50,000 Hindu fundamentalists demonstrate in favor of religious intolerance
by Nirmala Carvalho
The government of Orissa permits a march calling for "an end to the conversions." Meanwhile, in Bangalore, three Christians are arrested under the false accusation of inducing conversion. The AICC provides updated figures on anti-Christian violence.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) - The government of Orissa has permitted today's demonstration by Swami Laxmananda Saraswati Sradhanjali Samiti in Bhubaneshwar, despite New Delhi's concern that it could unleash further inter-religious violence. Meanwhile, anti-Christian violence continues in Orissa, with churches demolished and Christians arrested under the false accusation of "instigating conversions."

The extremist Hindu group called for the march in protest against the failure to arrest the killers of Laxmananda Saraswati, leader of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), murdered on August 23. Although the police maintain that Maoist groups are responsible, the Hindus have used it as a pretext for anti-Christian pogroms.

At least 1,500 policemen will keep watch to prevent incidents. But in Kandhamal, there is great fear that the march is a pretext for a resumption of the attacks, which have never really ceased. At least 50,000 participants are expected, and the organizers have posted flyers everywhere calling for the arrest of the assassins, but also "to stop the conversions and the killing of cows" and to "defend Hinduism and tribal culture."

In this atmosphere, on the night of November 12 three Christians were arrested under the accusation of "inducing" to conversion some of the inhabitants of a suburb of Bangalore. The leaders of the Christian associations have organized a campaign for their release.

The All India Christian Council (AICC) reports the information provided by Christian leaders in Karnataka: a man, Chandrashekhar, and two women, Kamlamma and Sandhya, were invited to the house of the man's sister, in the neighborhood of Jeevanahalli in Bangalore, to pray for the health of her son.

When they left their home at the end of the prayer meeting, the three were met by a group of about 15 militants of the Bajrang Dal, the youth branch of the VHP. The fanatics beat the man, then called the police accusing the three of inducing a group of inhabitants to conversion. A business owner confirmed the false accusation for the police of Fraser Town.

Chandrashekhar's sister says that she called him to pray for the health of her sick son, and rejects the accusations as "unfounded." Sam Paul, secretary for the public affairs of the AICC, says that "this is one of many examples of Christians who are falsely accused of forcible conversion by Hindutva forces. They are, of course, innocent. The sad reality is that, in India today, legal harassment of innocent Christians is common."

Meanwhile, on the night of November 11, the Catholic church in the village of Tiangia was razed to the ground. The church, which had escaped the earlier violence because it was still being built, was supposed to be inaugurated soon.

According to the AICC, since August 24 in Orissa, violence has been seen in 14 of the 30 districts in the state, with damage in 315 villages. 4,640 homes have been burned, 53,000 people have been displaced, and 60 people have been killed, including two pastors and a Catholic priest. Two women have been raped, 151 churches have been destroyed, and the attacks still continue today. In Bihar, a church has been damaged. In the state of Chhattisgarh, four sisters were attacked. In Jharkhand, Hindu fundamentalists attacked a church and tried to "reconvert" the Christian faithful. Four churches have been damaged in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Madhya Pradesh. In New Delhi, two churches have been damaged, and another four attacked. In Punjab, three Christians have been detained by the police under false accusations. In Uttar Pradesh, three pastors have been beaten, together with the wife of one of them. In Uttarakhand, two Christians have been killed, a priest and his employee.