The Christian community in Attingal, near Thiruvanathapuram, is under fear of more attacks, as Hindu hardliners continue to target their gatherings, alleging forced religious conversions. Recently, two such religious gatherings were attacked in the place, leaving many devotees seriously injured. The incidents took place June 14, with a group of 40 or more men, belonging to local RSS unit, raising the slogan ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’, stormed into the religious gatherings. They have pelted stones into the halls and unleashed attack on devotees. They even destroyed religious properties and looted many valuables.
The first of the incidents, took place on June 14, around 11.30. The gathering of Indian Pentecostal Mission, was on progress at a hall near to KSRTC bus stand. The troop of RSS activists stormed in to the hall and unleashed an attack on them. Many, including the pastor, were injured in the attack. Then this group moved to a hall at the Municipal Library and attacked another religious gathering belonging to the ‘Reaching the World with Love Ministry’.
According to the Attingal police, the prayer session was being attended by a group of 300 people, at the Municipal Library Hall opposite to the Attingal Town Hall, when RSS activists came raising the slogan ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ and storming into the hall and attacking the devotes. Several devotees, including women and children, who had gathered in the hall, were brutally beaten up. According to Rural SP, K Shefeen Ahamed, who visited the spot, several devotes, including the Pastor Siju Ganesh, were subjected to attack. ”They allegedly broke a middle aged woman’s finger and even beat up a physically challenged man, seated on chair, asking him to get up and clear the place”, the SP said. Also, the prayer group, in their written complaint, has stated that the assailants also stole a video camera that was worth over Rs 1 lakh, in the mayhem. Besides, the assailants also resorted to destruction of public property, by vandalising furniture and other materials in the Municipal Library Hall. The Municipal Secretary said that, they had incurred destruction amounting to Rs 5 lakh. The Municipality has also filed a complaint to the police, in the regard.
Meanwhile, Tehelka came to know, that the incident was the result of long brewing hatred between the RSS and Christian community in the place, over forceful religious conversion. A local politician said that another incident of police stopping a religious gathering at a place called Manambur, had taken place on the same day. The local police lead by ASI visited the place and demanded the Pastor to disburse the gathering, citing that they have received a complaint of forced religious conversion taking place, in the said location. The police also intimidated the gathering ‘Light of Light’ that if they do not heed to them they will all be booked under the law. Renjith M Panicker, Pastor of ‘Light of Light’, said that, when they said that the gathering is taking place as per law, the police officers hurled abusive words and even threatened to lock him behind bars. “I disbursed the gathering, and went with the police to the station. When at the police station, the SI reminded me repeatedly about the hazards of conducting religious conversion during the time of ‘Ghar Vapsi’ and warned not to repeat it and stop the gathering,” said Renjith. Renjith, along with other pastors, will meet Chief Minister, Oommen Chandy and Home Minister, Ramesh Chennithala, to register their complaints.
Meanwhile, CPM leader Pinarayi Vijayan, who visited the spot, said to media, that, the act is highly condemnable, as it is against religious freedom. He also said that, any effort of the BJP-RSS to foil the religious harmony of the place will be taken seriously and CPM will oppose it tooth and nail. He also blamed the government of helping the Hindu hardliners, by letting lose RSS activists, to behave on their whims.
B Sathyan, MLA, told Tehelka, that, the incident was unfortunate and these kinds of atrocities, which harm the religious freedom, should be dealt with, seriously. “The gathering has been going for the past four years, and the incident has taken place 100 metres away from the police station. Many devotes got injured and the RSS activists did not even left a handicapped from their attack” said him.
Meanwhile, the local police arrested five persons in connection with the incident. Those taken to custody are TR Anoop (38), Anoop (30), Abhijith (22) and Deepu (20), all natives of Attingal and are believed to be RSS activists.