• Persecution Watch February 2017

    After the 18 verified incidents reported by Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) for the month of January 2017, EFI reports 20 verified incidents of hate crimes against Christians in India in the month of February 2017, taking the toll to 38 incidents of hate crimes against Christians in the first two months of the new year. The list is as follows –

    Maharashtra – 4 ; Chhattisgarh – 4 ; Delhi – 2 ; Bihar – 2 ; Odish – 1 ; Rajasthan – 1 ; Jharkhand – 1 ; West Bengal – 1 ; Uttar Pradesh – 1 ; Tamil Nadu – 1 ; Madhya Pradesh – 1 ; Haryana – 1

    We urge the central and state governments to take adequate measures to protect the Christian community in these states in particular and in the nation in general.

    3 February – A group consisting of Bajrang Dal members trespassed into a Christian cemetery that belongs to the Church of North India (CNI) along with the cadaver of a Hindu beggar, for cremation in village Khalia Pali, Odisha. When the Christians present confronted them, the group started to get violent. They called for more of their members and broke the lock of the cemetery. The CNI authorities immediately called the police. The police on arriving asked the Bajrang Dal members to take the dead body and perform his last rights according to the faith he belonged. The Hindu extremists while leaving, threatened the Christians of ‘something more dangerous and severe coming their way’. The situation has been very tensed in that area since that day according to Pastor Sukanta Nag of the CNI Church. According to reports the members of the Bajrang dal are trying to mobilize the local Hindus against the Christian community. It was reported that a group of about 40 Hindu extremists tried to attack the local Christians on 9 February as well.

    5 February – The Sunday worship service of St. Thomas Evangelical Church of India was disrupted the third time in the past few months in Nagpur, Maharashtra. Pastor Nitin Atkur was conducting the regular Sunday worship service when a man from the neighborhood identified as Prakash Sumendra along with his son charged into the Church hall and started to verbally abuse and shout at Pastor Atkur. He alleged that the Church was causing disturbance by using instruments and PA system. In his response, Atkur said that they have not been using instruments and PA system at all. At this Sumendra and his son got furious and using abusive language they ran towards Atkur to attack him. The Church members surrounded Atkur and saved him. The local police were informed, who investigated the Church and Sumendra’s house and denied the veracity of Sumendra’s charge. A warning was issued to Sumendra by the police.

    8 February – Five Christians – 4 men and a woman belonging to Masih Duniya Prayer House, were assaulted by about 50 Hindu villagers because of their faith, in village Buddi Guda, Police Station Dorna Pal of district Sukma in Chhattisgarh. Saryaam Mamta, Saryaam Hirma, Kuraam Desha, Kuraam Penta, Pada Subba were falsely accused by the villagers for stealing some coins from the local Hindu temple.

    10 February – Pastor Sikander Kumar along with Church members of Mission India Church were attacked by 10 Hindu extremists after a marriage ceremony in Hazipur, Bihar. Six Christians including a woman were injured in this attack.

    10 February – St. Basil Church in Rohini’s Sector 3 was vandalized by two men in Delhi. The unidentified men both juveniles broke into the Church and took away Rupee 5000 cash from the donation box of the Church. They desecrated the Holy Cross and an idol of Mother Mary. The entire incident was captured on CCTV cameras installed in an adjoining school. The juveniles, were arrested on February 11, 2017. A police officer quoted Father George Kurian Thomas as saying that many articles were found strewn across the church floor, the Holy Cross was damaged and the donation box was lying empty. Father Thomas told the police that the incident was the first of its kind in the Church over the last 25 years.

    12 February – Five Christians belonging to Maranatha Bible college were severely assaulted by Bajrang Dal members and Hindu villagers in village Rahti Para, district Konda Goun, Chattisgarh. Dalsai Netaam, Khurju Ram, Sukru, Bisenteen Netam, Ghadve Bai (3 men and 2 women) were called for talks in the village where over 500 people from 6 different villagers had gathered on the instructions of the district council members. These five Christians were admitted in the Bhisraampuri Hospital where they were treated for their gruesome injuries after the assault. Two of the five were referred to Kanker for further treatment. At the complaints of the Christians, police arrested 5 members of Bajrang Dal but in the evening of the same day, a mob of Bajrang Dal members surrounded the police station and successfully pressurized the five Hindu extremists to be released.

