On November 13, the court of Malout Taluka in Punjab’s Muktsar district summoned Assistant Sub-Inspector Hukam Chand Sharma of the Malout police station to appear next February 8 in a hearing related to the beating of four Christians.
A local Christian who requested anonymity told Compass that the victims are from the New Jerusalem Fellowship in Jeet Nagar in Malout, Muktsar district. Sharma allegedly beat them on September 25, 2005.
On that morning a mob of Hindu extremists stormed the fellowship’s Sunday worship service and accused the Christians of unethical conversions. When the Christians called the police, several officers arrived and took church members Gurudev Singh, Jaswant Singh and Balkaran Singh to the police station.
“After reaching the police station, Sharma beat the three Christians very brutally,” the source added. “Later, the police brought in Pastor Sukhdev Pana and beat him too.”
Upon their release the following day, Gurudev Singh was hospitalized for five days and Pana for three days.
When Pana, a retired government official, reported the incident to authorities, they refused to register his complaint. Finally, in October 2005, he managed to file a case against Sharma in the Malout court.
“After the Christians approached the court, the police department ordered Sharma’s suspension, but only for 10 days,” the source said.
The victims also filed individual complaints with the Punjab State Human Rights Commission.
When no further action was taken, the church filed a case in the high court in May of this year. The initial hearing finally took place on November 13.
Catholic School Ordered to Close
In Gujarat state, authorities at a Catholic school alleging harassment today (November 28) filed a civil suit in the Gujarat High Court against the state government.
The high court on November 7 had issued warning notices to the state government and officials of Bhavnagar district, in response to a complaint filed by Shri Sachhidanand Gurukul Vidyalaya Catholic school.
The first hearing is scheduled for November 29.
Samson Christian, joint secretary of the All India Christian Council (AICC), said extremists of the Hindu Jan Jagran Manch (Forum for Revival of Hindu People) and the Akhil Bhartiya Vidhyarti Parishad (ABVP or All India Students’ Council), began accusing school staff members of unethical conversions in July.
In response to these accusations, police began an inquiry into the school.
“The school is doing well [academically], and most of the students are from the Hindu community. Therefore, Hindu extremist groups are jealous,” Christian told Compass.
Christian also said a member of the local Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which rules the state government, may be supporting the Hindu extremists in their campaign against the school. The ABVP is a youth wing of the BJP.
On October 12, school warden Sanjaybhai Chauhan tried to lodge a complaint against the Bhavnagar police, district officials and extremists at the Shihor police station, but police refused to register the complaint. Rather, the Bhavnagar district collector on October 20 ordered school staff members to vacate the premises, alleging that they had not completed all the formalities required to run a school.
“Further, on October 30, the district revenue department sent an official to take charge of the school,” Christian explained. “But the school authorities, with the help of the AICC, approached the district collector and pleaded for more time. The collector then set a deadline of November 15.”
School staff then approached the special secretary of the revenue department on November 3; the secretary stayed the takeover order on November 10, five days before the deadline.
“Officials of other state departments, like the electricity department, then started harassing the school,” Christian said.
In response to the school authorities filing a civil suit against the state government today, the court asked for documentation showing the school’s registration and title deeds for land and buildings.
Christian added that the HJJM is organizing a huge rally in the district on December 31 and has already distributed hundreds of anti-Christian pamphlets to residents.
“I went to the Shihor police station to file a complaint against HJJM for distributing pamphlets and making arrangements for a provocative rally,” Christian said. “But the police refused to accept the complaint.”