RAIPUR: Unidentified assailants attacked a church over the weekend and tried to set a pastor and his pregnant wife afire after thrashing them at remote Tokapal in Chhattisgarh’s Bastar region. This is the second church attack in Chhattisgarh since March when a mob vandalized a `home church’ and manhandled worshippers at Kachna near Raipur.
Chhattisgarh Christian Association president Arun Pannalal said pastor Deenanath and his wife managed to escape after they were beaten up and doused with petrol on Sunday. The couple could not be reached and it was unclear how badly they were hurt.
Pannalal accused police of hushing up the assault. “Tokapal is a very small place where everybody knows everybody .” He said police have registered a case against unidentified people and called it “an indication that police are trying to downplay the incident and protect the accused”.
In the Kachna church attack, assailants on motorcycles had shouted slogans like `Jai Sri Ram’ and accused the church of carrying out conversions. But police had maintained the attack was a result of a dispute over construction of the church on encroached land. Later, nine people were arrested for the attack. In the fresh attack, Parpa police station in-charge Abdul Kadir Khan told TOI they have registered a case against unidentified attackers for “creating communal tension and trying to set ablaze the pastor”.
According to the FIR filed in the Tokapal case, the attackers allegedly destroyed the electronic equipment at the church besides thrashing the pastor’s children and setting ablaze scriptures and furniture. The FIR stated the assailants were well-armed and even tried to burn the pastor’s house.
Pannalal said 93 organized attacks on Christians were reported in the state in 2015 and 2014. A pastor was thrashed during a prayer meeting in February while a group of Bajrang Dal activists had demolished a venue, where people were celebrating establishment of a church in Korba two months earlier.
In 2014, gram sabhas convened under provisions of the Chhattisgarh Panchayati Raj Act had adopted resolutions banning non-Hindu missionaries from Bastar region. This was done following a VHP campaign. Christian organisations had decried the ban saying panchayat bodies cannot override the Constitution’s Article 25 that guarantees the freedom of religion.
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