• Persecution Watch, January 2018

    On 1 January in Mohanpur, Jehanabad district of Bihar, a Christian prayer meeting was stopped by a mob led by Hindu fundamentalists, who entered the house where Pastor Ranjit Kumar was leading the meeting. About 70 Christians were attending the prayer meeting. The Hindu fundamentalists threatened the pastor and the Christians warning them to stop gathering for prayers. Kumar has been conducting regular Sunday service/prayer meetings in Mohanpur for the past few years. Kumar approached the local police to file a complaint and seek protection, but only verbal assurance of help was given to him.

    On 3 January in Uppada village under Kothappali police station in East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh, Pastor John Bonnke of Christ Galilea Hebron Church was attacked and assaulted by 5 men belonging to his village. Bonnke was on his way to a bank after conducting a prayer meeting at the Church, these men stopped him on his way, looted his bike, mobile phone, wrist watch, gold chain and badly beat him. Bonnke approached the Kothappali police station and reported the assault. At the initiative of the Sub-Inspector, a meeting was organized at the police station where Bonnke and his attackers (Hindu fundamentalists) were summoned together. Around 70 Christians accompanied Bonnke for this meeting, where a compromise was stuck. The fundamentalists were strictly warned from threatening Bonnke or hindering the prayer service. "Since then we have been conducting Church Service without any threat or hinderances," informed Bonnke. In 2011 Bonnke and his family had faced similar assault, where they were beaten with iron rods and had sustained gruesome injuries. 

     

