Persecution Watch, November 2017
On 1 November in Mura village of Kurud Tehsil, Dhamtari district, Chattisgarh, five Christian families were socially boycotted by the village council. The five Christian families had been earlier threatened by the villagers to stop participating in Christian activities and renounce their Christian beliefs. Since the Christian families did not pay heed to their warnings, the village council meeting of 1 November decided to deny them access to drinking water, prohibit any purchase of essential commodities from the village market and block any access to food rations. Later in the evening the villagers again met the Christians at their home to threaten them. The growing tensions brought the Superintendent of Police to the village, who ordered the Christian families to immediately stop conducting all prayer services.
On 4 November in Faridabad district, Haryana, a group of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh activists barged into a Christian Meeting which was being conducted at the New Industrial Township, and accused the Christians of running a conversion racket. About 45 Christian pastors in the region had organized a meeting and Convention for 4,000 Christians that had gathered from their respective churches from 2 to 5 November at the Daulatram Dharamshala situated in NIT, Faridabad. A popular Christian pastor, Sukhchain Masih was invited as the main speaker. Prior to the incident of 4 November, the pastors had requested for protection and permission from the local police station. However, no help had come. The incident prompted the pastors to seek help from the local MLA, whose presence led to the coming of the police personnel at the venue, and subsequently the Convention could be conducted successfully.
On 4 November in Satyamangalam taluk of Erode district, Tamil Nadu, Pastor K. S. Jaisujanth of India Every Home Crusade was called at the Bangalaputhur police station based on a complaint filed by some RSS activists against him. The police cross questioned him for about an hour and ordered him to stop all Christian prayer services that he has been conducting in the area. The pastor feels that his freedom to profess and propagate his religious beliefs is being taken away.
On 4 November in Morappur village of Harur tehsil, Dharmapuri district, Tamil Nadu, police officials cross questioned Pastor Joseph Prabahakar of the Assembly of God Church. They took pictures of the Prayer Hall where the pastor conducts prayer services and in a threatening manner ordered him to visit the local police station to get permission to hold the prayer services. Such cases of police inquiry into Christian services and use of prayer halls are on the rise in Tamil Nadu.
On 5 November in Gabitwada village of Karwar taluk, Uttar Kannad distrct, Karnataka, two policemen visited the DCM Bethel church during the evening prayer service, and informed the Christians who had assembled at the prayer house that they had received complaint about the prayer services. However, they did not specify the nature of the complaint. They further ordered the Christians to stop all the prayer services immediately. This is a second visit of the police at the Church. On an earlier visit a couple of months back, the police officials had made the Christians to give an undertaking in writing that they will not invite any newcomer for the Christian services.
On 8 November in Ward 2 of Lanji town in Balaghat district, Madhya Pradesh, Mahendra Nagdeve was served a notice by the Town Council regarding the use of his house for conducting Christian worship. The notice warned him that since he had not declared his house as a church building, and was holding prayer regularly without permission, his house may be demolished under the Madhya Pradesh Municipalities Act 1961, if he did not stop the Christian prayers with immediate effect. Mr Nagdeve feels that it is a violation of his fundamental right to profess and practice his religion inside his own home, and that the administration was siding with the anti Christian elements who may be behind this.
On 12 November in Ahladpur village of Chail tehsil, Kaushambi district, Uttar Pradesh, eight to nine Hindu activists barged into a Christian prayer meeting where about 300 people had gathered for Sunday worship service. They threatened Sone Lal, a farmer who was leading the meeting, and demanded that the meeting be stopped immediately. They returned after 20 minutes accompanied by the police alleging that religious conversions were underway during the prayer meeting. The police arrested eight Christians under section 151 of the Indian Penal Code.
On 15 November in Balod district, Chhattisgarh, three pastors – Younus Kumar, Balalaram Ahirwar and Vikram Sonwani were arrested by the police after they had come out of a prayer meeting. They were booked under Sections 151, 107-16. Later they were released on bail on 18 November.
On 16 November in Bhilai Charoda of Durg district, Chhattisgarh, members of Bajrang Dal and Dharma Jagran Manch tore up Christian posters that were put up at the Railway Ground. A three -day Good News Festival had been organized by the New Life AG Church, Indian Pentecostal Church and Gap Foundation, from 16 to 18 November at the venue and permissions had been granted by the respective authorities. Despite that, the Hindutva activists raised concerns over the name of the program, the banner and the posters, alleging that conversions may take place in the meeting. As the matter heated up, the police ordered that the meetings be stopped with immediate effect.
On 18 November in Birejhar village of Kurud tehsil, Dhamtari district in Chhattisgarh, police came to Mahndra Kumar Sahu’s house and warned him not to conduct Sunday worship service on 19 November. He was further warned that if he did not oblige he may be arrested. The pastor and faithful are in a state of fear.
On 26 November in Ghatkesar suburb of Ghatkesar mandal in Medchal district of Telangana, Pastor Keshav Kumar of Philadelphia Church was threatened by the police to stop the construction of a new church building. The Church is a part of the Zion Ministries and has been working in the area since 1988. A small church building was constructed in 1994 with proper government approvals. In May 2017 the church members decided to enlarge the existing space and began raising pillars for a new building behind the existing one. However, a few Hindu radicals started opposing the work and complained to the District Panchayat, the revenue office and eventually the police. Pastor Keshav says, “When we dismantled the old church and began new construction the people who are opposing us objected to the construction of the new building. They asked us to get permission. Church members who are also ward members in the ward council went and explained our stand to the Collector’s office and the District Panchayat. But now they have gone to the police alleging that there will be a communal problem if the Church is built. The police officials came and were asking for permission documents to construct the new structure.” The Hindu radical elements are claiming that there were no Christians 20 years ago, but now there are many converted Christians in the locality. Due to the police intervention the pastor is now in a state of fear and insecurity that he may be arrested any time.
On 26 November in Palladam town of Tirupur district, Tamil Nadu, ten Hindutva extremists barged into the India Gospel of Jesus Church and accused the Christians of carrying out religious conversions. The church services have been regularly conducted for the past eight years. The extremists threatened the Christians, who had assembled there, of dire consequences if the prayer meetings were not immediately halted. Later Inspector Subratnam of Palladam Police Station called the Christians and informed them that he had received complaints from local people and hence the prayer meetings cannot go on until they get permission from the District Collector. The Christians are feeling threatened and fearful.
On 26 November in Rajaji Nagar of PN Pudur in Coimbatore district of Tamil Nadu some policemen from C3 Saibaba Kovil police station came at a Christian prayer meeting conducted by the King Tabernacle and directed the Christians to stop the meeting immediately. They said that they had received complaints from Hindutva extremists about the meetings, and without the Collector’s permission they had no right to assemble and worship.
On 29 November in Larambha Marketpada of Larambha village in Attabira block of Bargarh district, Odisha, a group of Hindu radicals gathered around a Christian home where a mourning service was being conducted. The radicals started verbally abusing and threatened to beat up the four pastors who had gathered inside the Christian home. The Christians advised the pastors to leave the house quietly before the situation turned violent. The four pastors had to flee from the village to a nearby village leaving their motorcycles behind. The next day when they tried to get their motorcycles back, the radical elements warned them that if they entered the village they and their vehicles will be burnt down. The Christians and the pastors are now scared for their lives.
Rev Vijayesh Lal,
Evangelical Fellowship of India