Sawantwadi Prayer Meet Targeted. Police fail to act

January 29, 2013 by  
Filed under newsletter-lead

Sawantwadi Christian prayer meeting disrupted. Over 600 believers targeted

Sanathan Sanstha suspected of disturbing communal peace in Sindhudurg

The CSF finds police mute spectators, with allegations of communal bias

Sawantwadi Christian prayer meeting disrupted. Over 600 believers targeted

The CSF, India’s activist community NGO has urged the chief minister and home minister of Maharashtra to ensure that Christians in the state, particularly in the Sindhudurg region are protected. According to Joseph Dias, the CSF general secretary, who undertook a fact-finding tour of the coastal belt, Hindutva fundamentalists are hyper active in the area, threatening Christians from attending prayer meetings. His visit came in the wake of the most recent attack on over 600 believers in the Sawantwadi Municipal Hall on 11th January, 2013 prayer meeting. The CSF suspects fundamentalists active in the Sanathan Sanstha and anti-minority political parties or forces are responsible for such communal disturbances.

Joseph Dias said that ” in view of the communally charged situation in the Sindudurg district all prayer meetings are being held under police protection and need police permission, which is a gross violation of a Christian’s constitutional right to freedom of religion. But even, worse is the fact that the police are mute spectators and at times even appear to have colluded with the attackers. Pastors from different parts of the region came forth with various complaints and were mortally afraid to air them out openly, since their lives have been threatened, as have been that of hundreds of believers.

The Christians in the entire belt live in fear and are not able to practice their religion freely due to eminent possibility of renewed attacks. Joseph Dias in his report to the chief minister and home minister observed:

1. In the Malvan attack even a 8.5 month pregnant woman, was hauled by the police and she gave birth 15 days later. A man suffering from diabetes was not spared and he died weeks later.

2. The police in Sawantwadi clearly appeared to side with the fundamentalists and threatened cross cases, if Christians did not settle with the attackers of the prayer meeting and who were not interested in any dialogue.

3. The communal groups like Sanathan Sanstha and fundamentalist politicians are suspected to be behind the attacks – instigating and carrying out the pre-planned attacks, through their foot-soldiers in the Sindhudurg region.

4. The local vernacular media is tipped of the attacks and carry one-sided false reports, flaming communal passions and turning the majority against the Christians, with their coverage. The police can easily identify and act against the culprits, but don’t.

5. Any prayer meeting in the district needs police permission and restrictions are placed on venues being rented out for prayer meetings. Police no objection is asked for to pray and Christians are finding it difficult to rent out venues for meetings.

6. The areas around Malvan and Sawantwadi that are sensitive, include – Oras, Kudal, Banda, Kankavli, Pinguli, etc. and police need to be vigilant, with the Collector instructed to act immediately against communal forces and protect life and property of Christian victims, rather than threatening the community members.

7. The district has not had a history of communal violence and with a view to consolidate the Hindu vote, politicians and communal organizations are targeting minorities, especially the Christians who are a soft target. Inspite of The CSF cautioning the authorities in the aftermath of the Malvan and Palghar attacks, little attention is being paid by the police.

Joseph Dias describes the latest incident a worship meeting being disrupted in Sawantwadi on 11th January, 2013, as below:

Date: 11th January, 2013
Place: Sawantwadi taluka, Sindhudurg district, Maharashtra state

Brief : The New Life Grace Ministry Church was conducting a thanksgiving prayer service for the year past and the year ahead. Pastor Benjamin Gomes was leading over 600 believers who had gathered in the Sawantwadi Municipal Hall in prayer. The permission was taken and police also informed of the same, as the Christians were anticipating trouble. In the middle of the worship a group of hoodlums barged into the hall and disrupted the prayer meeting. The Hinduva fundamentalists abused and threatened the Christian villagers. They then beat up the believers mercilessly, including many women, children and aged Christians, ultimately forcing them to stop worship and look helplessly to the police.

The media was present to report on the attack on the Christians and the believers were threatened in front of the police, with the police taking no action against the attackers. In spite of prior intimation and the incidence of crimes against women and the minorities being highlighted, the police offered no protection and it appeared that the culprits were given a free hand.

No FIR or case was registered against the Hindutva fundamentalists and the Christians are reduced to running from pillar to post. Even worse, is the fact that the communalists threatened to disrupt and stop any Christian prayer meetings in the district, which has made the believers not want to complain out of fear.

Some videos recorded clearly show the Christians quietly expecting the police to come to their assistance, but they did not. The culprits also can be easily identified, but to date no action has been taken. A section of the vernacular media was one-sided in its reporting, not mentioning the Christian point of view.

No evidence for the allegations of conversions made by the attackers can be produced and false FIRs or cross complaints are being threatened by the police.

– csf


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