06/27/2005, 00.00
INDIA
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India: Hindu extremists attack a Christian gathering

by Nirmala Carvalho

Jodhpur (AsiaNews) – A group of Hindu fundamentalists attacked a Christian meeting in the palace of Parameshwari in Jodhpur on Saturday 25 June. Jodhpur is a district of Rajasthan (a north-west state of India). More than 60 people were present, gathered under the leadership of Pastor Paul Matthew to "search for peace and spirituality".

Krishna Yadav, one of the participants, told AsiaNews: "I cam here from a nearby village to search for a bit of peace and to find a way to live more happily." The man pointed out that "there was no conversion under way" and that he had been a Christian since "my father converted to Christianity a long time ago". "I paid 150 rupees (around 2.80Euros) to participate in the meeting," he added.

Most of the activists who attacked the gathering – more than 60 of them – belong to Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and to Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), both extremist Hindu paramilitary groups. They flooded the hall where the meeting was under way and forced all the participants out. According to local police, one person was seriously wounded. Ravi Mehada, superintendent of public security for Jodhpur district, said: "We are investigating the matter. I cannot say more."

Mgr Ignatius Menezes, bishop of the Ajemr-Jodhpur diocese, told AsiaNews: "We have lived with these fanatics for many years now. The government, led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) [a party which backs a fundamentalist Hindu vision ndr] does not have any control over them and it supports them indirectly. The VHP, RSS and similar groups are now here to stay."

The prelate said these groups "have gained a high level of popularity precisely thanks to these attacks against Christians, because they portray themselves as champions of Hindu purity, defenders of Indian culture and traditions".

He added: "Even if there are no conversions at the meetings, each time these groups are suspicious and they generate suspicion among people. In this State, the question of conversions is a delicate matter about which there are strong feelings, but no one appointed them guardians of the law."

About the attack on Jodhpur, Mgr Menezes said: "This was a Pentecostal meeting led by pastors. In some cases, these people also organise bible studies. Whatever the case, they do not harm anyone; they do not threaten the stability of any group, much less the Hindu majority. The meetings are largely attended by tribals and adivasis or by classes marginalised by the Hindus."

Mgr Menezes ended by talking about the Anti-conversion decree, a bill of law which forbids conversions which are not to Hinduism: "This law is only government propaganda. I have written to the prime minister and the governor so they may do something now while the bill is not yet in force."

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