There have been "70 cases reported [of attacks against Christians] in the last 18 months," said Sajan George, the president of advocacy group Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC). He said the anti-Christian attacks are "alarmingly increasing day by day" and that "it is time to respond by praying together and rallying as the time is running out."
The rally was to be held September 22 at 10am local time at the Gandhi statue in Bangalore,
Karnataka's capital, by GCIC and other Christian rights groups. "We invite all Christians, including pastors and church members, evangelists and prayer warriors," added George.
He said the rally was to "protest the great rise in violence against Christians in Karnataka in the past 20 months." The Bangalore-based GCIC said it had evidence that suspected Hindu militants plan to launch "a serial attack against Christians in different parts of Mysore," the second largest city in the Indian state of Karnataka, and nearby areas.
It also expressed concerns about the plight of Pastor K. Suresh, 39, who has become "very popular among the poor and needy living near Mysore. "Sursh was beaten up by the radicals from 1995 at regular intervals. He remembers of four major physical attacks. Twice his house was ransacked and church desecrated during the last 12 years."
In one of the latest incidents, a group of about 35 people from the Hindu militants of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) beat the principal of a Bible college on Monday, September 10 in Bangalore, George said. Angam Haokip, head of the Bible college in the Kothanur area was allegedly attacked by men wearing vermillion on their foreheads and red thread on their wrists, a mark of followers of the RSS.
The attackers stopped Haokip’s vehicle and attacked him after he confirmed he was a pastor. They allegedly beat him, tried to crush his legs with boulders and kicked him on the nape of the neck before onlookers. Police reportedly refused to accept his complain, accusing him instead of "rash driving."
It came after a group of about 10 Hindu militants last week, September 6, tied an independent evangelist, identified as 41-year-old Madhikare, to a tree for at least three hours before chasing him out of Madhikare village in the Chinthamani area, George said. He was apparently attacked while distributing evangelistic tracts. Although he received minor injuries and required first aid, he refused to file a complain with local police, saying that would undermine his plans to return to the village to preach the Gospel, according to GCIC investigators.
Elsewhere on September 6, some six Hindu militants reportedly beat pastor Abey C. Mathew, 30, of the Christian Ministry Church in Bangalore during a church service. Mathew and congregation member Joseph Abraham were treated for injuries at Baptist Hospital.
"The mob told me to stop my reaching of a foreign faith and kept hitting me," Pastor Mathew was quoted as saying by Compass Direct News, a Christian news agency. “They are now threatening my believers, who are now afraid to worship at he church. On September 9, very few attended Sunday worship.” Mathew, whose congregation consists of 22 people, reportedly filed a complaint at local police, but no arrests have been made.
In some case police allegedly pressure Christians, BosNewsLife monitored. Earlier this month, on September 3, police reportedly summoned three Christians after Hindu militants in the Bangarapet area of Kolar district in Karnataka, filed a complaint of forcible conversion.
The militants, whose names the police did not disclose, charged that the Christians – identified only as Raghu from Emmanuel Church, Prabhu from Zion Church and an independent pastor, Anand – were forcibly converting local Hindus, George said in published remarks. The Christians have denied the charges.
Last month, Pastor Emmanuel Venketesh, 38, who is of Dalit origin, was also attacked for apparently similar reasons by Hindu militants during a prayer meeting in a house of one of his church members in the 'Raji nagar Malur' area. Dalits are often seen as the ‘lowest caste’ in India’s ancient system of Hinduism. "While the prayer and worship was progressing, [up to] 25 Hindu activists of the Sangh Parivar [group] started beating the pastor and others indiscriminately for an hour," the GCIC said.
Another believer, identified as Venkettarajappa, 36, was allegedly stabbed in his hand and hip during the skirmish while a woman, MS Thimmakka, "was beaten and injured on her leg and face," the GCIC said. All the three Christians required hospital treatment, the GCIC said. Police reluctantly agreed to investigate the attack, the GCIC added.
It comes as Christian educational institutions in Karnataka have also complained of visits by secret service agents and security forces for allegedly hosting groups with links to violent Communists. In one of the latest "very controversial" incidents, "intelligence agents came to the famous St. Joseph's College in [the city of] Bangalore, among others," September 2, said George, who has denied the charges.
The GCIC has linked the attacks to concern among Hindu groups and authorities about the spread of Christianity. However Karnataka is not the only state where Hindu-militants and authorities have increased pressure on Christians, rights observers say.
In other recent reported incidents:
--Hindu extremists in Bhihar state stormed a Christian meeting, forcibly taking a pastor to a temple and making him recite slogans about Hindu god Rama on September 8 in the Bankipore Gorakh area of Fatuha in the Patna area, news reports said.
--Six families in Natungram village, Murshidabad district in the state of West Bengal, were being "ostracized for converting to Christianity from Islam," reported the Mumbai Mirror newspaper on September 7 in a report monitored by Compass Direct News.
--Elsewhere in West Bengal alleged supporters of the Communist Party of India-Marxists (CPI-M) reportedly beat the wife of an independent Christian worker, Biman Patro, on September 1 in Bhupathinagar area of East Midnapore district.
--In the state of Madhya Pradesh a Hindu militants from the Bajrang Dal group in Kharra village, Rewa district, allegedly beat a 24-year-old Christian, Kailash Saket, for expressing his
faith in Christ on August 31, the GCIC said in a published statement.
--In Orissa state suspected Hindu militants reportedly demolished an 18-year-old building of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (JELC), belonging to tribal Christians on August 25 in Banjalaput village.
The situation was not much better in Maharashtra state where young Hindu militants on August 25 allegedly launched a second attack on 38-year-old pastor Peter David Silway from the Vineyard Workers’ Church in Dapodi area of district. Pastor Silway conducts healing prayer meetings on Saturdays that draw nearly 20,000 people, Compass Direct News said.
Also in Maharashtra, Pastor Edward Pais in Mumbai is under police investigation after Hindu militants last month accused him of "forcible conversion" during a baptism ceremony.
There is growing concern among human rights groups that life for Christians is becoming increasingly difficult in India, a mainly Hindu nation of 1.1 billion people. The upcoming rally, September 22, is another attempt to highlight persecution of Christians, GCIC President George suggested to BosNewsLife. (With reporting from India).