    13 February – Christian leaders belonging to the Seva Bharat Mission were conducting Adult Literacy Training and Facilitation Program with around 35 staff members in Udaipur, Rajasthan, when their program was disrupted by the police from the Sukher Police Station on the complaint of some Hindu extremists from the nearby area who accused the Christians of carrying ‘some conversion activity’ in the guise of the program. The police detained Mahendra Baria, Ramesh, Dinesh Kataria and Johnson for interrogation and took them to the police station. Members belonging to the Bhartiya Janata Party surrounded the police station and pressurized the police to take action against the Christians. The Christians were then booked under Section 151 and 107 by the police. They were released on bail in the evening after the intervention of local Christian leaders.

    13 February – Two sisters Sushma Tigga and Rashmi Tigga are reportedly facing severe opposition from their family and relatives in village Dibadi, Ranchi, Jharkhand. They became followers of Christ 5 years ago, and since then have been tortured because of their faith. They have been assaulted 4 – 5 times in the past and in one such recent assault that took place on 13 February, their brother beat them up severely as a result of which, one of the sisters sustained a neck injury.

    13 February – Two sisters, Savita and Kiran (names changed) were severely assaulted by their husbands because of their Christian faith in Haryana. They used to attend the Tabernacle of Christ Church pastored by Pastor Naresh Paul in Karnal, Haryana, every Sunday. Savita, who has been a practicing Christian for the past two years was beaten more severely than Kiran, who had started attending Church for the past six-months.

    19 February – In a shocking incident about 25 Hindu right-wing activists disrupted a church service where 20-25 Christians were worshipping along with Pastor Tahveer Sonwani in village Pandri Paani, Thana-Gorella in district Bilaspur of Chattisgarh. The Hindu extremists carried a picture of the Hindu god – Ram, which they placed at the Altar. They had got a Pujari (Hindu priest) along with them who was asked to begin with the chanting of Hindu mantras. They forcefully applied tilak on the forehead of two Christian women inside the Church. When Pastor Sonwani tried to question them, they gripped Sonwani by his collar and dragged him outside the Church and beat him up.

    19 February – A grotto of Mother Mary installed by a roadside in Kurla, Mumbai, the capital of Maharashtra, was desecrated in the early morning of 19 February. The Christians of the Kurla area staged a strong protest and demanded action. The Vinobha Bhave Nagar police arrested two youths – Kiran Rode (28) and Babu Kunchikurve (19) on 21 February. They were booked for theft and hurting religious sentiments, according to media reports.
    19 February – Pastor Jinu Raj belonging to the Gospel Echoing Missionary Society (GEMS) has been threatened at least twice since 19 February at Aurangabad, Bihar. According to reports a group of people came to the rented place where Pastor Raj conducts the worship service and threatened him. They asked him not to conduct worship services anymore. On 26 February a larger group of people again came to the venue and threatened Pastor Raj of dire consequences should he continue to conduct worship in the area. GEMS ministry has been serving in this place for the past 30 years and about 120 people worship every Sunday at the Church. The house owner has asked Pastor Raj to either vacate the house or to stop the worship services.

    20 February – The local police in Supur village of Bankura district, West Bengal shut down an orphanage run by Pastor Chandra who also pastors the Crown of Life Ministries Church. This happened at the complaint of a couple, who had approached Pastor Chandra with a request to release a child who was related to them, from the orphanage, for some personal work of theirs. At Chandra’s refusal, this couple was offended and filed a false complaint against Chandra of carrying out child trafficking and forceful conversion inside the orphanage home. They also informed the local Children Welfare NGO – “Sumangalam Home” about the alleged child trafficking and conversion activity. The Children Welfare committee along with the help of the local police took custody of all the 12 children living in Chandra’s orphanage. Chandra denies the allegations and continues to struggle to cope up with the harassment he is facing in trying to prove that he is ‘not guilty’. He has been running the orphanage since 2012.

    22 February – Unidentified people looted the Vishwa Vani Prathana Bhawan Church in Tiwaripur village, Chowbeypur Thana, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh near midnight on 22 February. Pastor Kamlesh Kumar, 30, reported that several items from inside the Church went missing after the theft such as the consecrated vessels used for Holy Communion, the sound systems, fan, the donation box, carpet, solar light battery, chairs etc. Kumar informed that there was a collection of about six thousand rupees in the donation box, which was collected during the Christmas season, and the same went missing along with the rest of the money. The Church was built in the year 2013 and has a congregation of about 100 members. Kumar, who is ministering in the village since 2011 resides in Munari Bazar – which is around 2 kilometers from the Church, along with his wife and three children. Kumar registered a complaint at the Chowbeypur Police Station on 23 February but no arrests have been made yet.

