusing to register a complaint against Hindu extremists who stoned and beat a pastor until he was unconscious, police in Madhya Pradesh state also struck a Christian who tried to report the attack, area church leaders said.
Four police officers on Nov. 30 broke into the worship service of the Gospel Church in Boothpada village, Ratlam District and ordered the Christians to leave, said church pastor Govind Meida.
A mob of Hindu extremists soon followed, shouting anti-Christian chants.
“The extremists said that Jesus’ name will not work in Madhya Pradesh and told us that his name should not be mentioned in the future,” Pastor Meida told Morning Star News.
“The extremists further threatened to kill us, cut off our legs, burn down our houses and expel us from the village if we speak the name of Jesus again and conduct meetings in future.”
Pastor Meida and Pastor Sharad Pargi, a guest speaker at the service who was visiting from India Bible Translation in Rajasthan state, fled on a motorcycle. The furious Hindu extremists gave chase and hurled stones at them, hitting Pargi on the head and causing severe bleeding. The assailants caught hold of them, pinned them to the ground and beat and kicked them, Pastor Meida said.
“Pargi was bleeding heavily, and he lost consciousness, and the extremists started to take off thereafter,” Pastor Meida said.
Police have not registered a case against the extremists, and area Christians said a police officer also slapped a church member, Shambu Bhai, when he went to the Bajana police station in Ratlam District to file a complaint. Bhai told Morning Star News that Sub-Inspector Dinesh Verma slapped him twice on his face at the Bajana police station when he went to file a police complaint against the attackers. Three other church members were with him, he said.
Verma denied hitting the Christian, telling Morning Star News that he “did not slap anyone.” He said police would take action against the Hindu extremists after Pargi, still recovering from his injuries, submitted his statement along with his medical reports.
Rather than registering a case against the Hindu assailants, Verma said police registered a First Information Report against area Christians under various sections of the Indian Penal Code: Rioting, rioting with a deadly weapon, unlawful assembly, voluntarily causing hurt, mischief causing damage, criminal intimidation and obscene acts and songs.
The police official said the FIR was based on knife-wielding, Christian women allegedly throwing stones at police and others. The Christians dismissed the accusations as ridiculous.
“It’s a complete lie,” Pastor Meida said. “We did not say anything; we did not do anything to the police. Nobody had knives in their hands or threw stones at the police.”
The Rev. Jaykar Christy said church members, whom police initially stopped when they tried to follow the assaulted Christians, took the two pastors to a hospital in Bajana.
“The doctors in Bajana referred Pastor Sharad to the government hospital in Ratlam as his condition was very serious,” Christy told Morning Star News.
Pastor Meida sustained bruises throughout his body and complained of pain in his stomach.
Hindu nationalists target Christians due to misperceptions that non-Hindu communities are taking away their economic opportunities, and they fear that conversions to Christianity and a growing Muslims birth rate will leave Hindus outnumbered in India, according to John Dayal, general secretary of the All India Christian Council (AICC).
In two other states in India, Hindu extremists recently locked one group of Christians into their church building and another into their homes.
In the west India state of Maharashtra, a mob of about 200 Hindu extremists on Dec. 2 locked the door of a hall where New Life Fellowship church was meeting in Malvan, Sindhugurh District, sources said.
“The meeting had just ended when one extremist, Baban Shinde, came inside the hall and told me to come outside,” Pastor Anand Chougule told Morning Star News. “I told him that if they have any questions, they should come inside and we will sit down together and discuss.”
Shinde left, but another Hindu extremist, Choutu Savaji, came in and asked for Pastor Chougule.
“Savaji caught and pushed me outside the hall as soon as he learned that I was the pastor,” Pastor Chougule said.
Some 200 chanting Hindu extremists were waiting outside shouting “Jai Bhavani, Jai Shivaji [“Hail Lord Bhavani, Hail Lord Shivaji],” demanding that worship services in Malvan cease and threatening to stop all kinds of services in Sindhudurg District, said Balram Uikey, an area Christian leader and member of a fact-finding team of the All India Christian Council.
The extremists pushed Pastor Chougule back into the hall and locked it from the outside, the pastor said. Christians called local police, who brought calm. District Collector Geepak Gaikwad and Malvan Police Sub-Inspector Sanjay Sabale questioned church members about whether they were forced to become Christians.
“All the church members replied that they decided to follow Jesus Christ by their own free will, and that there has never been a case of forceful conversion,” Pastor Chougule said.
The district collector then told the angry mob that the prayer meeting was legal and that nobody has been forced to become Christian.
The mob dispersed, but at about 11 p.m. suspected Hindu extremists sneaked into the compound of Pastor Matthias Fernandez and tried to burn his Scorpio Jeep. They managed to burn part of the vehicle before fleeing.
The same Hindu extremist leader, Shinde, had led a chanting, hostile gang into the hall on Oct. 26, beat church members and filed a complaint of forceful conversion. Police arrested 12 Christians, including female pastor Rozi Fernandez. Pastor Suresh Puhari and another church member, Satish Sakrtiay, were injured in the attack, sources said.
Area Hindus socially boycotted the Christians, who were kept from holding worship services for some weeks afterward, according to the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI).
In Karnataka, ruled by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, armed Hindu extremists on Nov. 20 demolished Blessing Youth Mission Church and burned Bibles after they locked 12 Christians into their houses and threatened to kill them if they come out, a church leader said.
In Chippagiri Gowtown village, Yellapura Taluk District, the extremists destroyed the main door, front wall and windows and then burned the rubble and debris of the church building where Christians from the Siddi tribes worshipped. The cost of the damage was estimated at about 150,000 rupees (US$2,765), according to EFI.
“The extremists have been creating trouble for the Siddi Christians for several months before this attack,” said S. Mohanna Krishnan, area coordinator of Blessing Youth Mission. Area residents socially boycotted the Siddi Christians, cutting off their electricity and denying them water from the public well, he added.
The extremists had complained that the Christian worship was too loud and ordered them not to clap, to stop playing a native Siddi musical instrument called the damam and to not sing aloud. Local officials arranged “peace” or “reconciliation” meeting between the Siddi Christians and the Hindu extremists.
Such meetings are typically designed to impose on the Christians whatever the majority wills, and in this case officials ordered the Christians to refrain from clapping during worship.
“It is surprising, as the church never uses microphones,” an area Christian leader said. “However, the church members have stopped clapping and they are now worshipping silently, which was alien to their tribal nature.”
The Christian did not file a complaint with police out of fear of retaliation; the situation remains tense.