02/05/2007, 00.00
INDIA

Chattisgarh: Christians beaten and robbed during meeting

Nirmala Carvalho
A group of armed young Hindu nationalists attacked participants of a pacific meeting because they held those attending “guilty” of preparing a conversion plan. The victims included American tourists. The police have opened a case against “unknown” assailants.

Raipur (AsiaNews) – Fanatical Hindu nationalists have attacked a meeting of Christian pastors in Raipur (in the eastern state of Chattisgarh) that was attended by American tourists among others. They were accused of preparing a program of mass conversion to Christianity.

The incident took place on the afternoon of 2 February last. Around 15 armed youth beat 30 of the 120 participants of the meeting and robbed tourists of their portable computers, cameras and cell phones. They escaped immediately afterwards.

Called to the spot, the police claimed the tourists had been manhandled because “they were involved in conversion activities”. They accepted to file the report presented by the victims but recorded it as “an attack by unknown people”. Eyewitnesses told AsiaNews the assailants “showed scant respect to the women, present, some of who were manhandled.”

Ajit Jogi, ex prime minister of the state and Congress leader, has called on the authorities to shed light on the incident and to arrest the perpetrators. Local sources said: “It was the presence of foreigners that roused the ire of the nationalists who see a plan to convert the local population around every corner.”

The state government, led by the Bharatya Janata Party (BJP, of Hindu Nationalist inspiration), recently approved a new anti-conversion law. This provides for up to three years in prison and heavy fines for anyone found guilty of trying to convert an Indian citizen.

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