Right wing activists beaten up eight priests and torched their vehicle outside a police station in Madhya Pradesh on December 14. The assault victims had been attempting to assist 30 seminarians and two priests detained at Satna police station by the Madhya Pradesh police for alleged conversion charges.
This is the 48th attack on the Christians this month, according to an ecumenical forum that records Christian persecution in India.
The trouble started when a group from St Ephrem’s Theological College in Satna town went to a local village to sing Christmas carols. A villager on the occasion alleged that he was offered five thousand rupees for converting to Christian faith.
Father George Mangalappally said that as they were singing Christmas carols an angry mob started shouting slogans against what they termed as conversion activities. “One of them called police and demanded action against us,” he said.
A police officer, on condition of anonymity, stated that after being arrested and charged the carol singers were kept in ‘protective custody’ because of fear they would be attacked if released immediately. The police had taken them to the Civil Line police station at around 9 pm and released at 3.30 am.
Father Anish Emmanuel, one of the priests who faced the muscle power of the right wing Hindu activists at the police station said, “When we reached the police station, around 100 right wing Hindu activists manhandled us and set our vehicle on fire. We were beaten up in front of the police, but they did not come to our rescue.”
According to Bishop Joseph Kodakkailil, at Bhumkahar village, a group of Bajrangdal activists disrupted the Christmas carol programme and asked them to offer pooja to Bajarangabali.
He said, every year the seminarians used to present programme in the nearby villages to convey the message of love and peace. The villagers under the leadership of an animator organize the programme in which village boys and girls as well as the seminarians present songs and skits on various themes.
This is a very dangerous trend that we need protection and action against those violated our fundamental rights, says Fr Rony Maruthummoottil, the social work director of Sagar dioceses.
Christians lack faith in Modi govt: Cardinal Baselios Cleemis
Indian Christians’ trust in the government has become shaky in the wake of increased attacks on Christians and members of the clergy, says Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India.
The cardinal was addressing the media in New Delhi on December 20 after visiting a central Indian city where Hindu activists attacked eight Catholic priests and 30 seminarians accusing them of attempting religious conversion.
Modi’s pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) runs the government in 19 of 29 Indian states, including Madhya Pradesh, where Christian leaders say the administration is unwilling to act against Hindu fanatic groups.
“The anxiety of the religious minorities is increasing because of the lack of confidence in the administration. So the onus is on the government to bring back the confidence of religious minorities,” Cardinal Cleemis said.
Frequently, Christians are attacked on allegation that they violate laws that regulate religious conversion. Often Christian work in the fields of education and health care of villagers can be interpreted as inducement or allurement.
Cardinal Cleemis also met Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on December 19 “to tell him about the pain and shock” of the Christian community at the latest incident in Madhya Pradesh.
The Christian leaders say attacks on their community have increased since the BJP came to power in New Delhi in 2014. In 2017 alone, there were some 600 incidents of attacks, according to their records.
Seeking protection from the fringe elements, the priests submitted a memorandum to the Superintendent of Police and the District Collector. The Hind activists, the priest, said “are trying to get fake statements from local villagers to certify against the brothers and the priest as well”.
The diocese faces hostility from the right wing Hindu activists who always target Christians and their charity work among the poor as façade to religious conversion.
Hindu vigilant group warns schools not to celebrate X’mas
Police in Uttar Pradesh are investigating a fanatical Hindu group’s warning against private schools celebrating Christmas.
A circular from Hindu Jagaran Manch (Hindu Vigilant Forum), circulated to media in Aligarh district, said Christmas celebrations were used to promote Christianity among majority Hindu students.
Schools violating the diktat would do so at “their own risk,” the circular stated.
However, local police told media that representatives of the Hindu group were asked to deposit a bond of 1 million rupees (US$15,610) and sign a pledge that they would not disturb schools during celebrations.
Aligarh senior superintendent of police Rajesh Pandey said he saw the Hindu group’s warning as a “publicity stunt.” None-the-less, police would not be taking any chances, he added.
Madhya Pradesh is among the six states in the country where religious conversion is an offence if done through allurement or force. According to a source, more than 650 incidents of attacks on Christians were taken place this year in the state.
The spokespersons of the Catholic Church Father Maria Stephen condemned the attacks and said, “We are deeply saddened by such acts. I urge the heads of all such destructive organizations to change their mindset of lies, violence, injustice and work towards brotherhood and peace”, he said.
“Such blatant attacks on the peace-loving minority community”, he said “raises serious question mark on the religious freedom in the country”.