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Evangelical Fellowship of India: Jabalpur

April 24, 2006

Jabalpur Christian Conference

Press Statement for Release

24th April 2006

The Christian Community of Jabalpur is horrified at the maltreatment being dished out to them in the past few days by the now apparent alliance forged by the administration and anti-social elements of the Hindutva brigade.

From January 2006 till now there have been at least 10 cases of atrocity against the Christian community by the members of the Dharma Sena, Bajrang Dal, BJP and the VHP. These elements have not only attacked Christian homes and Churches, they have also indulged in destroying Christian properties, hurting religious sentiments of the community by insulting our scriptures, tearing posters of Jesus Christ, misbehaving with women and threatening Christians in general etc. Further they appear to be more and more emboldened each day because of the now, largely perceived and apparent Police and administration support being doled out to them openly.

The recent case in this series has been the arrest of 7 innocent young men from the Barela area on the 18th April 2005 allegedly under the Madhya Pradesh Swatantrata Adhiniyam.

Their names are: Avinash Lal, Vikas Lal, Nandu Chakravarty, Manish Chakravarty, Chandrabhan Chakravarty, Jai Ram Rajak and Pradeep Dube.

All of the accused except Pradeep Dube have been charged by the Barela police under sections 3 and 4 of the above act. The fact is that these boys, mostly in their early 20\'s were all picked up from their friend\'s place in Barela, where they were all gathered socially. According to the young men, on the 18th April 2006, around around 10 policemen along with some Bajrang Dal members suddenly pounced on them and started questioning them and began to search the place. The Bajrang Dal people who accompanied the police are: Yogesh Agrawal, Nitesh Ritesh Burman, Jamna Patel, and Sharda Vishwakarma. Yogesh Agrawal has been involved in targeting the Christian community for long now and has been involved in more than 2 incidents against the minority community. The police protection of him is evident as is the hand of the rich and powerful behind him.

The police and the Bajrang Dal people also indulged in violence and carried the young men to the police station. There they were detained and questioned about their involvement in forced and fraudulent conversions. Some Bajrang Dal people had also given a report that the accused young men had tried to bribe them with money to accept Christianity and had told them that they will get through their academics without studying. This claim is refuted by the young men, who say that they do not even know these people properly, then how could they approach them with such offers. Also one only has to look at the accused and the so called allegation of financial promise will fall flat on its face, for the boys are all from very poor background. Most of them are converted Christians of their own freewill with Hindu families and facing strict opposition in their own homes. Then how could they promise money and education to the complainants with their limited resources?

The young men also allege that the police, when they could not find any evidence of forced or fraudulent conversion, deliberately placed a Bible and some Gospel tracts at their meeting place. The same was later quoted by the police as evidence against these boys. Let us for one moment even assume that the boys did have Bibles and Gospel Literature in their home, does that make them criminals or proves that they have been dealing in conversions? This is an outright insult of our constitution, which promises freedom of religion for citizens of and a deliberate targeting of the Christian community by the conspiracy of the police and the Bajrang Dal. Also one must question the involvement of the Bajrang Dal in the raid and the subsequent questioning of the Christians? Who gave the Bajrang Dal and its goons the power to conduct raids along with the police? Surely it leaves no one in doubt that the police of Jabalpur and indeed Madhya Pradesh is either sold out to or controlled by the Hindutva brigade.

The young men were detained for around 5 hours before being let out on bail. Their misery however did not end there.

On the 19th April 2006 at around , the TI of the Barela Police Station, Mr. Sanjay Kumar summoned all the boys except Deepak Dube again to the police station on the pretext of questioning. His motives were different though as the boys soon learned. He along with other police officials questioned the boys in his unique way. They were all treated like criminals and were beaten mercilessly by hands and wooden clubs and rods by Mr. Sanjay Kumar and his police friends. The police fraternity even spat on the boys and threatened them of dire consequences if they did not confess to receiving money from abroad for forced conversions. The police friends of Mr. Sanjay Kumar warned them of the anger and wrath of the Bajrang Dal all the while beating them mercilessly. This is a gross violation of all law and order procedure and cannot be tolerated. It is not only inhuman but also unconstitutional. Mr. Sanjay Kumar who is only a trainee of the IPS has forgotten his duties and needs to be reminded of the same.

Throughout the week now there have been reports in the papers that Christians when they gathered at the Kotwali Police station shouted anti – National slogans. This is a serious allegation and one that is untrue. We wish to clarify that we love our country as much as anyone else and perhaps more for the Christian community has contributed so much for the cause of nation building. The systematic disinformation campaign against the Christian community will lead to bloodshed of innocent Christians if it is not stopped now. The peddlers of hate led by the Hindutva brigade and some corrupts authorities have to controlled.

The Christian community of Jabalpur demands the following actions by the authorities so that confidence can be instilled into them and they are convinced of the impartiality of the administration:

An action against Yogesh Agrawal, Acharya Maharaj and their team of the Bajrang Dal. Mr. Agrawal\'s involvement against Christians has been clearly noted in more than 2 incidents and he is the main person behind all the disinformation campaigns maligning the community.

An Action against Mr. Sanjay Kumar the TI of Barela police station for not only ignoring his duties as the protector of the innocent but also conniving with the anti social elements to target the minority Christian community in his area. His act of violence against the young men, while they had been released on bail speaks poorly of his commitment to the constitution as well. We demand that Mr. Kumar is suspended from his duties and a competent officer dedicated to social harmony be placed in his position.

We also request the media not to carry articles against the Christian community without verifying them in the first place. We are willing to cooperate with the media so that reporting is unbiased and does not create disharmony and prejudice in the society.

Proper action is demanded in cases already pending. We demand that Justice be given to the minority Christian community who are increasingly becoming the target of hate and abuse by the Hindutva elements.

Richard Howell

General Secretary

Evangelical Fellowship of