07/30/2013, 00.00
INDIA
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Karnataka: Hindu nationalists persecute Tribals to regain power, says Christian leader

by Nirmala Carvalho
According to the president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), after its defeat at the elections, "the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is desperate." In Arsikere (Hassan District), a Pentecostal clergyman is the victim of false allegations of forced conversions.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - "The Hindu ultra-nationalists of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are desperate and are trying to bring to their side the tribal people of Karnataka, persecuting them by any means," said Sajan George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC). He blames the main right-wing Hindu party of fuelling tensions and supporting attacks against minorities in the state despite its defeat in the last local elections.

The latest incident occurred on 25 July, and involved a Christian tribal community in Arsikere (Hassan district). At 10:30 am, some members of the BJP, led by a man named Byresh, broke into Rev Raju's Pentecostal church when he was conducting a prayer service with 40 members.

The attackers started screaming, accusing the religious leader of practicing forced conversions. When they saw that the Christian were preparing lunch, Byresh and his men threw mud at food.

Eventually, they went to a nearby police station, to file a complaint against the clergyman for converting Hindus to Christianity in exchange for money. Soon after, Rev Raju filed a counter complaint against the attackers, who remain at large.

"This," Sajan George told AsiaNews, "is not an isolated incident. For some time, there have been cases of persecution and attacks during prayer services. In Arsikere, part of the population is tribal. Most people are poor and landless. It is important to note that most local Tribals are not Hindu."

The local tribal communities have suffered such attacks before. The most serious one took place in October 2012 when Hindu ultra-nationalists tried to force some Christians to pay taxes to the local Hindu temple. Faced with the latter's refusal, the extremists beat up five people, sending them to the hospital.

"Now that the Congress (a secular and democratic party) is in government," the GCIC president said. "Our hope is that these extremists will be brought to justice and that Karnataka will be able again to celebrate religious freedom."

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