Hindu Extremists Beat Pastors, Stop Gospel Event in Chhattisgarh State, India

“In the police station, we were forced to sign a letter handwritten by the activists …

Berating and slapping two pastors into signing an apology letter before police, Hindu extremists stopped a planned three-day gospel meeting in Chhattisgarh state, India minutes before it was to begin, sources said.
Hindu nationalists beat pastor Vijay Jogi and pastor Santosh Rao minutes before the start of the first meeting, where about 1,000 people had gathered at the Railway Grounds in Charoda, Durg District on Nov. 16, pastor Amos James told Morning Star News.
“Pastor Vijay Jogi and Pastor Santosh Rao were receiving the people at the entrance,” Pastor James said. “Suddenly a mob of 70 Hindu Dharm Sena and Bajrang Dal activists gheraoed [encircled] the entrance, and Pastor Jogi and Pastor Rao were beaten and summoned to the police station.”
Pastor Jogi told Morning Star News the hard-line Hindus were shouting, “Jai Sri Ram, Jai Sri Ram [Hail lord Ram].”

“The activists slapped Pastor Santosh Rao thrice and beat us both,” Pastor Jogi said. “By then we understood that these people will not let us conduct prayers.”
The 45-year-old father of two received a call from the Government Railway Police at around 6 p.m., minutes before the opening prayer. Police told him come to the police station immediately and warned him to call off the event, he said.
As in the previous 20 years, church leaders had obtained prior permission from both the railway and the railway police to conduct the event, a campaign that in past years has seen many people turn to Christ, he said. The Hindu extremists claimed organizers also needed permission from the sub-judicial magistrate.
“In the pamphlets we distributed earlier inviting people to attend the meeting, I quoted Luke chapter 7 and verses 22 and 23,” Pastor Jogi said. “The Hindu activists began arguing with us, ‘You are promoting blind beliefs. How can lame walk? How can deaf hear? How can you raise the dead? When your God can do all this, why are you people going to the doctors then?’

“They told me it is very wrong that I have written these lines. I said, ‘I did not write these words. It’s a verse taken from the Holy Bible and applies to the entire humankind.”’
Pastor Jogi tried telling them that in those verses Jesus Christ was telling John the Baptist the things people had seen and heard, and they told him, “We are offended by these lines,” he said.
“For which I immediately responded with apologies,” he said, telling them, “If because I quoted these lines in the pamphlet, it is offending you at personal level, I apologize to you brothers. We are very sorry!”
They then questioned them about permission, and Pastor Jogi showed them the railways and Grounds Railway Police permission letter, he said. They told him they needed permission from the sub-judicial magistrate.

“For past 20 years the Railway Grounds has been the venue for gospel meetings, and like every year we only had permission from the Railways and Railway Police since this area falls under the jurisdiction of Charoda Railway Police Station,” Pastor Jogi told Morning Star News.
The Hindu Dharm Sena and Bajrang Dal extremists took them to the police station, as even the Railway Police, for the first time, started questioning whether they had received permission from the sub-judicial magistrate, he said.
“The police told me to settle the matter here and stop the event immediately,” Pastor Jogi said. “I was cautioned while Pastor Rao and I were in the police station that the activists are tearing and burning the banners, breaking the tube lights, chairs and dismantling the stage. The police officer told us even if he lodged a case [against the extremists], it would go strongly against us, and that even he can’t help it. The police did not register an FIR.”

Church leaders had made elaborate preparations to make the facilities ready for the event, but federal and state governments are against Christianity, Pastor Rao said.
“There is very little hope for Christians in a situation like this,” said Pastor Rao, who in 2012 was falsely accused of forcible conversion. “In the police station, we were forced to sign a letter handwritten by the activists under the supervision of BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party] worker Rajguru Ghosale. The letter said by conducting this meeting we hurt the feelings of Hindus, we sincerely apologize for it and cancelling the event. They slapped me to sign it.”
In the presence of police, the Hindu extremists repeatedly badgered the pastor with questions, Pastor Jogi said, asking them, “Why are you calling Hindus to your events? Why are you conducting open gospel meetings publicly? Why are you converting Hindus?”

“Right in front of the police they warned, ‘You must never go to a Hindu’s house, you work among the Christians only,’” Pastor Jogi told Morning Star News. “I told them our Christian meetings and gatherings are open for all. I don’t ask each person who attends the prayers whether they are a Muslim or Hindu. When we gather, it is in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ we gather, and His arms stretch out to everybody.”

Christians in Charoda are living in fear and have not filed any case against the Hindu extremists or police, sources said.  
Attorney Son Singh Jhali told the Christian leaders that they could take action against the extremist forces and police, but the pastors declined, he told Morning Star News.
Hindu nationalist groups have gathered several times in Charoda, plotting how to attack Christians, a source who requested anonymity told Morning Star News. Local BJP leaders supply alcohol to youth and instigate them to attack Christians in the state, the source said.

