NEW DELHI, INDIA — Christians in two Indian states, Karnataka and Himachal Pradesh, looked back Saturday, February 3, to weeks of violence amid fears Hindu militants step up attempts to stamp out Christianity there.
Tensions have remained high in Karnataka where Hindu militants from the Bajrang Dal group January 11 reportedly attacked Pastor David Paul, 29, and his wife Prasanna Kumari, 25, and drove them from their home in Bangalore.
Paul and his wife, who lead an independent church with 40 members, soon rented another small room in a slum colony in a neighboring locality where on January 15 another Hindu mob kicked open the door, news reports said.
The angry crowd allegedly ransacked the house and attacked the couple again, accusing them of "forcible conversions," Compass Direct News agency said.
Paul apparently denied the allegations and demanded to be taken to the police station. The extremists reportedly abused them for nearly an hour and then marched them off to the police station, where the pastor and his wife were questioned for nearly two hours before being released.
Elsewhere in Himachal Pradesh Hindu militants allegedly belonging to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) on January 21 demanded that Pastor Timuhias Behal close down his Peniel Prarthana Bhawan prayer hall and orphanage.
As they gathered in front of his house the mob shouted "anti-Christian slogans against the Peniel Prarthana Bhawan," the pastor said in published remarks.
They, "accused me of converting Hindus, of asking them to throw away idols of Hindu gods, of spoiling local culture and of indulging in flesh trade.”
He criticized the militants for warning local authorities saying the allegations "were false" and that all the children at the orphanage were from Christian families. A police investigation was reportedly underway.
The incidents have however underscored concerns among human rights watchers that controversial anti-conversion legislation imposed in several Indian states will encourage militants to step up attacks against devoted Christians.
Christians comprise less than three percent of India’s predominantly Christian population. (With reports from India)