Wednesday, 15 March 2006, By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
NEW DELHI, INDIA (BosNewsLife) — Hindu militants have threatened to assassinate the leaders of one of India’s largest evangelical mission groups and plan to take over its orphanages, churches and mission schools in the Indian state of Rajahstan, officials said Wednesday, March 15
The President of Hopegivers International (HI), Dr. Samuel Thomas, told BosNewsLife in a statement from an undisclosed location that he and his 71-year-old father and founder of Emmanuel Mission International and the related HI organization, Bishop M.A. Thomas, are in hiding to avoid possible assassination.
It comes "anti-Christian hate groups and local police" continued a siege for a third week against the 2,500 orphaned and abandoned children protected at HI’s Emmanuel Hope Home in the city of Kota in Rajasthan. The Kota home is funded by HI, which has its headquarters in Columbus in the US state of Georgia.
Eight American volunteers are among the staff working to feed and care for the children at the Kota orphanage, but militants standing outside are reportedly stopping food supplies.
"The Honorable Madan Dilawar, the Minister of Social Welfare from the Hindu radical party that runs the government of Kota, was quoted in a newspaper as saying, ‘If I am not able to take away all the children from the (Christian) orphanage and if I am not able to take over all the schools and churches in Kota and Rajasthan, then I want the people of Kota to stone me and hang me’," added Dr. Thomas.
Most, if not all, the orphanages are ‘Dalits’, known as the "untouchables" in the ancient caste system of predominantly Hindu India. There are about 300-million dalits in India, many of whom are forced into prostitution and slavery, rights groups say.
Dr. Thomas suggested he was frustrated that he and his father are unable to be with the children. "The newspapers are filled with daily threats from radicals to decapitate or kill us. In one of the local Hindi-language papers, the Kota Rastradoot News, militants are quoted as saying that if the Thomases are granted bail, ‘we will not allow their bodies to reach the Bishop House at Emmanuel Fellowship in one piece.’"
In addition Rajasthan government has reportedly pledged to confiscate all Hopegivers’ property, church buildings, 13 orphanages and 65 mission schools in Rajasthan. "Of course this is illegal," said Dr. Thomas. "But it is being treated as a fact. The newspaper reports say that the radicals are going to use force. This may result in some bloodshed and death."
Last month, on February 2, a mob of Hindu militants attacked a HI supported orphanage in Tindole, stoning children and beating ergy leading the home. Dr. Thomas denied reports that an orphan was killed, but said a child of one of the militants died because of an unrelated illness. On February 10 a Hindu mob reportedly burned to the ground another school and orphanage linked to HI and Emmanuel Mission International.
Dr. Thomas said he is waiting for higher courts to grant them bail and protection from "militant anti-Christians who are seeking to illegally end Hopegivers’ humanitarian work in India." He and his father are apparently not able to leave India or travel inside the country because "false warrants" have been issued.
"Last Friday, we learned that the High Court in Jaipur has put off the bail hearings for [co-defendants] R.S. Nair, V.S. Thomas, Bishop Thomas and me until March 22," said Dr. Thomas. "This way the militants will have more time to catch us and carry out their plans to have us assassinated before we get into protective police custody."
"It appears to have started when religious terrorist groups incited mob violence towards Hopegivers because of a Christian booklet being distributed in India. These radicals falsely blame Hopegivers for printing and distributing the booklet entitled, "Haquikatt" by M.H. Mathew. The book allegedly denigrates Hindu deities. Let me state plainly for the record: Hopegivers had nothing whatsoever to do with the writing or publishing of this booklet," Dr Thomas said in an earlier letter to BosNewsLife.
Rajasthan Hindi language newspapers have reported that a hard-line Hindu leader, identified as Mr. Agrawal, has offered a reward of $52,000 to anyone who will capture and behead the Thomas’. Agrawal is said to be a member and high-ranking official of the anti-Christian Hindu groups Shiv Sena and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.
Meanwhile the Indian parliament has reportedly been forced into an unscheduled adjournment for a second time within a week during heated exchanges between legislators debating attacks on an evangelical mission centre in western Rajasthan state.
The interruption in the Lok Sabha, the lower chamber of the Indian parliament on March 13 came reportedly after legislators visited the Emmanuel Mission International centre at Kota in Rajasthan over the weekend.
They demanded immediate federal government intervention to stop harassment by the state government at the behest of the local ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), reported the Ecumenical News International (ENI).
The stand-off between the mission groups and Hindu militants and officials have underscored growing concern among human rights groups about what they see as growing pressure on India’s Christian minority. Most of India’s 1.1 billion people are Hindus.
Hopegivers said it started an Emergency Defense Fund in an effort to cope with what it calls "the illegal actions of the local government and the onslaught of civil and human rights violations that are occurring in the state of Rajasthan." Contributions are being collected at www.hopegivers.org.
It said it also offers a ‘Letter Writing Guidelines Kit’ via [email protected] with guidelines and names and addresses of those who can help save the children and preserve human rights and freedom of religion in India. (With BosNewsLife News Center, BosNewsLife Research and BosNewsLife reports and reports from India).