CSF for Death Penalty Moratorium. Civil Society memos President

February 16, 2013 by  
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CSF wants moratorium on death penalty.
Over 200 eminent civil society members write to President on secretive execution of Afzal Guru

ExecutionNew Delhi, February 14, 2013: A letter written to the President of India and signed by over 200 academics, writers, artists and filmmakers, have in strong words condemned the rejection of Afzal Guru’s mercy petition and the manner in which he was hastily executed denying him the legal rights of judicial review that were available to him.

The eminent members of the civil society that includes Manisha Sethi, Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association, senior advocate Vrinda Grover, senior journalist Jawed Naqvi, Ram Puniyani, All India Secular forum, Dr. Zafarul Islam Khan, Editor Milli Gazette, Nandini Sundar, Professor, Department of Sociology, DU, Anusha Rizvi, film-maker and Mukul Kesavan, writer and historian, among others, have termed it “tragic that the questions about timing and selectivity of Afzal’s hanging are sought to be dispelled by rejecting mercy petitions of others as well.”

Four more mercy petitions of the aides of Veerappan have been rejected, in days following the execution of Afza Guru. The eminent citizens have demanded the abolition of the capital punishment, which according them should have “no place in a civilized society.”

The eminent members of the civil society noted, “We believe that you made a grave error in rejecting the mercy petition. If you had perused the trial records and the lengthy documentation put together over the years by lawyers and civil rights activists, or even the Supreme Court judgement which sentenced Afzal to death, you would have known, that his guilt was never established beyond reasonable doubt.”

They also highlighted the fact that his family was not duly informed, as mandated by the law and sought explanation on “such urgency in executing Afzal before those others whose mercy petitions your office has earlier rejected.”

Below is the full text of the letter

The Hon’ble President of India

Respected Sir,

We write to you in deep anguish, despair but in outrage as well. Afzal Guru was hanged on Saturday (9th February 2013) in secrecy. We have been told – after the hanging – that you rejected the mercy petition filed by Guru’s wife Tabassum, on 3rd February. We believe that you made a grave error in rejecting the mercy petition. If you had perused the trial records and the lengthy documentation put together over the years by lawyers and civil rights activists, or even the Supreme Court judgement which sentenced Afzal to death, you would have known, that his guilt was never established beyond reasonable doubt. The fact that the Court appointed as amicus curiae (friend of the court) a lawyer in whom Afzal had expressed no faith; the fact that he went legally unrepresented from the time of his arrest till his so-called confession, the fact that the court asked him to either accept the lawyer appointed by the Court or cross examine the witness himself should surely have concerned you while considering his mercy petition.

His personal history of being a surrendered militant, of harassment and torture at the hands of STF, as well as his statement in open court that he had indeed helped Mohammad, one of the attackers on the Parliament, find a house and obtain a car, the same car used in the attack, but at the orders of his STF handlers, should have spurred a full-scale investigation into the allegations. The citizens of this country do not know if one was ordered at all.

It is also a fact that the much-hyped investigation of the Parliament attack case and its prosecution resulted in two full acquittals and conviction of another for concealing knowledge of the crime. It was almost as if there was a need to at least ensure one death sentence so that the faith of the public / society in the efficacy of the prosecution and the judiciary and the Legislature which represented the ‘State” would not be shaken. Surely this was not a case where even the government of the day was convinced of the guilt of Afzal; but treated it like a case that was far too important for all accused to be acquitted. We must remind you sir that the Supreme Court threw out the confessions of both Afzal and Shaukat which obviously indicated that the investigation had been far from fair.

As in life, Afzal Guru was denied his legal rights in his death. Sir, every convict whose mercy petition has been rejected by the President, is entitled yet to a last resort. The convict has the constitutional right to file a judicial review or a delay petition, in the High Court and the Supreme Court, to seek commutation of the death sentence. There exists veritable case law to support a condemned convict’s right to appeal on grounds that pendency of death penalty for years causes suffering and torturous anxiety. We only cite the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court, which in 1988 held that “Undue long delay in execution of the sentence of death will entitle the condemned person to approach this Court under Article 32”.

