Minorities commission rebukes vocal member for defending assaulted women.
(Compass Direct) – The headman of 12 villages in Madhya Pradesh state, including Nadia village where two Christian women were raped on May 28, has asked Christians to renounce their faith or leave the village, a local source said.
Pandya Patel sent two representatives to Nadia village on Tuesday (June 6) to ask the Christians to give up their faith or leave immediately – without any of their belongings.
“Patel also warned other villagers that if anyone spoke to the police about himself or about the rapists, they would be expelled from the village – regardless of their religious background,” the source, who requested anonymity, told Compass.
He said villagers are angry about the rape.
The total population of the 12 villages is approximately 10,000, of which fewer than 100 are Christians.
To counteract sympathy for the Christian families of Nadia village, Patel claimed missionaries were offering motorbikes and jobs to Hindus to lure them to Christianity.
“In reality, Christians in these villages have been facing intimidation, threats and violence for the last three years,” one villager explained. “In 2003, three Christian families in Nadia village were fined a total of 14,000 rupees (US $304) for becoming Christians.”
At press time, police had failed to arrest anyone for the rape. Inspector O.S. Thakur of the Khargone Police Station was unavailable for comment. A policeman, however, confirmed that although the victims had identified the rapists by name, no arrests had been made.
Press Conference Confrontation
On Monday (June 5), Indira Iyengar, a member of the Madhya Pradesh State Minorities Commission, brought the rape victims to the state capital, Bhopal, to meet the governor. She also arranged a press conference to highlight the incident in the local media.
Members of the Hindu extremist group Bajrang Dal interrupted the press conference and warned Iyengar not to accuse them of attacking Christians. While the extremists vandalized the site, state Bajrang Dal convener Devender Rawat reportedly told Iyengar, “I will not allow you to tarnish the image of nationalist Hindu organizations.”
The Minorities Commission then served a “show cause” notice to Iyengar on Tuesday (June 6), asking her to explain why she should not be removed from office.
Commission chairman Anwar Mohammed Khan said Iyengar had failed to raise the issue with the commission before holding the press conference.
“The chairman has no right to send me a ‘show cause’ notice. I was appointed by the government, which can, if it wants, sack me,” Iyengar told Compass. “As a member of the commission, I have the right to use any platform to bring incidents of violence against the Christian community before the public.”
Climate of Impunity
“The situation in Madhya Pradesh is becoming most frustrating,” Dr. John Dayal, a member of the National Integration Council of India, told Compass. “The Madhya Pradesh Minorities Commission should be sacked and the chairman should resign for failing to deal with the increasing incidence of violence against Christians.”
Dayal said the state governor should now act, since the chief minister and other politicians had failed to do so. As a representative of the president and the Union of India, the governor is responsible for ensuring that constitutional guarantees of religious freedom are implemented in the state, he said.
“I am also amazed at the silence of human rights and civil society groups in the state who seem to be taking this matter lightly – as if the minorities were a worthless commodity,” he added.
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