Christians attacked in Madhya Pradesh

Story By: mattersindia.comNew Delhi: Suspected Hindu radicals attacked two churches in four days in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.

The attacks came a few days after police in Rajasthan, a northwestern Indian state, allegedly tortured 20 Christians, reports

In Madhya Pradesh, where a law against forced or fraudulent conversions exists, members of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal on Wednesday (March 4) stormed into a prayer meeting at a private residence at Haldad, near Julwania in Barwani District, with a contingent of police officers.

After the Hindu extremists accused pastor Lal Singh and Indram Chauhan of fraudulently converting poor tribal people, the officers arrested the two Christians.

“The Hindu group members caught hold of Pastor Lal Singh and Indram Chauhan, manhandled them and passed them over to the police, after creating much disturbance in the area,” pastor Anar Singh told Morning Star News.

Police reportedly confiscated Bibles belonging to Pastor Singh and Chauhan as evidence.

The incident took place near the Julwania police station, but officers took them to the Rajpur police station, about 15 kilometers away. The law requires that arrested persons be presented before a magistrate within 24 hours, but area Christian leaders said the process for Pastor Singh and Chauhan was delayed.

In New Delhi, Vijayesh Lal of the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) said he had received reports that Hindu extremists with the Dharm Jagran Samiti had surrounded the Julwania police station and prevented police from going to Rajpur to complete formalities necessary to present the arrested Christians before a judge.

“It appears that the Hindu groups want the Christians to stay in the police station for a longer period of time,” Lal said.

Barwani District has a history of attacks on Christians. According to the Religious Liberty Commission of the EFI, Christians in Barwani were targeted in October and November of last year, resulting in the arrest of pastor Ashok Pratap and Kallu Rai Singh. At least four people received hospital treatment for serious injuries.

On March 1, about 75 kilometers away in Alirajpur District, about a dozen Hindu extremists shouting anti-Christian slogans tried to break into a church service in Rampura village, sources said. The village is three kilometers from Jobat, a century-old Christian mission station.

While about 300 people were worshipping, the Hindu extremists led by Pratap Singh Dawar, head master of the government school in Jobat and leader of the Hindu Jagran Manch (Hindu Revival Platform), tried to force their way into the building, pastor Pastor Kanhaiya Lal (pictured) told Morning Star News.

“They were shouting slogans against Christianity and using abusive language,” said Lal, whose church worship site moved from Jobat to the village three years ago. “I had not seen most of them before and think they are from nearby villages, because I do not recognize them as residents from Jobat city.”

One of the Christians present alerted police.

“The sloganeering and abuse continued for over an hour, till the police reached the spot,” said Emmanuel Ariel of the Church of North India in Jobat. “They were vilifying the Christian faith.”

Kanhaiya Lal said police told church members to return to the building and continue their worship, which they did. Police continued talking with the extremists, eventually persuading them to pursue the matter legally and file a complaint, he said. In the complaint they named Noel Immanuel, who had given the church its land, and assistant pastor Pratap Rawat.

“Three of them have alleged that Pastor Pratap gave them money to convert to Christianity, when the fact is we have never seen these people before,” Kanhaiya Lal said. “I have heard that they even made affidavits to this effect and have deposed before authorities against us.”

Policemen have been visiting church leaders continually to record their statements, he said.

“I have been called to the police station tomorrow with four of my church members for statements again,” the pastor said. “It is troublesome, but what can we do?”

Alirajpur and surrounding areas also have a history of violence against Christians, said the EFi’s Vijayesh Lal.

“It was particularly violent in 2004, as many Christian homes were damaged, church buildings demolished and destroyed, Christians beaten up and at least one Christian woman was raped as a result of mass violence against Christians,” he said. “Incidents of attacks against churches have continued on and off, but largely calm has prevailed till last year.”

Three years ago Kanhaiya Lal’s Filadelfia church moved from a rented location in Jobat to Rampur village after Immanuel provided the land as a gift.

In October 2014, Hindu Jagran Manch (HJM) protested and threatened to burn the 100-year-old church building in Jobat after a Christian, Joseph Pawar, and a Hindu woman, Ayushi Wani, eloped. Under pressure from HJM extremists, police found the adult couple and annulled their marriage, ignoring their protests.

Human rights defenders criticized the administration actions as Wani was sent to a government shelter for women and Pawar was sent to Indore under strict police orders to refrain from contact with her. They were later reunited after the High Court of Madhya Pradesh declared the actions of the administration illegal.

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