(AFP) 29 January 2006
BHOPAL, India – Unidentified attackers beat up a group of Christians with iron rods in the Hindu nationalist-ruled central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh injuring 12, police said on Sunday.
The attack took place Saturday in the state capital Bhopal, where some 20 Christians had gathered for prayers at a missionary institution, police said.The attackers stormed the building, shouting anti-Christian slogans, and beat those at prayers with iron rods and sticks, Bhopal police chief Anant Kumar Singh said. “Some Christians, including a priest and a child, have been injured,” said Singh. “The exact cause of the feud is being investigated.” Two seriously injured were in hospital, he added.
The attack was condemned by local Hindu leader Devendra Rawat though he charged Christians in the area with attempting to convert poor and illiterate Hindus by offering them material incentives.
Christian groups in Bhopal say rightwing Hindus systematically target members of their community.
“Christians have been under pressure in Madhya Pradesh for long and such atrocities have increased under the rightwing BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) rule,” said Anil Martin, general secretary of the state’s Christian Association. Indira Iyengar, chairwoman of the state’s Christian Forum echoed Martin’s comments. “The victimisation of Christians in Madhya Pradesh has increased,” she said.
Attacks against Catholic priests and nuns are not uncommon in small towns and across rural India, with rightwing Hindu groups accusing them of altering the historic and religious makeup of India through conversions.In 1998, the western state of Gujarat, which neighbours Madhya Pradesh, was the scene of Hindu-Christian clashes, which prompted a number of Western diplomatic missions in New Delhi to lodge protests. In January 1999, Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two young sons were burnt alive as they slept in their jeep in the eastern state of Orissa by Hindu rightwingers who accused them of converting the local population.Christians constitute just two percent of India’s billion-plus Hindu majority population.