RASHEED KIDWAI, The Telegraph, Thursday, February 02, 2006
Bhopal, Feb. 1: Amid reports of more attacks on Christian establishments in Madhya Pradesh, governor Balram Jakhar has summoned chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan and asked him to rein in the miscreants.
Since January 27, eight incidents of violence against Christian missionaries — ranging from attempts to torch places of worship to attacks on religious assemblies — have been reported in the state.
State minorities commission member Indira Iyenger has accused a section of the Sangh parivar of stoking communal frenzy, adding that efforts were on to “destabilise” the BJP government headed by Chauhan.
Governor Jakhar, who otherwise maintains a low profile, called the chief minister last evening, expressing concern over the attacks on missionaries.
Jakhar, a former Lok Sabha Speaker, urged Chauhan to be vigilant about Dhar Bhojshala, where tension is brewing over an ancient monument that Hindus claim to be a temple and Muslims a mosque.
The local Hindu population wants to have exclusive access to the complex this Friday to celebrate Basant Panchami while Muslims insist on observing weekly prayers. Local authorities have worked out a formula that allots different prayer timings to both communities.
But the fear of a possible breakout of violence is hanging heavy in the air.
Jakhar’s uncharacteristic intervention came in the wake of strong protest from Christian missionaries.
One delegation apparently told the governor that if the state government continued to turn a blind eye to the “systematic” attacks on the Christian community across the state, they would be constrained to close down missionary schools.
Father Aneil Martin, the secretary of the Madhya Pradesh Christian Association, said: “We (Christians) are now scared to even step out of the house.”
Last night, unidentified miscreants tried to torch a 150-year-old church in Hoshangabad district, around 90 km from the state capital. The fire was doused but the church’s main gate was damaged. A first information report has been filed by church caretaker Jiwan Massih.
Further south in Betual, unidentified persons set the Pentecostal Church of Guard on fire in the wee hours of Tuesday.
In another incident, an old church in neighbouring Itarsi town came under attack. The miscreants fled when someone raised an alarm.
On January 27, Jabalpur had witnessed an incident of violence against Christian missionaries. The following day, a similar incident was reported from Jhabua district while Bhopal saw a daytime mob attack on a private house where Christians were praying. In almost all incidents, the miscreants are at large.
The local unit of the VHP has sought to blame the missionaries, alleging that conversion-linked activities are responsible for the attacks.
VHP state general secretary Anand Prakash Goyal said: “On one hand, conversion activities by missionaries are proceeding at a rapid pace. On the other, such activities were protected during the erstwhile Congress regime and also during the present BJP government’s tenure.”