    On 3 January in Javanga village in Geedam tehsil of Dantewada district in Chhattisgarh, a Christian since 2006 - Asharam who attended Bethel Prarthana Samiti Church, was severely assaulted after he was tricked by some Hindu fundamentalist to accompany them to a nearby village. On their way at a secluded place, the Hindu extremists pounced on him and brutally assaulted him. Thay threatened to burn him and his family alive if he did not stop attending Church. Asharam had to hospitalized for the gruesome injuries he sustained. When he approached the Geedam police station, the police officer refused to file his complaint and instead threatened him to not to pursue the matter further else he would land in more trouble. Asharam was traumatized by the complete incident, to the extent that he left his village along with his family and relocated to a nearby village.
    On 4 January in Vidisha district of Madhya Pradesh, a large crowd led by the Hindu nationalist  Bharatiya Janata Party's student union wing, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (All Indian Student Council, or ABVP) attacked the St. Mary's College (a Catholic institution) after the Director, Shaju Devassy of the college refused the demands of ABVP students studying in the college to perform worship of the Mother India goddess (Aarti of Bharat Mata) inside the college premises. They verbally abused the Director calling him an anti-nationalist and threatened to return with a mob and perform the worship and garland the Director with a garland made of shoes. A mob of 800, pelted stones injuring two police constables on duty, sloganized and tried hard to break the police barricades and enter the college premises on 4 Jan. There was a police force of about 300 to control the agitated mob. Tensions remained high for about 4 hours and then the mob dispersed only to return on 16 January. (Please refer to the 16 January protest).
    On 14 January in Bhangarwad, Andheri East of Mumbai, Maharashtra, a group of Hindu fundamentalists forced their way into a government school where a worship service was being conducted. Threatening the Christians to stop conducting Church service, they accused Pastor Ravi Jain of carrying out religious conversion. Jain later lodged a complaint at the office of the Deputy Commissioner of Police.
    On 16 January in Vidisha district of Madhya Pradesh the St. Mary's College saw another spate of violence and protest by Hindu hardliners. The mob this time was even larger than the 4 January protest. The General Secretary of Catholic Bishops Conference in India - Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, had earlier apprised the Union Home Minister, Shri Rajnath Singh about the impending threats. Additionally, the Madhya Pradesh Catholic Diocesan School's Association had also filed a writ petition at the Jabalpur High Court seeking protection for their institutes in Vidisha. Hence a heavy security cover of about 500 fully equipped police personnel was deployed in and around the college. Several Hindu fundamentalists were arrested as a precautionary measure on 15 and 16 Jan. It was reported by the Superintendent of Police that 30 Hindu nationalists, including Updesh Rana, leader of Vishwa Sanatan Sangh, were arrested as they were heading for the college to perform the Hindu worship. With the proactiveness of the college management and police force, the attack was prevented.
    On 16 January in Sihal village of Nowshera Tehsil in Rajouri district of Jammu and Kashmir, a mob comprising of about 1000 people shouting slogans of 'Jai Sri Ram' (Hail lord Rama) attacked the church building of Pastor Jeewer Joeswa's church and set it on fire after a Hindu convert woman - Seema Devi, 23, who had become a Christian about eight months ago died due to her prolonged sickness. They accused the pastor for forcefully converting Seema and blamed him for her death. In their fit of rage, they burnt the church building, church equipment, furniture and every object in sight, including the food grains. Seema started to attend Church after she had experienced healing from her sickness. She died on 15 January in Jalandhar (Punjab) where she had gone to visit her mother after Christmas. Her body was carried to her village church as they protested. A First Information Report was registered at Nowshera police station against the assailants who had come from Kangri, Bhajwal, Sunderbani and Sihal villages. The police took some eight assailants into custody but released them later the same day. On 18 January in Simrauli village of Hapur block in Ghaziabad district of Uttar Pradesh about ten Christian families were stopped from attending Church by the Station House Officer of Babugarh police station, who visited the Christian families and warned them to not to conduct any prayer meetings nor attend a Church. These families attended regular worship service in Rajnagar (Ghaziabad) with the Jesus Calls ministry. The Christians are reported to be living in constant fear of being booked under false charges of conversion and being arrested. These Christians since then did not attended any Church out of fear until reported.
    On 20 January in Coimbatore district of Tamil Nadu Pastor T. Simon Rajan of Apostolic Church was summoned to the local police station. They informed him of a complaint filed against him for creating noise pollution in the locality through the regular Church Service and prayer meetings. He was asked to stop conducting prayer services with immediate effect and obtain permission from the District Collector to do the same. Earlier a mob had pelted stones on the church building in attempts to stop the service. Rajan continues to faces pressure from the police and opposition from his neighbors.
    On 20 January in Adayalacheri village of Kanchipuram district of Tamil Nadu,Pastor Gideon Periyaswamy of Maknayeem Church was found dead in his one-room house beside the church building. The 43-year-old pastor's body was found hanging from a rope tied to the roof and stiffly bent at the knees as if he was placed in the noose after his death. He had been serving as a pastor for more than 12 years in Adayalacheri. The local Hindus were not happy with him and had often threatened him. According to reports, Periyaswamy had been witnessing opposition almost every Sunday for the past six months which included stone pelting and regular warnings. Hindu extremists in the year 2016 had demolished the shed where Periyaswamy and his church members met. The Kalapakkam police initially denied filing a complaint for murder and transferred the body to the Chengalpattu Government Hospital. However, after church members and pastor from neighboring villages blocked a road in protest, a complaint was lodged. The relatives and church members of the pastor alleged that there was no ground for the pastor to commit suicide and it was a clear case of murder allegedly committed by the local Hindu extremists.
    On 23 January in village Singavatam, Kollarapuram Mand, Nagar Kurnool in Telangana, (Retired) Sub Inspector Anandham, member of a Gospel Team was carrying New Testament Bibles for distribution in his car, when a mob affiliated to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (a right-wing Hindu nationalist organization) stopped them and confiscated the cartons of Bibles. Opening the boxes, they piled the Bibles, tore some of them and set all of them on fire. Videos and photographs shot Live, went viral on social media. A case has been registered against eight of them informed Anandham's wife Dev Amma while speaking to EFI.

    On 28 January in Soroda Poli of Ganjam district in Odisha, Pastor Mohanty Chandra Takri filed a complaint at the local police station against Hindu extremists for intimidating Christians to re-convert to Hinduism. 16 Christian families of the Blessing Youth Missions Church returned back to Hinduism owing to strong pressure from Hindu extremists. Another five Christian families continue to be threatened to recant their Christian faith. The police at the Kodala police station have promised help.
    Issued By :
    Rev. Vijayesh Lal,
    General Secretary,
    EFI