India: Bangalore – The Barometer of India?

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By: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal

The following posting consists of a Compass Direct News Flash by Vishal Arora
that highlights the escalating severity of persecution of Christians in India.
Arora's report (along with a photograph of Pastor Laxmi Narayan Gowda) can
also be found on the Compass Direct (CD) website < http://compassdirect.org >.

There are several things to note in Arora's report:

* The attack took place in a suburb of Bangalore, the capital city of the
south-western state of Karnataka, India. Bangalore with a population of six
million is one of India's largest cities. It is the fastest growing city in
all Asia and is commonly referred to as "The Silicon Valley of India", "The
Fashion Capital of India", "The Pub City of India" and "The Garden City of
India". So this attack did not occur in a remote and backward tribal jungle
village where primitive tribal "justice" is sometimes administered in
ignorance and in the absence of police.

* The attack was organised by an educated elite (in this case, reportedly a
lawyer), led by a band of Hindu nationalist militant youths from the Bajrang
Dal, and participated in by 50, then 100, and then 1,000 local citizens,
including immediate neighbours.

* The attack was not only exceedingly intimidating and humiliating, it was
also violent, and only by the mercy of God was it not far worse. (The kerosene
Pastor Gowda was dowsed in did not ignite when lit.)

* The police in this "Silicon Valley of India", this hub of Indian
civilisation and globalisation, showed up an hour after the event and only in
response to a phone call from Pastor Gowda's distressed relatives. (Did any
"neighbour" or observer, care enough about the Gowda family or even the social
fabric of India to phone the police and request intervention? Did the police,
as is their habit, deliberately turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to this mob
violence (making themselves complicit) simply because the victim was a Christian?)

* Four days after the horrendous attack, which involved grievous assault and
attempted murder as well as vandalism and destruction of property, the police
still had not even registered a case against the attackers. Impunity is once
again the order of the day.

Hindutva's toxic ideology is infecting India's educated elite and saturating
the once peaceful and liberal grassroots. If the federal government does not
act soon to combat Hindutva ideology, challenge unconstitutional state laws
and put an end to impunity, it may be too late. Hindutva is gaining momentum
and no-one appears to be willing or able to stop it.

As Hindutva gains momentum, persecution of Christians escalates in intensity
and frequency, with persecutors emboldened by the lure of impunity.
Unrestrained, full-speed Hindutva would be absolutely catastrophic for India's
Christians, a mere two percent minority in a population of one billion, whose
positive influence and invaluable contribution to nation building over the
centuries belies the reality of their immense vulnerability.

Elizabeth Kendal
[email protected]


During assault, they douse him with kerosene and toss burning Bible at him.
by Vishal Arora

NEW DELHI, June 12 (Compass Direct News) – A mob of Hindu extremists on Friday
(June 8) beat a pastor and tried to set him on fire before parading him naked
in the suburbs of Bangalore, capital of Karnataka state.

Laxmi Narayan Gowda, an independent pastor and representative of the Global
Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), was recovering in a hospital at press
time with swelling and numerous bruises.

The incident took place at about 7 p.m. in Hessarghatta, about 30 kilometers
from Bangalore, when a group of about 50 people barged into the pastor's house
and threatened him with violence unless he moved out of the area, said Sam
Joseph, a Karnataka-based leader of the All India Christian Council (AICC).

The group returned with 100 more people shortly after, cornered Pastor Gowda
in a room in his house, and began assaulting him in front of his wife and two
small children.

Extremists of the Bajrang Dal, youth wing of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP or
World Hindu Council), allegedly led the mob.

One of the assailants threw kerosene on the pastor, and others started burning
Bibles. Someone tossed a burning Bible onto Pastor Gowda, but miraculously he
did not catch fire, Joseph told Compass.

The extremists then stripped the pastor naked and hung a board around his neck
that said, "I am the one who was converting people," before parading him
through the area.

"By this time, the mob had swollen to about 1,000 as more people joined in to
harass and torture the pastor," Joseph added.

Local police arrived about an hour later, after one of the pastor's relatives
called them by telephone.

The assailants burned at least 250 Bibles and also vandalized furniture and

Police had not registered a case against the attackers at press time. When
Compass spoke to Inspector R. Malesh of the Soladevanhalli police station, he
said the victim did not want to file a complaint.

"We have requested the Christians to give us a complaint in writing, but they
do not want to press charges against the attackers," he said.

Malesh claimed that the mob consisted of local people who did not belong to
any Hindu extremist groups. Some of Pastor Gowda's neighbors attacked, he
said, because they do not want Christian prayers and meetings to take place in
his house.

A local source, however, told Compass on condition of anonymity that the
attack was pre-planned and directed by an unidentified lawyer. The lawyer
suggested to the crowd that if they hit the pastor as a mob, then there would
be no possibility of prosecution, said the source.

Before Pastor Gowda accepted Christ about 15 years ago, the source said, he
was a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the parent organization of
numerous Hindu extremist groups in India.

"The attackers seemingly wanted to punish Pastor Gowda for converting to
Christianity from their Hindu nationalistic ideology, and warn others against
doing so," added the source.

Pastor Gowda has been working in the area for the last 12 years. The source
also said the pastor was firm in his faith following the attack.

Dr. Sam Paul, AICC's public affairs secretary, said that although Karnataka
was known for anti-Christian attacks, the situation has become more volatile
in the state since the Janata Dal-Secular party, in coalition with the Hindu
nationalistic Bharatiya Janata Party, took power from the Congress Party in
February 2006.

"Extremists in Karnataka are emboldened as the police usually turn up after
the incident," he said. "There are also times when the police encourage
anti-social elements to harass Christians."

Paul also stressed the need to educate India's people about true conversion,
in particular that it does not mean that one becomes anti-national.

Dr. Sajan K. George, national president of the GCIC, told Compass that he was
thankful to God for saving the life of one of his organization's representatives.



For more reports on persecution in India, see Compass Direct India Archives:
< http://compassdirect.org/content/index.php?id=25 >.

Copyright 2007 Compass Direct News

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