06/01/2006, 00.00
INDIA
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Hindu fanatics abduct and rape Christian women

by Nirmala Carvalho
In Madhya Pradesh a group of extremists attack a group if Christians. Three men are seriously wounded, but instead of opening an investigation into the incident, the police arrests the victims.

Khargone (AsiaNews) – A group of Hindutva (Hindu nationalist) fanatics attacked and then abducted five Christians, two women and three men. Whilst captive, the women were raped and the men wounded by gunshots. The attack was perpetrated at 10 pm last Sunday in Nadia village, in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.

The two women, Baishi Pokharia and Rekha Gyarsiya, were able to identify their aggressors—Lulla, Nandla, Kalu, Rewal Singh and Sakaram—all from their home village.

The morning after local leaders of India's largest party, the Hindu nationalist-fundamentalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), went to the Collector's office charging that Christian missionaries from neighbouring Maharashtra state had carried out "mass conversions to Christianity". Although the allegations failed to name any clergyman it did mention the five Christians attacked the day before.

Once free from the hands of the Hindu fanatics, the five went to Bhagwanpura police station to report what happened to them at which time they were arrested by police inspector Thakur.  Currently they are still held in police custody.

Inspector Thakur did eventually agree to open an investigation but only after Ms Indira Iyengar, a member of the State Minority Commission, made several phone calls.

According to the latest information, the two women were about to undergo a medical examination.

Last Sunday a Christian from Suklia Kunda village, not far from Nadia, was dragged from his home and beaten "because he was Christian". He too went to the police seeking justice.

"We strongly condemn the violence against the Nadia women, but the behaviour of police inspector Thakur is even more reprehensible for refusing to open a file on the this most heinous incident," said Fr Babu Joseph, spokesman of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India

"It is strange and illogical that some people must be penalised for professing a given faith whilst the agencies that are supposed to uphold the law are mute spectators before the inhuman behaviour by some goons".

"We urge the government to intervene immediately and arrest the culprits so that law and order in the area is maintained and law abiding citizens can live without fear and anxiety," he said.

John Dayal, head of the All India Catholic Union, India's largest lay Catholic organisation, said that "this horrible incident can be seen as an act of intolerance by fundamentalist nationalists as well as an attack against the most vulnerable segment of our society: women."

"We know," he told AsiaNews, "that every 30 minutes a woman is raped in India; every 75 minutes a woman is killed, usually burnt, for not bringing a large enough dowry".
"According to figures from the Police National Crime Records Bureau, violence against children has jumped by 25 per cent in 12 months and recorded cases of female foeticide increased by a half in 2004.

"My home city, New Delhi, is the least safe place for women—a third of all rape cases takes place here. Some of the women are Christians, particularly Tribals from Jharkhand, Orissa and Chhattisgarh, working as maids in the metropolis, but these cases are not a matter of religious targeting."

"The Madhya Pradesh case is very different," Mr Dayal explained. "It is reminiscent of the gang rape of nuns in Jhabua many years ago."

"As I repeatedly told the central government, there seems to be a parallel law and justice system in states ruled by the BJP, which has no respect for religious freedom. State governments are also slow in registering cases even when the matters are brought to their attention."

Since "law and order are under state jurisdiction, the central government cannot intervene unless there is mass violence. [For this reason] we are seeking the highest legal advice possible to see how issues relating to religious freedom and violence against minorities might permit us to request the direct intervention of the central government."

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