04/13/2012, 00.00
INDIA
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Hindu radicals attack Christian pastors during Easter as police stand idly by

by Nirmala Carvalho
Two incidents are reported in Karnataka, one in Andhra Pradesh. In both states, members of Hindu ultranationalist groups have insulted, beaten and proffered death threats against believers and clergymen. Law enforcement officers filed cases against persons unknown even though the victims knew their attackers. For the president of the Global Council of Indian Christians, the Christian minority lives in a "climate of terror".

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - India's Christian minority is living in a "climate of terror," this according to Sajan George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) who spoke about the violence visited upon some Christian communities over the Easter break.

In Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, Hindu ultranationalist groups have attacked, beaten and made death threats against the pastors and members of three Pentecostal churches. Although each incident is distinct, they all have one thing in common, namely the "utter failure" of the police to act. For all intents and purpose, they are accomplices of Hindutva extremists.

The first incident occurred on 5 April in Mangalore (Karnataka) when a group of Hindus hurled stones at a congregation that had gathered for Maundy Thursday prayers at St Sebastian Church in the city's Bendore area. A 46-year-old woman, Claret Pinto, suffered head injuries and was rushed to Colaco Hospital. Police later filed a report against persons unknown.

On Easter Sunday in Chamrajnagar (Karnataka), police went to the home of Rev Rajesh, 27, a pastor in the Indian Pentecostal Church of God (IPC) who had just finished a prayer service. They asked him under what authority he conducted the service at his home. Then, they insulted and eventually ordered him to vacate his home.

Later that day, Rev Rajesh and five other pastors went to the local police station to file a complaint about the incident. As they were briefing the attending officer, about 100 activists from the Bajrang Dal stormed the station and attacked the clergymen and a parishioner. The latter, named Babu, was wounded to the head and needed 24 sutures. Police present at the scene stood idly by.

Also on Easter Sunday, Hindu ultranationalists from the Rashtriya Sawayamsevak Sangh (RSS) broke into the home of Rev Ratnababu, a pastor with the Christu Asinadu Prathana Mandir Church.

As some gagged and bound his son Madhu, others attacked the clergyman, throwing chilli powder into his eyes to blind him. They then physically assaulted him and his wife. When some neighbours began coming to the house in response to her screams, the attackers fled. Madhu was rushed to hospital.

Police filed a report against persons unknown even though the young man could identify the attackers.

Rev Ratnababu has been serving his Pentecostal community for 15 years. This attack by Hindu ultranationalists was not the first of its kind. In October 2011, there were three attempts to torch his church and numerous death threats against him. In the past six months, RSS activists were also able to get the police to arrest him, twice.

According to Sajan George, anti-Christian incidents are occurring on a regular basis. This and the lack of justice are a "serious threat" to the country's secular backbone.

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