Under the law, Afzal Guru may have lived still despite your rejection of the mercy petition, had he, his family and lawyers been informed of the rejection of the mercy petition. But perhaps fearing precisely this, the state whose head you are, Sir, chose to execute him in secrecy. The killing was not a fait accompli– a natural culmination of the course of law, as it is being made out to be by the government and the media. In fact, Afzal Guru was cynically, callously and calculatedly denied access to judicial remedy that was due to him. His family was not informed, not only because our state has become unrecognizably cruel—which it has, but also because it did not want Afzal Guru to exercise his legal rights and possibly avert the execution. Informing the wife that her mercy petition had been rejected through speed post is a joke. What the state has done is not simply kill a convict. It has committed a fraud on the people by invalidating an entire body of jurisprudence and a category of rights inhering in our Constitution.

And finally, the Indian state must explain why it displayed such urgency in executing Afzal before those others whose mercy petitions your office has earlier rejected.

Catholic forum calls for moratorium on death penalty

The forum said Christians are against death penalty for well-known religious reasons, as it defends the sanctity of life.

Death PenaltyMumbai, February 13, 2013: In the wake of the execution of parliament attack convict Afzal Guru, a Catholic forum has called for a moratorium on the death penalty in the country.

“India should consider a moratorium against all executions, pending a review and a comprehensive review of the death penalty,” said Joseph Dias, president of Catholic Secular Forum (CSF).

Dias said that in a recent vote at the UN General Assembly, 110 countries called for the abolition of the death penalty, while India was among the 39 countries that sustained it.

According to the UN, about 150 countries have abolished the death penalty or have established a moratorium, he said.

Dias said that Christians are against death penalty for well-known religious reasons, as it defends the sanctity of life.

CSF said that death penalty does not necessarily heal the wounds of the victims or their families and it is an inhumane penalty, which makes society less civil and more cruel.

Studies indicate that life imprisonment has major value as a deterrent; the death penalty, finally, also represents a waste of resources, which wastes the courts time and energy and worsens the criminal justice system, it said.

Guru, who was the mastermind of the parliament attack, was executed in the Tihar jail on Feb. 9 after President Pranab Mukherjee rejected his mercy petition.

His body was buried in the jail premises.

– agenzia fides


Muslim forum to put 15 point charter of demands to Sonia G

February 16, 2013 by  
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Aligarh muslim universityUttar Pradesh, February 14, 2013: Forum for Muslim studies & Analysis (FMSA) Aligarh is gearing up to welcome UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi on February 16 while she will be in AMU campus to attend 60th Convocation of the university.

Jasim Mohammad, Secretary General of FMSA said that FMSA will put before Mrs Gandhi 15 point charter of demands based on the problems faced by the Muslims in community.

Member of AMU Executive Council, Dr. Mohammad Shahid, FMSA President Prof. Razaullah Khan, Ex Member of AMU Court Prof. Humayun Murad and Vice –President N. Jamal Ansari will address the media on February 15 to highlight the problems of the Muslims.

The 15 charter of demands are:

1. National Commission for Minorities (NCM) must be granted Constitutional status.
2. Make ‘Scheduled Caste’ definition religion-neutral, amend 1950 order.
3. Evolve a procedure to nominate Muslims in public positions.
4. Create special component plans for Muslims for skill development programs and other economic opportunities.
5. Enhance outlay for 15 Point Programme to 19% of total plan allocation.
6. Declare AMU a minority institution by amending Article 30 of the Constitution of India.
7. Grant the Jamia Urdu Aligarh, an Open University status by centre legislation and establish equivalence between Madarsa and other institutions.
8. Central Urdu Teachers Scheme: Follow up implementation in states.
9. Concentrate on benefiting Muslim community, not individuals.
10. Dereserve Muslim dominated constituencies.
11. Make the village and ward (and not the district or block) as units of planning for infrastructure schemes and their implementation, to benefit poor Muslims.
12. Establish ‘facilitation centers’ at block and district levels, run by Muslim youth, to act as information dissemination and guidance facilities on schemes and entitlements;
13. Include Sachar and JPC recommendation in Wakf Bill.
14. Publicize Madarsa Scheme (SPQEM) in Urdu & other languages.
15. Involve Muslim beneficiary groups in planning & implementation of projects.

