By Santosh Digal, BosNewsLife Asia Correspondent reporting from India
BANGALORE, INDIA (BosNewsLife)– Suspected Hindu militants broke up a Christian prayer meeting and forced two women leading the gathering to stop evangelizing in India’s southwestern state of Karnataka, as part of several attacks against devoted believers across the country, Christians told BosNewsLife Monday, March 12.
Local Christians said as many as 20 Hindu “radicals” and “extremists” raided the March 3 prayer meeting in the Vijayanagar neighborhood of Bangalore, the state’s capital.
The Hindu mob allegedly insulted worshipers and ordered the two women leading the service, Parimala, 36, and Padmavathi, 35, to stop the prayers immediately. In some parts of India people only use one name.
The two women are members of the Mahima Prarthana Mandira – an independent church in the Vijayanagar neighborhood, Christians said.
Both believers, who were Hindus before becoming Christians 12 years ago, also lead a 60-member congregation which often gathers for prayer services at a rented home. Additionally they have been distributing evangelical publications with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, local residents told BosNewsLife.
Angered about these activities, the Hindu militants reportedly filed a police complaint on charges of “forceful conversion” and pressured the two Christians to write down that they would halt prayer meetings and no longer conduct their other evangelism activities.
It was not immediately clear which Hindu group was behind the reported attack.
The two women were briefly held at the police station, said advocacy group Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), adding that its representatives had successfully intervened and that they were released.
Besides Karnataka, Christians have complained about attacks elsewhere, including in India’s southern state of Tamil Nadu where police on February 21 reportedly detained Pastor John Chidambaran after Hindu militants beat him and his daughter, saying he was involved in “forceful conversions”.
The attack by some 10 militants of the hardline Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), or ‘National Volunteer Organization’, in Trichy District’s Thuvakudi municipality was allegedly sparked by the pastor’s police complaint against his neighbor, who tried to take over part of the church land.
In retaliation, the neighbor asked RSS to attack the pastor, witnesses said. The attackers allegedly also beat up the pastor’s daughter Mercy, who had to be rushed to hospital for treatment.
In a statement, police said they “assured the pastor” that law enforcement would “amicably settle the matter and were trying to bring a compromise between the two parties.”
However the neighbor and an RSS leader allegedly continued harassing the pastor’s family, beating the pastor’s brother, identified as Sahayam. They managed to successfully file a police complaint on “false charges” of “forced conversion” , Christians said, adding that he was briefly held at the local Trichy Jail before being released on bail on March 2.
RSS and police did not immediately comment on the latest alleged incident.
Christians were reportedly also attacked on February 21 in the neighboring southwestern state Kerala where local believers claimed “Hindu extremists” verbally abused a pastor and his children in the town of Kanhagad in Kasargod distruct because of his faith in Christ. His car was also said to have been damaged with huge boulders and stones.
The attack happened when Hindu militants reportedly barged into the house of a convert from Hinduism who had invited Pastor Titus Ignatius Kapan and his family for dinner.
The assailants apparently fled after learning that Pastor Kapan had called police, who arrived about an hour later. Officers filed charges, but but no arrests were reported Monday, March 12.
Anti-Christian attacks have increased in India, a predominantly Hindu nation where hard-line groups have complained about the spread of Christianity. Devoted Christians have denied they are involved in “forceful conversions” saying that would be impossible as the Bible makes clear that faith in Christ is a free, personal, choice. (With editing by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos).