Hindu extremists continue to use ‘anti-conversion’ law to jail victims of attacks.
October 5, 2015 By Our New Delhi Correspondent
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Morning Star News
About 20 Hindu extremists in Fattiguda, Jhabua on Sept. 10 kicked, punched and beat with a club pastor Ajmer Singh Damor of Shalom Church, after storming into a prayer meeting at the home of Tihiya Vasunia, church leaders said.
“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,” area Christian leader Amiya Jal told Morning Star News. “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. Katara 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, said the Rev. Sam Francis, an area Christian leader.
Yelling that all Christian worship meetings must cease, the assailants destroyed household items and slaughtered one of Vasunia’s goats, church leaders said.
“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,” Jal said. “It was a male goat worth about 6,000 rupees [US$92]. 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 area Christian leaders, but it does not include the damage to Vasunia’s house and the killing of his goat, church leaders said.
Christians Attacked, Arrested
Christians in Madhya Pradesh have grown increasingly alarmed over recent violence and false charges against them.
Authorities in Barkhat village, Bagh block, Dhar, on Sept. 6 arrested 14 Christians after the village head, Chetan Singh, summoned a meeting and threatened to kill Pastor Dayal Davar of Gram Barkhat Church (GBC).
“At 9 a.m. on Sept. 5, 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,” GBC pastor Suresh Mandloi told Morning Star News.
Later that day at about 6 p.m., Pastor Davar and other area 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; he was compelled to sign a paper stating that only he and his family would pray in his house.
The next day, however, before the pastor was able to notify the congregation not to gather for Sunday worship, about 100 Christians arrived. Hindu extremists showed up and began beating the Christians.
“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 Tanda police station, including an 11-year-old boy who was later released without charges. The other 13 were charged under Section 151 of the Indian Penal Code for disturbing the peace.
The Christians also submitted a complaint against the attackers, but police have not filed First Information Report against them.
On the same day (Sept. 6) 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,” area church leader Rev. Jaykar Christy told Morning Star News. “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 the state’s “anti-conversion” law, the so-called Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, which 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 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 the Rev. Paul Munia, an area 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.
Area church leaders said the Christians had engaged in no forceful conversion.
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