FMSA has also written a letter to the Vice Chancellor of the Aligarh Muslim University urging him to use the opportunity and raise the issues concerning the Muslim community.

– tcn

Sunday services disturbed by Muslim leaders in Balanagar, Secunderabad

February 16, 2013 by  
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Andhra PradeshAndhra Pradesh, February 12, 2012: Pastor B.Rakshanandam aged 39 years residing in Balanagar Industrial slums doing his ministry since 1995. Pastor Rakshananadam is having a gathering of around 100 believers having a worship place above his house. He had given recently given Baptism to 10 believers on last Friday. Angered by the baptism, the Muslim neighbours in the locality forced Pastor to stop his Sunday worship for the last 2 Sundays. The Pastor reported the harassment to the owner of his house. The owner in turn called those who were asking the Pastor to stop the service and said that all that they are doing is only prayer and good works and they should not trouble them. Thus an amicable settlement was reached.

A police case was about to be registered against him, however the intervention of the house owner brought the matter to a peaceful conclusion. Please pray for Pastor Rakshananadam and his congregation.


– persecution.in

We’ll live and let Valentines live: VHP

February 15, 2013 by  
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Happy ValentinesNew Delhi, February 13, 2013: Right-wing groups who have been known to play spoilsport each Valentine’s Day have said that this year they will let Feb 14 pass and only launch a helpline for women in distress from Wednesday.

“There will be no protests or demonstrations against Valentine’s Day. At the same time, youngsters should behave decently. As a new initiative this year, we have started a new helpline 011-23616372 to help women in distress. We will provide all support to such women,” Vinod Bansal, spokesperson, Viswa Hind Parishad (VHP), told IANS.

“The helpline is available round the clock. Durga Vahini and Bajrang Dal, youth wings of Vishwa Hindu Parishad, will attend to calls. If an untoward incident is reported, we will alert the nearest police station,” Bansal said.

The right-wing groups said they had no objections to the celebrations of Valentine’s Day. “We used to tell young couples to get married, otherwise we would hand them over to police or parents. For the past few years, we have suppressed our opposition to Valentine’s Day celebrations. We don’t want our young people to ape the West and bring disgrace on our culture,” Ravindra Negi, a Rashtrawadi Shiv Sena (RSS) activist told IANS, as he handed out flyers at Connaught Place, asking young people to refrain from celebrating Valentine’s Day.

In the past, Hindu radicals usually kept vigil at parks, restaurants and other places on the day, and occasionally went on the rampage, attacking pubs and greeting card shops to prevent young people from celebrating the special day dedicated to love.

“We are not going for any demonstrations. What is the use of protesting when our protests won’t stop celebrations? We just end up getting a bad reputation,” Sanjay Sharma, a Shiv Sena member, said.

“It’s not as if we are doing any moral policing. We urge pubs, restaurants and hotel managements not to organise special events on Feb 14, and to prevent vulgar dances in their premises,” Bansal said.

Jai Bhagwan Goyal of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh said that Valentine’s Day was used as an occasion for loot by multinational companies: “Valentine’s Day is just a gimmick. Multi-national companies loot money from young consumers, and encourage expensive gifting. People buy cards, flowers, jewellery, chocolates or mobile phones, and young people spend lakhs on this particular day,” Goyal told IANS.

According to the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham), the expenditure during Valentine’s week in India is a whopping at $27 million (Rs.15,000 crore). The estimate was based on a survey of 800 executives in major metropolitan cities and 1,000 students from 150 educational institutions.

– ians

Mizo Church panel appeals for Godly candidate

February 15, 2013 by  
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Of the 29 polling stations, 13 stations in the Chalfilh constituency were declared sensitive.

Mizo Church panel appeals for Godly candidateMizarom, February 13, 2013: A church panel in Mizoram has appealed to the people to pray fervently so that a candidate “chosen by God” is elected in the upcoming assembly bye-elections in Chalfilh constituency of the state.

The Mizoram Kohhran Hruaitute Committee (MKHC), a committee comprising leaders of the 13 major churches of the state, has issued the appeal.