“My daughters, ages 13 and 5, ask me, ‘Why is there so much opposition to the gospel, Dad? Why do they hate Jesus? They hate us because we are Christians?’” Pastor Jogi said with tears in his eyes. “I tell them, ‘They may hate Him, but the Lord still loves them. And, we must love everyone just as our Lord is loving us.’”

The pastors prayed after the forced cancellation of the gospel event.

“We will conduct the gospel meetings again in May. We are not giving up this time. With permissions from all the authorities and government officials, we will conduct the meetings,” Pastor Jogi said. “The activists are following me wherever I go. I know there is threat to my life. But I have dedicated my life fully to my Lord’s work, and I will be at it till my last breath.”

Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took power in May 2014, the hostile tone of his National Democratic Alliance government, led by the Hindu nationalist BJP, against non-Hindus has emboldened Hindu extremists in several parts of the country to attack Christians, religious rights advocates say.

Indian government tells Supreme Court Rohingya pose ‘serious threat’

The government also said there was a “serious possibility of eruption of violence against Buddhists in India by radicalized Rohingya.”

After an appeal from two Rohingya, India’s top court is considering PM Narendra Modi’s plan to deport some 40,000 Rohingya in India. The government said intelligence data showed links between some Rohingya and terrorism.

Rohingya-Konflikt in Myanmar - Proteste in Neu-Delhi (picture alliance/dpa/M. Swarup)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government told the Supreme Court of India on Monday that the Rohingya were “illegal” immigrants.

The hearing is taking place as Rohingya face severe violence in their native Myanmar. More than 400,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh in the past few weeks to escape military and civilian reprisals that the United Nations has described as “ethnic cleansing.” Later on Monday, Myanmar’s national security advisor said that his government was willing to welcome the refugees who had fled to Bangladesh back to their native Rakhine state, but that the details of the process still had to be worked out.

“We will make sure that everybody who left their home can return to their home but this is a process we have to discuss,” Thaung Tun told Reuters news agency after a meeting with British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

It was unclear how this would affect the estimated 40,000 Rohingya believed to have settled in India, including 16,000 of whom are registered with the UN’s refugee agency.

Infografik Rohingya Bevölkerung ENG

Read more: Myanmar’s Rohingya – A history of forced exoduses

The Indian government told the court that it had intelligence data that showed links between some Rohingya Muslims and Pakistan-based terror groups and other international terror organizations. It argued that such links made them a “serious threat to national security.”

The government also said there was a “serious possibility of eruption of violence against Buddhists in India by radicalized Rohingya.”

Lawyer Colin Gonsalves, who in a separate case is representing about 7,000 Rohingya living in the northern Indian city of Jammu, countered the government’s assertions.

“We just want to know: 40,000 people have been here, many of them for the last five years. Have you [the government] filed a single charge sheet, is anyone being prosecuted in the criminal court for being a terrorist? The answer is: no,” he told DW.

The court has adjourned the hearing in the matter to October 3.

Lack of evidence

India says it is not bound by the UN convention on refugees as it is not a signatory to the accord, but human rights activists disagree.

“The principle of non return of a person to a place where he will be executed or tortured has become a principle of customary international law which India follows,” Gonsalves told DW. “And it has attained the status of ‘jus cogens,’ which is a principle of law that no country can say is not applicable to it, such as torture and genocide.”

In a communication sent to all states in August, the Home Ministry [interior ministry] said the illegal migrants were more susceptible to terrorist recruitment efforts.

But an investigation by Indian broadcaster NDTV found “little evidence of the government claim.” The investigation that was carried out at major Rohingya settlements in the country showed little involvement in criminal wrongdoing by the refugees.

Lack of any evidence to support the government claim has led to speculations that the Rohingya were being targeted for their religion by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu-nationalist government.

Rohingya refugee in IndiaIndian government views Rohingya refugees as a national security threat

“It is really unfortunate that the government is going back on its commitment to refugees which it has reiterated several times in the past merely because these Rohingyas are Muslims,” said lawyer Prashant Bhushan, who filed the plea on behalf of two Rohingya men.

“I mean this is clearly a case of religious discrimination and an attempt to arouse a sort of feeling of… an anti-Muslim feeling or try and communalise the situation,” he told reporters outside the courthouse.

The UN’s human rights chief last week deplored Indian government’s move to deport Rohingya refugees.

“India cannot carry out collective expulsions, or return people to a place where they risk torture or other serious violations,” Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said.

The Rohingya are an Indo-Aryan people, the vast majority of whom are Muslims. They usually migrate to India through a rather porous border to escape persecution in their native Rakhine state in Myanmar, where they have been denied citizenship rights.

They are viewed by the local authorities as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. Myanmar’s Buddhist majority is often accused of subjecting them to discrimination and violence.

The ongoing violence follows an insurgent attack on security forces on August 25 in Rakhine state that sparked off a brutal military counteroffensive.

Hundreds of people, the majority of them Rohingya, have been killed in the violence that has seen many homes destroyed and several villages burned down. Myanmar’s government maintains the crackdown is part of a counter-terrorism drive, while the UN’s al-Hussein has said that it “seems a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

[written by Ashutosh Pandey]