09/03/2013, 00.00
INDIA
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New anti-Christian violence in Karnataka, but religious freedom non-negotiable for Sajan George

by Nirmala Carvalho
The Christian leader slams three new attacks in August. Despite changes in the state government, the influence of the Hindu ultra-nationalists Bharatiya Janata Party continues to cause acts of anti-Christian violence and boycotts.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - "I am outraged by these new anti-Christian incidents in Karnataka," said Sajan George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC). "Religious freedom is non-negotiable," he told AsiaNews as he criticised fresh acts of violence against minority Christians. Three new attacks occurred in the Indian state in August alone, all by Hindu extremists.

The latest occurred on 18 August in Chikkamalaguru District when Hindu radicals stormed the home of Ms Doddamma, a member of the Rehebothe Prarthana Mandir Pentecostal Church.

The group of men asked her why she visited Hindu families and who gave her permission to preach Christianity.

Faced with her silence, the men dragged her and her daughter to a nearby Hindu temple, where they ordered some holy men to reconvert them to Hinduism. Faced with their refusal, the Hindus brutally beat the two women, as others destroyed their home.

On 11 August, in Chitadurga District, Rev Paramajyothi, the pastor at an independent Pentecostal Church, was attacked by Hindu ultra-nationalists. Dragged out of his church, he was stripped him and beaten mercilessly under the eyes of his congregation and family. The religious leader suffered several injuries, including three broken teeth.

Once discharged from the hospital, he turned to the police in Bejikere for protection since the fundamentalists had issued threats against him, ordering him to leave the village. Police instead filed a complaint against the attackers, as well as the clergyman.

On 3 August, 50 Hindu extremists violently attacked Somashekarwas, an Evangelical Christian in Bijapur District. Pulling his hair and ripping his clothes, they ordered him to reconvert to Hinduism. They also swore at his wife Kusumabhai and ordered the couple to leave the village if they were not willing to renounce Christianity. Because of their refusal, the attackers reported them to the police in Nedugundhi, accusing them of practicing forced conversions.

"Although Congress rules in Karnataka," Sajan George noted, "many years of government by the (ultra-nationalist Hindu) Bharatiya Janata Party have contaminated police with Hindu radicalism. The social and economic boycott of Christians is common, as well as physical and verbal abuse. The minority is vulnerable and this climate encourages fundamentalists to break the law."

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