The MKHC appealed to all candidates and political parties to ensure a free and fair election by refraining from using militant groups, weapons, intimidation, and money and muscle power.

The conglomerate of church leaders also urged the campaigners not to canvass in such a way as to create enmity among the ethnic Mizos and among different church denominations.

“We should not indulge in mudslinging on individuals and opposing political parties, which could result in a law and order problem,” the message said.

Of the 29 polling stations, 13 stations in the Chalfilh constituency were declared sensitive and elaborate security arrangements were made, while security was beefed up in the border areas with Myanmar and Manipur.

C. Zorammuana, deputy inspector general (Northern Range), said that Assam Rifles, deployed along the northeastern border areas, have already been alerted to seal the border so that unwanted elements cannot enter the state.

– times of india

Hindu radicals attack Christians, injure 30, police apathetic

February 13, 2013 by  
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Hindu radicals attack ChristiansChhattisgarh, February 08, 2013: A mob of about 100 RSS, Bajrang Dal and VHP viciously attacked a peaceful gathering of Christian believers, injuring 30 of them, in Rajnandgaon village, about 70 kms from Raipur City, capital of Chattisgarh state on Friday, 8 February. The Rajnandgaon City Police Station seemed complicit in the attack and has now registered a case against the believers and the church.

A three-day meeting had been organized from the 7th to 9th February by the ICM (Indian Christian Mission) church under the leadership of Pastor Thomas Abraham. On Friday, the 8th of February, around 250 believers were in attendance at 2:25 p.m. when about 100 RSS, Bajrang Dal and VHP activists barged into the ICM Church hall with rods and sticks in hand and started abusing the people and accusing them of conversion.

They started breaking the doors, windows and attacked all the bikes and cars parked outside. There was a big commotion as the people ran helter-skelter trying to move to safety. 30 believers were injured as their hands and legs were broken and a few suffered injuries to their head. One believer called the City Police Station in Rajnandgaon, 200 meters from the Rajnandgaon Railway Station. The police arrived at 3:15 p.m., took a report from several believers and took the injured to the government hospital in Rajnandgaon. Soon after the injured received medical attention, they were told by the police to leave the hospital before the mob came and attacked them there too. When the believers left the hospital all the records of them having been treated there were destroyed. In fact rather than registering a case against the Hindu radicals, the police registered a case against the church and believers who were attacked.

The believers and pastors of the area are planning to appeal to the governor and other authorities reporting the incident and the treatment meted out to them by the local police during and after the ordeal.

– persecution.in

CCBI’s mega Silver Jubilee meet at Vailankanni

February 5, 2013 by  
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Towards a Pastoral Plan for the Church in India

CCBI’s Mega Silver JubileeKarnataka, February 04, 2013: With a project of “Pastoral Plan for the Church in India”, the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India (CCBI), which is the Episcopal Body of the Roman Catholic Latin Rite Church in India, is gearing up for a meaningful celebration of 25 years of its establishment from 5-10 February, 2013. It was established on 22nd April 1988 following the directive of the letter of His Holiness Pope John Paul II to the Bishops of India on 28th May 1987. The fourth largest Episcopal Body in the world, the CCBI is the largest Episcopal Conference in Asia, put in charge of the Faithful of the Latin Church.

The silver turns even gold because the celebrations have been planned together with the celebrations of the Golden Jubilee of the declaration of the Shrine Basilica of Our Lady of Health, Vailankanni as a Minor Basilica in 1963. The celebrations acquire importance as the Pope, Benedict the XVI is sending an emissary in the person of Cardinal Fernando Filoni, the Prefect of the Congregation of the Evangelization of Peoples. The Silver Jubilee of the CCBI and the Golden Jubilee of the Vailankanni Basilica are to be soleminised at the same solemn Concelebration together with all the Bishops and the Apostolic Nuncio for India Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio, on Sunday 10th of   February 2013.