    23 February – The Evangelical Church of India (ECI) located in Indira Nagar East Mumbai in Maharashtra faced opposition from a neighboring Hindu family led by one Kapil Kadam. The 37-year-old Church building is presently undergoing renovation and Kadam displaying his resentment against the renovation started to throw bricks at the laborers working on the construction site on 23 February. He approached Pastor Koil Raj, who pastors the ECI church for the last four years and is overseeing the renovation work, with abusive language and slapped the pastor on his face. According to reports, Kadam hit himself with a brick and falsely reported to the police that Pastor Koil had attacked him. The police took both Pastor Koil and Kadam to the area police station, where they asked Kadam to maintain peace in the area. “The Kadam family has been causing trouble for the past 15-20 years for the Church and have thrice in the past approached local authorities appealing for the shut-down of the ECI church,” said Pastor Koil Raj. There are 150 members, who attend the ECI church.

    24 February – Hindu extremists attacked a ‘Peace Festival’ organised by a collective of 12 Churches belonging to Delhi and National Capital Region (NCR) in Badarpur, Delhi. It was the last day of the two-day festival, when a mob of about 250 – 300 attacked the 1700 people seated for the program. Shouting slogans of “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” (Hail Mother India), they assaulted those seated in the crowd and on the stage, vandalizing the property including the sound system, stage, chairs and tables. Many were injured in this attack. Pastor Emmanuel Masih, the Pastor of Satsang Yeshu Ka Darbaar was the worst hit and bled from his nose and mouth for hours as a result of the beatings before he was given first-aid. The program had to be discontinued and resulted in a huge financial loss for the organizers. A case was registered later, against unidentified miscreants.

    24 February – A 3-day Christian meeting that was scheduled from 24 – 26 February at VKV Veluchami – a private marriage hall in Theni, Tamil Nadu was opposed by local Hindu extremists. The Theni district pastors had organised this open-air meeting for a large audience and had obtained the necessary permission from the authorities as well as the consent of the local police to provide police-protection to the entire event. However, an influential Hindu leader approached the police and insisted that the meeting should not be allowed, claiming that the meeting will ‘create law and order situation’. The police in-turn persuaded the owner of the marriage-hall to cancel the bookings of the Christians for the meeting.

    28 February – Members belonging to Hindu Vahini, a right-wing group, disrupted a wedding taking place at the Jeevan Jyoti Ashram Church in the Shivpuri district in Madhya Pradesh on 28 February 2017. The marriage was being formalized between a Christian girl Anukampa and a Hindu boy Avnish Sharma. The affiliates of the Hindu Vahini accused the priest of forcefully converting the boy and getting him married to a Christian girl. The groom (Avnish), persistently denied the charges that he was being converted and even produced his wedding card as a proof that their wedding would also take place on 13 March in Indore according to Arya Samaj rituals but the hooligans did not let the Church continue with the ceremony as reported by newsbits.in. The town inspector Sanjay Dixit later in his statement to the Hindustantimes.com said that the incident was the outcome of some confusion, “Members of the Hindu Vahini had come to us alleging that a forced conversion was taking place. A police team accompanied them to the church and the charges were found to be untrue. No case has been lodged.”

    28 February – A group of 20 villagers got together in a panchayat meeting in village Batti of Bhamragad, Gadchiroli district, Maharashtra and summoned three Christian families living in the Hindu majority village for ‘peace talks’. The meeting was attended by Kuma Lekhani, his wife Maini Lekhani and another Christian identified as Janu. Some of the villagers present in the meeting were reported to have intoxicated before the meeting began. The Hindu villagers insisted that they did not want Christians in their village and pressued the Chritians to leave the village. Soon the villagers got agitated and started to assault the three Christians present and proceeded to vandalize their homes. Pastor David Jacob of the Church Growth Missionary Movement, who ministers to the Christian families in this village got news about the assault. He took the assaulted Christians along and reported the matter to the local police station. The police called the villagers and warned them against the assault and instructed them to repair the Christian homes that have been vandalized. No case was registered against the attackers.

    28 February – After more than a month since Pastor Jacob Joseph’s New India Church of God in Shanti Nagar area of Dalli Rajhara in District Balod, Chhattisgarh was attacked, on 29 January 2017, no FIR (First Information Report) has yet been registered against the attackers. According to reports women were stripped and were dragged by their hair during the assault. Christian leaders and at least 25 civil society groups came together demanding strict action against the culprits. A massive rally of around 5000 people comprising of Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan, PUCL, CPI-Marxist, and several other social organizations took to the streets on 28 February 2017. They went to the district headquarters to meet the Collector and demanded an FIR to be registered in the case.

    Issued by:
    Rev. Vijayesh Lal,
    General Secretary,
    Evangelical Fellowship of India

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