02/06/2013, 00.00
INDIA
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Karnataka: police arrests two Christians beaten by Hindu fundamentalists

by Nirmala Carvalho
The two Pentecostal clergymen are currently being held in prison on false charges of forced conversions. They were both were stripped, insulted and beaten by 20 Hindu nationalist activists.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - Two Pentecostal clerics have spent the past three days in a Karnataka prison after they were attacked and beaten by Hindu fundamentalists. They were later falsely accused of forced conversion and proselytising. The incident took place last Sunday in Gadag District. For Sajan George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), the case illustrates once more of "the growing and worrisome religious intolerance towards the Christian minority."

Sunday evening, Rev Nagesh Naik, from the Gipsy Church, was holding a prayer meeting at his home. Rev Mallikarjun Shingoli, another Pentecostal clergyman, was in attendance. Out of the blue, 20 activists from two Hindu nationalist groups, the Bajarang Dal and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), broke into the house, accusing those present of forcing Hindus to convert to Christianity. The clerics were then stripped, insulted and beaten.

The attackers then called the local police, which took Revs Naik and Shingoli to a government hospital in Mundargi where their injuries were treated. Afterwards, they were taken to the police station and held overnight.

On Monday morning, the clergymen were able to return home for a few hours on the condition that they go back to the police station. When they did, they were charged and arrested under Article 295A of the Indian (Whoever, with deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of any class of [citizens of India], [by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise], insults or attempts to insult the religion or the religious beliefs of that class, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to [three years], or with fine, or with both).

"These extremists continue to disseminate hatred in the community," Sajan George said. "They cultivate a hostile climate that is raising tensions and causing incidents even in the privacy of one's home. In addition to religious tolerance and freedom, society's balance, peace and harmony are under threat."

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