The CCBI wishes that the celebration would not only be a historical and a grand type of event but it is an opportune time for aggiornamento with a pastoral plan for the Church in India, which has diverse needs and challenges but also some commonalities. Thus, the 120 shepherds expected, would deliberate on the need of a pastoral plan with priorities and concrete Action plan for a decade or so. It would bring about a Catholic renaissance in the Church in India for the cause of ‘New Evangelization’. The plan is hoped for deepening the faith of the practicing Catholics, inviting the lapsed and proclaiming good news to the non-Christians.  It is a great hope in the Year of Faith for the Latin Church in India. And the three sui juris Churches would share their faith, programs of faith and projects of service to make a better India promoting God’s reign in this rich religious land of India.

– fr udumala bala

GCIC slams Hinduaisation of Orissa: Arrests under OFRA-98

February 5, 2013 by  
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Since 18 January, two faithful are in prison, following a police raid on a private home. The raid resulted from trumped up charges of local fundamentalists. “Political” pressure preventing their release on bail. Christian activist: project for state “Hinduisation” underway.

Hinduaisation of OrissaDelhi, February 02, 2013: The arrest of “innocent Christians”, in jail under the pretext of “false accusations” of “forced conversions”, says Sajan K George, president of the activist network Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), condemning the latest case of violence against the religious minority in Orissa, the Indian state already known for the anti-Christian pogrom of 2008 which killed over 500 people. The fact dates back to January 18, when two followers of a Protestant community were imprisoned on (false) accusations of proselytism and forced conversions, according to the “draconian” – as defined by activists – Orissa Freedom of Religion Act ( Ofra) enacted in 1967, but often used to commit abuses and violations.

Local sources said that the police disrupted a prayer meeting that was taking place in the village of Gudikhamari, Baripada district in the state of Orissa. The raid took place at 11:30 am on January 18, in the house of a convert (from Hinduism), who had always offered his homes to celebrate the functions. At the time of the police raid, inside there were seven families who were forced to stop the service.

Members of a Hindu extremist movement who, previously, had denounced the believers for “proselytizing” in violation of OFRA accompanied the police in the raid against the small Christian community. The charges are unfounded, but were enough to trigger police actions which led to the arrest and imprisonment of Bahadur Murmu, 23, leader of the small Christian community, along with 21-year-old Rama Soreng.

The prayer meeting was held in the home of a former Hindu faithful who, five years ago embraced Christianity. At the time of the attack the extremist Hindu group was drunk and threatened to strike the faithful gathered in prayer. Only the presence of police prevented further violence. Pro human rights groups and Christian movements have called for the release on bail of the two arrested so far in vain because of pressure from local leaders of the judiciary and police.

– asianews

Cardinal Cleemis nominated to two key Vatican panels

February 5, 2013 by  
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Pope Benedict XVI nominated the Cardinal to Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue and the Council for Eastern Congregations.

Cardinal Cleemis nominated to two key Vatican panelsKerala, February 03, 2013: Cardinal Baselios Mar Cleemis has been nominated from India to two important panels of the Vatican.

Pope Benedict XVI nominated the cardinal to the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, of the Vatican and the Council for Eastern Congregations.

The Council for Eastern Congregation oversees the affairs of those hierarchies in the Catholic fold that follow eastern traditions, including the Syro-Malankara and the Syro-Malabar churches.

A church spokesman in Thiruvananthapuram here said the Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, formed in 1964, was entrusted with the task of promoting understanding between the Catholic Church and other religions.

The pontifical council would also promote studies on all other major religions of the world and train churchmen to engage themselves in meaningful dialogue with those following different traditions of faith.

Mar Cleemis, 53, was elevated to the status of cardinal in November last year.

He is one of the youngest cardinals in the apex body of the Catholic Church, entrusted with the power of electing the Pope when a need arises.

– the hindu

Kandhamal: 3 Catholic & 2 Protestant Minors Gang Raped? CBCI President presented report

February 4, 2013 by  
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Joseph Dias with cardinal oswald graciasOrissa, February 01, 2013: The CSF presented the below report to Cardinal Oswald Gracias, requesting his intervention in the case of 5 minors who were gang-raped and one murdered. All were Christian Dalits and while we talk of others treated so badly, are we concerned about our own ?

