Dharam Sena members injure 10 Christians, confiscate mobile phones and cash.
by Vishal Arora, Journal Cheretien
NEW DELHI, February 5 – About 25 members of the Hindu extremist group Dharam Sena (Religion Army) attacked a pastors’ conference in Raipur, Chhattisgarh state, on Friday (February 2), injuring at least 10 Christians.
The attack took place at about 3:30 p.m. as organizers were preparing the opening session at the Singh Palace banquet hall in Pandri, a sub-district of Raipur .
“When the Dharam Sena barged into the hall, my female manager tried to stop them, but they manhandled her and then proceeded to attack the participants,” Jay Prakash, the Christian owner of Singh Palace , told Compass.
The extremists shouted “Jai Shri Ram ! [Hail god Rama]” as they beat the Christians with sticks, verbally insulted them and accused them of forcibly converting Hindus.
Participants searched in vain for hiding places. “My staff locked one elderly Christian couple into a room for their safety,” Prakash said.
About 100 Christian leaders were present at the meeting, according to Prakash. Of those, at least 10 received injuries. The Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) later reported that local believer Sakha Ram was the most seriously injured.
The mob also beat two foreigners, identified only as Jack and Coli. “The extremists dragged them at least one kilometer away, beating them all along the way,” EFI said in a press statement. Two other foreign guests managed to escape.
The mob also damaged chairs on the property and took a laptop, two mobile phones, digital cameras and 10,000 rupees (US$227) in cash from the participants.
Not Naming Names
Police registered a complaint against “unidentified” people in the mob, citing several violations of the Indian Penal Code including rioting, the use of deadly weapons, unlawful assembly and criminal intimidation.
But a local Christian who requested anonymity said he suspected the police were trying to shield the attackers.
“The police accepted a complaint from the owner of the banquet hall, but they did not register the complaint of the local pastor, Harish Patel,” he said. “By doing this, they’ve ensured there is no religious angle to the complaint.”
Although participants later identified the leader of the mob as Kishore Kothari, the district president of the Dharam Sena, police did not append Kothari’s name to the complaint.
When Compass spoke to Head Constable Pankuram Urao, he acknowledged that Kothari and other members of the Dharam Sena had been named as members of the mob but said he did not know why their names were not added to the complaint.
Singh Palace owner Prakash said the attack could be linked to his friendship with Pastor Philip Jagdalla, who was beaten by the Dharam Sena and accused of “forcible conversions” in December 2006. I helped Pastor Jagdalla to get bail, and I suspect that I have been a Dharam Sena target ever since,” he explained.
The Chhattisgarh Christian Forum has condemned the attack and urged the local police to ensure that the culprits are brought to justice.
Chhattisgarh has a population of about 21 million, of which only 401,000 are Christian.