India's Hindu Extremists Target Christians

Ad Feedback - NEW DELHI, India - A group of around 30 Hindu extremists suspected to be from the Bajrang Dal, youth wing of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad , pelted a Catholic church with stones and vandalized vehicles of church members on February 24 in New Delhi.

According to a statement by the Christian Legal Association , the cars of at least two church members were damaged at St. Sebastian Church in Dilshad Garden area in northeast Delhi. The attackers also shouted slogans ordering the Christians to leave the country.

The CLA quoted parish priest Anthony William as saying that the church had prior information about the attack and that the Sunday worship service was held with police protection.

The extremists, however, hid in a nearby temple and waited for police to leave before they attacked. Police registered a case against unidentified attackers under Section 427 of the Indian Penal Code for causing mischief and damage, but at press time no one had been arrested.

Madhya Pradesh 
Hinduvta extremists on Feb.14 attacked a Catholic priest and staff members of Sachidanand Ashram, a Catholic center promoting inter-religious dialogue in Narsinghpur district, Madhya Pradesh.

Father Anand Muttungal, spokesman of the Catholic Council of Bishops, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, told Compass that nearly 60 Hindu extremists belonging to the Bajrang Dal and other right-wing groups led by Neelesh Sony forcibly entered the center shouting slogans charging that it allowed unmarried young people to celebrate Valentine's Day.

"The extremists kicked open every door in the center, broke chairs and tables in the rooms, and later they entered the church and desecrated it," Fr. Muttungal said. The Ashram's Father Anto Mundanmany had requested police security a few days earlier, but only one officer was on the scene. The extremists hit and kicked Fr. Mundanmany and beat workers.

"Arjun Kumar Uike was abused and beaten, they snatched his cross and threw away his rosary," Fr. Muttungal said."Richard Daniel was beaten with a bamboo stick and abused very badly."

It was not an isolated incident, he added. "It's all a well-planned strategy to polarize the society in view of the forthcoming elections," Fr. Muttungal said. The police filed charges against about 40 people for assaulting the priest and others at the center.

Three Christians of Shalom Full Gospel Church in Kumbara Halli village, Karnataka, were hospitalized on Feb. 3 after a mob of 25 to 30 Hindu extremists belonging to the Bajrang Dal attacked them during Sunday worship.

Dr. Sajan K. George of the Global Council of Indian Christians said that at about 11 a.m., as pastor Priya Darshan was preaching, the extremists led by a local villager identified only as Guruswamy surrounded the church on motorbikes that had saffron triangular flags on the handlebars.

Shouting "Jai Bajrang Bali ," the extremists armed with swords, sticks and knives "stormed the church, slapped and repeatedly punched Darshan, and began hitting the believers," George said.

They destroyed the sound system and musical instruments, he added. The extremists took Darshan to the Hosdurga police station and made false allegations of forcibly converting the villagers, George said, but through GCIC intervention Darshan was released at 6:30 p.m. without any charges.

Regional Coordinator Laxmi Narayan Gowda told Compass, "A believer identified only as Kallesh received a deep gash above his right eyebrow, while another identified only as Kripakaran had a fractured right arm, and a believer identified only as Anjenappa had swollen arms, and legs, and bruises all over his back and stomach."

They were treated at the Hosadurga Government Hospital.

About 20 Hindutva extremists on Feb. 3 attacked the pastor and believers of an independent church in Bangalore, the capital of Karnataka state.

The extremists, believed to be from the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh , barged into a house church in Hegganhalli in Bangalore's Peenya area at around 10:30 a.m. and forced the Christians to pray to Hindu gods, Dr. Sajan K. George of the Global Council of Indian Christians told Compass.

The attackers snatched Bibles from the Christians and burned the books. They then beat the pastor, T.K. Benny, and other believers.

Three Christians identified only as Vijay, Brijesh and Shyam sustained minor injuries. Before fleeing, the attackers locked up the house church and warned the Christians against holding any worship service in the future.

Hindu extremists on Jan. 28 beat an independent pastor, cursed at his wife and later filed a false police complaint against them in Arugere village, Belgaum district, Karnataka.

Dr. Sajan K. George, national president of the Global Council of Indian Christians said pastor Yeshwant Krishnappa Myagadi and his wife Bharati were invited to a fellowship prayer and lunch meeting at the house of Appasab Naganoor, also a Christian.

Later they were waiting at the Arugere bus stand to return home when 15 to 20 Hindu extremists belonging to the Bajrang Dal, began questioning them about the purpose of their visit, George said.Pastor Myagadi told Compass that some of the extremists grabbed his satchel and, finding a Bible inside, tore pages from it.

"They began slapping and punching me on my head and stomach, and abused Bharati in filthy curses," he said. "The extremists then shoved us into a Jeep and took us to the Kodachi police station, and en route the extremists kept cursing the Christian faith and repeatedly punched me on the head and back."

The extremists filed a complaint against the pastor and his wife charging they were converting Hindu villagers by force, but through GCIC intervention Myagadi and his wife were released on January 29 without charges, George said.

Andhra Pradesh
Hindutva extremists on Jan. 20 beat an independent pastor, Erra Prakash, and co-pastors Kiran Kumar and Jaya Raj in Kondaram Palli, Medak district, Andhra Pradesh.

Lion Francis, local coordinator of the Global Council of Indian Christians, told Compass that a three-day "Gospel Festival" was taking place in Kondaram Palli when on the last day, Jan. 19, some villagers complained to village headman Meka Kankayya that forced conversions were taking place at the event.

Kankayya summoned Pastor Prakash and a new convert, Srinivasa Reddy, to a public meeting in which Srinivasa firmly stated that he of his own free will had received Jesus for his salvation.

"No sooner did he confess his faith publicly than local Hindutva extremists hurled filthy, blasphemous abuses at Srinivasa and the Christian faith," Francis told Compass.

The next day at about 8 a.m., as Pastor Prakash was leaving the village, 20 to 25 Hindu extremists stopped his auto-rickshaw, pulled out the pastor and his co-pastors and began hitting them with sticks.

"They also spat on them," Francis said. "Soon a large crowd gathered, and they too joined in hurling stones and shoes at the pastors. Later they dragged the three pastors around the village and locked them up in the local community hall."

Around 2 p.m. the extremists released the pastors, but only after making them sign a document stating that they would never evangelize in the village again. Prakash, Kumar and Raj underwent treatment in a private medical facility.

"The pastors have refused to file charges, as they have forgiven the extremists," explained Francis.

Tamil Nadu
Local residents believed to be Hindu extremists launched an attack on the house church of an independent Dalit pastor, identified only as 70-year-old Abraham, on Jan. 18 in Tamil Nadu state's Salem district.

Dr. Sajan K. George of the Global Council of Indian Christians said a pastor's neighbor, identified only as Govindhan, along with a few other residents, stormed the house church in Tharamangalam area in Salem and assaulted the Dalit pastor as he was preparing for a Friday fasting prayer meeting.

The attackers also assaulted the pastor's wife and five children, four of whom are minors. While Pastor Abraham went to police to report the attack, members of his church, who were not aware of the attack, arrived at his house for the meeting and the same group of extremists attacked them.

At least three of the Christians, identified only as Ravi, Anaal, and the pastor's son Prakash, were injured. Ravi's hand was fractured and Anaal and Prakash sustained head injuries.

Ravi and Anaal were treated at the Mettur Dam Government Hospital. Police registered a case against Pastor Abraham's neighbor and arrested four people.

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by Nirmala Carvalho and Vishal Arora

by Nirmala Carvalho and Vishal Arora

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