It is shameful that heinous crimes including gang rapes and murder of young Dalit girls in Kandhamal is excluded from the discourse on rape in our country, says Asha Kowtal, All India Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch. A fact-finding team comprising The National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights with allied organizations like NAWO, Odisha Forum for Social Action and others visited five villages ( Tiangia, Simanbadi, Daringbadi, Badagaon, Sarangoda and Tikabali ) in Kandhamal district. In each village, the team has met the rape survivor, the family, community members and the investigating police officers at the police station. Finally, the fact-finding team has met the District Collector in Kandhamal and shared the findings and recommendations.

The members of the team express their shock and anguish over the gruesome cases of rape and murder of Dalit Christian girls in the recent months at Kandhamal and at the same time are angered with the fact that these cases never figure in the recent discussions on sexual violence and rape in India. Dalit girls living in remote tribal areas of India with little access to livelihood and life are battered brutally and killed, and yet this is not enough for the Orissa Government to hang its head in shame.

In Kandhamal, if at all given, a rape case is given Rs. 5000 and rape and murder is given Rs. 10,000 as compensation. The discussion with the District Collector in Kandhamal has revealed that the district administration has no money for rehabilitation of rape survivors and their families. He said, “I have no money for the compensation and rehabilitation of minority (Dalit Christian) girl survivors of rape.”

Delays in investigation, serious lapse in role of police, zero support from district administration and total break down of statutory bodies is clearly visible in every case that has been investigated. The entire child protection system, including CWC, JJB, Child line has not played any role in support of the victims, as well as against the minor accused in the cases that we have investigated, says Manju Prabha, NAWO

Criminals should be punishedThe Chief Minister of Orissa claims to have stayed away from New Year celebrations, in solidarity with the recent victim of rape in Delhi, but we wonder what he has done in response to these five inhuman acts of sexual violence on young Dalit girls in Kandhamal? says Namrata Daniel, National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights. The families of the rape victims live in abject poverty conditions, without access to basic entitlements. Absence of job cards, access to PDS and other flag- ship programmes was clearly visible in all cases.

Key observations of the fact-finding team include that all the 5 acts of sexual violence were intentional and pre-planned to victimize the girl by raping and even murder. The SC/ST PoA has not been invoked in Tikabali case and hence the accused have been roaming scot-free for more than 5 months. No compensation, no protection and no justice for this young girl who was raped and almost lost her life because the accused slit her neck with sharp knives. Severe gaps in investigation were observed particularly allegations relating to the police forcing the victims to change the statements. Filing of false / counter cases on family members of victims has been observed.

After the rape and murder of young girls, Siblings of victim’s family and other girls in the villages have dropped out from school in fear. In one case Rs. 10,000 was given in case of gang rape and murder and Rs. 5000 for rape was given. Even Human Rights Commissions and other statutory bodies have failed completely in addressing the life security and protection of dalit girls and women in Orissa. No committee working in the district such as Women and child development committee and District Vigilance and Monitoring Committee (DVMC) under SC/ST (PoA) Act 1989, etc.

– The fact-finding team was co-ordinated by Fr. Ajaya Singh and a copy of the full report can be obtained by emailing us at csfpost@gmail.com

Most Foul : Pastors and Church Activists  Reportedly Murdered

Orissa takes the lead in not only the Christian activists being murdered but even worse, pastors and church workers being killed. Long after the Kandhamal riots, at least 6 Christians are reported to be killed for their faith. On February 1st, 2012, a Christian activist, Rabindra Kumar Parichha, was killed in Orissa following threats by Hindu radicals. There after it was reported another pastor Jayasen (Renewal Ministries Fellowship) was also murdered. Church workers Suryakant Nayak, an Anglican from Bakingia village (Kandhamal), and Goresa Mallick, a Catholic from Salimagocha village (Ganjam), were also murdered on 6 and 3 March 2012 respectively. On May 2, 2012 family members were informed that Pastor Nirakant Pradhan had expired in prison.

Among the other states, Pastor C. Wilson, 54, was murdered in Tamil Nadu and according to police on 2 June 2012, his body was found on the highway and his skull fractured with stones. In Andhra Pradesh, a evangelist S Dumbu, also known locally as Bingo, was killed around 3 April 2012 in Jerrela village after masked men knocked at the door of his home.

– csf

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