04/22/2009, 00.00
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Hindu fanatics attack Protestant Church in Maharashtra to stop conversions

by CT Nilesh
The group destroyed prayer books, bibles, furniture and the altar. Some members of Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal arrested. Police accused of delayed intervention.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) – A group of Hindu fanatics have attacked and damaged a Church in Saoner village, 40 km from Nagpur, in Maharashtra. The attack on Douglas Memorial Church took place Sunday morning while a religious service was being conducted. Two women were injured in their attempts to stop the gang vandalizing the church.

The two main Hidu groups, the VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad) and Bajrang Dal denied any role in the attack, claiming instead that it was done by “Hindus angry over religious conversions” in the area. The police however arrested three persons on Sunday: Uddhav Choudhary, an office porter from VHP, Vinod Bagde and Umesh Athavankar. Four other persons had been arrested on Monday belonging to VHP and Bajrang Dal.  The vandals tore up several holy books including the Bible, ransacked furniture, broke musical instruments and damaged the altar.

Ten minutes before the attack, some persons claiming to belong to the VHP, had gone to the police station handing over a letter demanding action against conversion in Saoner. They threatened “vigorous action” against the church for allegedly targeting poorer sections of society for conversion.  According to the records available with Nagpur police’s special branch, there have been100 conversions to Christianity at a church in Dattawadi since 2005.  According to Abraham Mathai, vice-chairman state Minority Commission, there should have been prompt action by the police: “It was the duty of the police to ensure that the group did not reach the church”.

The Christians of Mumbai have joined their voices to the protest on hearing of the attack. The Catholic Archbishop of Nagpur, Msgr. V. Abraham, who was in Mumbai on Monday, said: “There was peace between all communities in Nagpur for years. This feeling of amity is being eroded by acts of violence. The attacks display a total disregard for the rule of law.”

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