IndiaWelder among first to use new hotline for violence against Christians
February 5, 2015
By Our India Correspondent
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Morning Star News
A Christian welder who oversees a home fellowship near Mumbai is on pain-killers with chest and back injuries after some 25 Hindu extremists on Jan. 24 beat him with iron bars, sources said.
Threatening to kill him if he continued preaching and practicing his faith, members of the Hindu extremist Bajrang Dal attacked 38-year-old Pramod Sahu at his workshop garage in the Nalasopara area, he said. Armed with long wooden rods and iron bars, they struck him further when he refused their demand to worship a Hindu god.
“The attackers abused me in foul language and used the picture of Jesus Christ in my garage as an excuse to beat me up,” Sahu told Morning Star News.
The mob tore the picture of Christ and shouted anti-Christian slogans.
Police initially declined to file a First Information Report (FIR) when Sahu approached them that day, which delayed and reduced the medical care he was able to receive, said the Rev. Vijayesh Lal, national director of the Religious Liberty Commission of the Evangelical Fellowship of India.
“It was only when interventions were made by lawyers and Christian leaders that an FIR was finally registered on Jan. 29,” Lal said. “Pramod Sahu had to approach a private hospital by himself to take care of his injuries. Had the police taken the case seriously, the medical examination would have been sooner.”
Sahu said that the assailants followed him to the hospital on the day of the attack and have continued monitoring him at his home.
“I spoke to Sahu while he was getting his treatment done at the private hospital, and he was in much fear,” Lal said. “He complained that people who beat him up were continuously following him and watching him closely. He feared for his life.”
Sahu said that a motorized rickshaw driver identified only as Tiwari led the mob into his workshop garage, where he does welding and spray painting. Tiwari had previously harassed him because of his faith, he added.
The United Christian Forum for Human Rights, which last month launched a toll-free helpline (1-800-208-4545) for reporting hate crimes and violence against Christians nationwide, received a call from Sahu on Jan. 25. Attorney Pramod Singh of the Christian Legal Association was able to connect Sahu with a lawyer in Mumbai, which ultimately resulted in the filing of the FIR.
Police promised protection after Sahu filed the FIR, but he said it has not been satisfactory. An officer was stationed to guard his residence on Jan. 29, but he left after a few hours; a replacement did not arrive for nearly 12 hours, according to local Christian leaders.
FIR No. 64/2015 was filed for outraging religious sentiments, rioting and assault, under the applicable Indian Penal Code sections 295 (A) for deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feeling of any class by insulting its religion; 143 for unlawful assembly; 147 for rioting; 323 for voluntarily causing hurt; 504 for intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of peace; and 506 for criminal intimidation. No arrests, however, have been made.
“Only when culprits of such an attack are booked will there be some fear instilled in the minds of communal goons, and it will act as a deterrent,” Abraham Mathai, former vice-chairperson of the Maharashtra Minorities Commission, told media.
Sahu and his wife converted to Christianity six years ago, and they maintain that they have never pressured anyone to convert to the Christian faith.
Nalasopara is part of Palghar District, which has had a history of anti-Christian violence. In 2011, a group of unidentified men broke into the homes of Christians at Dasturipada in Palghar during Easter celebrations and beat them, resulting in at least one person sustaining a fracture in his hand, according to published reports.
Hindu extremists targeted Christian tribal people in the district again in December 2012 and January 2013. After being denied food rations and water for months, the Christians were beaten en masse, causing many families to leave the area for months and seek shelter in relatives’ homes.
Additionally, in Pune, four hours from Mumbai, Hindu extremists on Jan. 24 threatened to attack a church. The hard-line Hindus warned church leaders to discontinue worship services in the area.
The Evangelical Fellowship of India on Wednesday (Feb. 4) reported that there were at least 147 cases of persecution against Christians in 2014, many of them taking place after the National Democratic Alliance government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, headed by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, came into power on May 26.
“Vicious hate campaigns, physical violence, police complicity and state impunity contribute to the persecution of the Christian community in many states of India,” EFI leaders said in a statement accompanying the report.
At least two Christians were killed for their faith, one in Odisha state and the other in Andhra Pradesh, they said. Physical violence made up 24 percent of all cases, according to the report, while 54 percent of incidents involved threats, intimidation and coercion, often with police looking on. Violence against Christian women, an increasing trend since anti-Christian carnage in Kandhamal, Odisha state in 2007 and 2008, constituted 11 percent of the cases.
Breaking statues and crosses and other acts of desecration were recorded in about 8 percent of the cases, “but many more were also consequent to other forms of violence against institutions,” they said. “A disturbing trend was violence against Christians in West Bengal, where, though one case was formally reported, there have been increasing incidents of hate speech and intimidation.”
The state with the highest number of incidents was Chhattisgarh with 28, followed closely by neighboring Madhya Pradesh with 26 and Uttar Pradesh with 18, they said. Telengana, newly carved out of Andhra Pradesh, registered 15 cases.
“Much of the violence has taken place after the new government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi came into power,” they said. “Police inaction and its [police] failure to arrest the guilty in most cases, its propensity to try to minimize the crime, and in rural areas especially, its open partisanship, has almost become the norm.”
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