• Persecution Watch, May 18, 2016

    Pastor threatened at Tiruppur, Tamil Nadu

    May 1, 2016: According to reports, Hindu fundamentalists led by Tamil Selvan and Govindaraj, leaders of the Kundadam branch of the Hindu Munnani, forced themselves into the house of Pastor Yabez Bharathi and threatened the family. The mob surrounded the house and hurled abuses at the Pastor and his family. They demanded that the Pastor vacates the house and leaves, and that no Christian activity such as prayer be conducted in the area. The Pastor and his family had moved into their newly constructed house that evening itself. Pastor Yabez leads a Church near the area. The Christians contacted the local police station at Odiyoor and the police was able to control the situation.

    Hindu extremists announce campaign against Church in Satna, MP Panel member says Christians should be tried for sedition

    May 2, 2016: Hindu extremists in Satna, Madhya Pradesh, announced that they would carry out a campaign to stop Hindus from attending Sunday prayers at Churches because Pastors "trick them into conversion". The announcement, that was made on May 2, 2016, was well reported in the national media. Satna district has seen many incident in the recent past where Christians have been targeted, sometimes violently, by right wing groups. A week before the announcement, on April 27, Bajrang Dal people had stormed into a Church and had forcibly stopped a Christian wedding alleging 'conversions'.  Laxmi Yadav, a member of the Madhya Pradesh Backward Classes and Minority Welfare Department who enjoys the status equivalent to a minister of state, was present at the spot, when the Bajrang Dal members had stormed into the church. Yadav later told the media, "This is the first case in the country when Christians were caught red-handed converting and marrying OBCs. We will reconvert them, purify them after sprinkling Gangajal and hold a Hindu marriage for the couple. I am seeking legal opinion on whether sedition charge could be invoked against the Christians for waging a war against the country."

    BJP members trespass private property, vandalize it and allege conversion in Shivrajpur, Uttar Pradesh

    May 3, 2016: BJP and Hindu Vahini members trespassed and vandalized a private property alleging conversions at Durgapur village, Shivrajpur, Kanpur Nagar district, Uttar Pradesh. According to reports published by local newspapers, Chotelal Katheria, a dalit, had organized a family function and had put up pandals (tents) to accommodate his guests. His relative Gulab Katheria arrived at the function with a few of his friends around 12 pm. Suddenly a mob consisting of BJP and Hindu vahini members descended at the house shouting slogans and alleging that Chotelal Katheria's family and a dozen more people were going to be converted. The police was accompanying the BJP members and arrested Chotelal, Surendra, Gulab Katheria and his friends: Chandrabhan, Girish and Mukesh Gautam.  The BJP and Hindu vahini members then proceeded to uproot the tents and vandalized the place. The arrested people were let off after questioning, and the police denied any substance to the charges of conversion as levied by BJP members.

    Hindu extremists stone church in Alirajpur, Madhya Pradesh

    May 4, 2016: A mob of 500 led by Hindu extremists, attacked the Siyyon (Zion) Church in Jobat, Madhya Pradesh. The mob damaged the entrance of the Church and also pelted stones at the Christians present. The Hindu extremists had alleged to the police that Nigam Raymond and his brother Nirmal Raymond had damaged saffron flags put up near the Church, for the Hindu festival of Ram navami. Even though the police had registered a case against the Raymond brothers and were conducting an investigation, a mob of 500 led by the District President of the BJP, Rakesh Agarwal, surrounded the Church and started pelting stones. Pastor Emmanuel Ariel of the Church of North India explained that the flags were probably torn because of strong winds, however the BJP President led the mob made up of RSS workers, Bajrang Dal people and Vishwa Hindu Parishad members and not only stoned the Church and Christians but also attacked Christian women. Rev. Ariel said, "all this happened before the eyes of the police officers, who stood by as silent spectators." BJP president Rakesh Agrawal and others have been booked on charges of rioting, defiling place of worship and misbehaving with women under Jobat police station area.

    Pastor from Jharkhand found dead and mutilated in Rourkela, Odisha

    May 6, 2016: Pastor Abraham Biswas Surin (64), from the Gossner Evangelical Lutheran Church in Khunti, Jharkhand was found dead in the state of Orissa. His body was discovered near a railway bridge near the city of Rourkela, about 200 Kilometers from Khunti. According to reports the Pastor's throat had been cut and several wounds were visible on his body. The possibility of this being a robbery was ruled out as investigators found the pastor's ring, cell phone, watch and wallet on his body. The murder weapon, a long handled knife was also recovered near the body. An investigation is underway.

    Pastor forcibly taken to police station in Kotagiri, Tamil Nadu

    May 9, 2016: RSS members accused a Pastor of carrying out religious conversions in Kotagiri, Tamil Nadu. The Pastor was then forcefully taken to the Kotagiri police station for questioning. According to reports, Rev. Henry was conducting VBS (Vacation Bible School) classes, when around 25 RSS members stormed into the St. John's Church. The RSS members created a ruckus and demanded that the Pastor to be brought to the police station. The Pastor and the children attending the Vacation Bible School were all taken to the Kotagiri police station for questioning.

    Pastors detained by police in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh

    May 8, 2016: According to reports received from Rev. Daniel Masih, Pastor of the Assemblies of God Church in Allahabad, two of his colleagues were taken to the police station for questioning after a complaint was lodged against them alleging conversion and kidnapping. The Pastors were questioned at length by the police and then were let go as the complaint against them was found baseless.

    Christian arrested for distributing Gospel tracts

    May 11, 2016: Umesh Patel, a young Christian from Dhamtari, Chhattisgarh was arrested for distributing tracts. According to local Christian leaders, Umesh was targeted by Shree Ram Sena, a violent Hindu extremist group, after they sighted him distributing tracts. They beat him up mercilessly and took him to the police station where the police, under pressure from Shri Ram Sena members, charged Umesh under the section 295 A of the Indian Penal Code which classifies his offense under hate speech categorizing his actions as 'deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage reli¬gious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or reli¬gious beliefs.' Umesh Patel is still in prison awaiting his bail. When Christians approached the police station to file a complaint in the matter, they reportedly saw the local police inspector sitting and having snacks with Shri Ram Sena members, the same group which had beaten Umesh Patel and had dragged him to the police station. The police inspector did not entertain the Christians and refused to file their complaint.

    Issued by:

    Rev. Vijayesh Lal,  
    Executive Director,  
    Evangelical Fellowship of India,  
    New Delhi, India.