Multiple churches, mostly independent, have been reportedly attacked in various states over the Gandhi Jayanti weekend. The most serious attack was reported from Roorkee, Uttarakhand, where worshipers attending church-goers Sunday’s congregational prayers were seriously injured when a right-wing mob that vandalised the Church. The mob alleged that “religious conversion” was taking place, before it launched its vicious attack.
According to news reports, the Uttarakhand police have booked “200 people for allegedly vandalising a Church in Roorkee”. The accused have been booked for rioting, theft, trespassing and voluntarily causing hurt under varied sections of Indian Penal Code, reported the Hindustan Times.
The Church is located in Solanipuram Colony, Roorkee and those attending the prayers told media-persons that at around 10 A.M, a right-wing mob consisting of women also came to the prayer hall and shouted slogans against the church and its people. The mob accused those in the church of “carrying out religious conversion of some Hindus under the garb of charity work in the area” and then suddenly began to vandalise the Church premises. The worshipers have also alleged that they were “physically manhandled” by the mob.
Church attacked by RSS goons in Roorkee, Haridwar. Women were brutally beaten up, Church was vandalised. CM Pushkar Singh Dhami was in the Haridwar District when this happened, Did this attack have a sanction of the state government? ? pic.twitter.com/UvHx3wFRgH
— Saral Patel (@SaralPatel) October 3, 2021
It is noteworthy that elections are due in the state next year, and communal polarisation and unrest has been reported to peak as the days draw closer. According to news reports, all allegations of “conversions” were denied by N Wilson, who is associated with the Christian prayer house. He told the media that over the “past two decades regular prayers, mass meetings and charity related activities were being carried out from the prayer house.”
According to a report in the Wire, the FIR registered by Prio Sadhana Lanse, the church pastor’s wife, stated that “over 200 men and women belonging to the local Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Bajrang Dal and Bharatiya Janata Party’s youth wing, barged into the church and started vandalising it, while beating the churchgoers.” She said, “The frenzied mob, shouting slogans like ‘Vande mataram’ and ‘Bharat mata ki jai’, barged into the church, which is on the first floor of the building. They started beating our volunteers and the women attackers bashed up our womenfolk.” The FIR named: Rajni Goel, Rakhi Pradhan, Banita Chauhan, Seema Goel, Dhir Singh and Shiv Prasad Tyagi, by Lanse who had recognised them as they are local residents.
However, this is not an isolated incident, according to sources in Evangelical Fellowship of India Religious Liberty Commission (EFIRLC), multiple such attacks have been reported from other places as well. They were all reported the weekend of October 2-3, when the nation observed Gandhi Jayanti. While further details are awaited, some of these attacks include:
Bhilai, Chhattisgarh: A local Pastor identified as Santosh Rao was called to the police station along with some others. He was accused of “conversion”, and was let go after interrogation.
Azamgarh, Uttar Pradesh: Pastor Nandu Nathaniel and his wife arrested under sections of UP’s Anti Conversion law as well as some other IPC sections, after a complaint was launched by the person who lives next to the place where Christians worship.
Hoshangabad, Madhya Pradesh: Evangelist pastor Prerit and his Church were attacked allegedly by a right wing, which came to disrupt their Sunday worship.
Komakhan, Kusumi Police station, Mahasamund, Chhattisgarh: A group of villagers entered a house church and allegedly vandalised it and “slapped a 12-year-old boy” who was praying inside the church. According to EFIRLC sources, the team is gathering more information and is reaching out to the victims with support.
These attacks come close on the heels of another incident that took place on September 28 where according to sources, Evangelist Charley John (63), Vishal Parashuram (24) and Keval Ram (29) were arrested in Rampur Bushehar in Himachal Pradesh while they were distributing Gospel literature. They are said to be behind bars and awaiting a bail hearing scheduled today, Monday October 4.
In February, the Supreme Court of India had allowed SabrangIndia’s sister organisation Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), to challenge laws against religious conversion passed by Madhya Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh by amending its original plea questioning similar laws passed by Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. In addition, the court also allowed the Muslim organization Jamait Ulama-i-Hind, to intervene in the proceedings. The organisation alleged the laws led to the harassment of a large number of Muslim men and hence there was a need to oppose the legislation. On January 6 this year, the Supreme Court had issued notice to the Centre and the states of Uttarakhand and UP on two petitions challenging the validity of the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Religious Conversion Ordinance, 2020 and the Uttarakhand Freedom of Religion Act, 2018. One of the petitions was filed by CJP.