Hindustan Times (Gurugram)

Fringe groups attack church, threaten pastor

- Salik Ahmad salik.ahmad@hindustant­imes.com

A group of armed men attacked a Christmas congregati­on in a church in Rajasthan’s Banswara district on Sunday, injuring eight. In another incident in the state’s Alwar district on the same day, around 10 bike-borne miscreants allegedly threatened a pastor accusing him of carrying out religious conversion­s.

Banswara SP Anand Sharma on Monday said an FIR was lodged against eight persons over the attack in the district’s Sabbalpura village. Of the accused, one was detained, while others were absconding, he added.

The SP said the clash broke out when a group of Hindus who were listening to Bhajans some 200 metres away from the Church, objected to Christians playing hymns and prayer songs on loudspeake­r.

“They went to the church and told the devotees there to lower the volume, which the latter refused saying it was Christmas, their day of festivity. This led to the confrontat­ion,” the SP said.

He said members of the Hindu community claimed that some of them too were hurt in the confrontat­ion, but no official complaint was lodged.

The police official said the Christian community put up a cross on one of the huts in the village and turned it into a church.

Sharma said both the groups were part of an extended family and the Christians adopted their new religion in the recent decades.

Of the injured, two women were admitted to Banswara’s district hospital with arm injuries.

A Christian devotee, Karan Singh said attackers were 30-40 in numbers and were carrying sticks, rods and stones.

“They (attackers) were saying there should not be any church in the village”, said Singh who had come from a nearby village to visit his in-laws in Sabbalpura.

In Alwar, Pastor Suresh Chand was taken to Matsya Industrial Area (MIA) police station after a complaint of him carrying out religious conversion­s was lodged purportedl­y by members of RSS and Bajrang Dal.

“I was praying with my family when the police came and asked me to accompany them to the police station. People from the RSS and the Bajrang Dal too had come with the police. On the way the police kept asking me how much money I get for carrying out conversion­s,” the pastor told HT.

“After we reached police station, I was told to come the following morning at 10, since the complainan­ts had left by then,” Chand claimed.

“When I returned home, 9-10 people came in bikes and fired in the air. They also threatened me saying, “jo apne dharm ka nahin hua, wo kisi ka nahin (One who could not be loyal to his faith, can’t be loyal to anybody).”

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