By Santosh Digal, BosNewsLife Southeast Asia Correspondent reporting from India with additional reporting by BosNewsLife’s George Whitten
NEW DELHI, INDIA (BosNewsLife)– Tensions remained high Wednesday, September 15, in several parts of India where reports of Koran burning in the United States sparked deadly attacks against Christian institutions.
In the village of Tangmarg, in India’s Kashmir region, at least 14 people were killed and scores injured over the weekend when thousands of angry Muslims took to the streets and torched a Christian school, police said.
“The school students are not hurt, [but] the building has totally burnt down,” said Bishop Pradeep Kumar Samantaroy of the Church of North India. “It was entirely made of wood.”
He said officials were informed of a possible attack and that Christians requested protection, but that “no action was taken”. He said “The mob even stopped the fire brigade from reaching the spot.”
There was no immediate response from police.
The demonstrations were fueled by reports on Iran’s state-run channel Press TV, which is widely available in India, that a copy of the Koran was desecrated over the weekend in the United States.
Though a Florida pastor called off his plans to burn what Muslims regard as a holy book, the network showed footage of a different man destroying a Koran in Tennessee.
“Death to the U.S.!” and “Death to Koran desecrators”, demonstrators reportedly said. Violence also spread to the Muslim dominated town of Malerkotla in India’s Punjab state where a mob set furniture of the town’s only church on fire before the police intervened, witnesses said.
Separately, Sunday, September 12, an angry Hindu mob interrupted an evangelical church service in the town of Naggal in India’s Uttar Pradesh state, local Christians said. “While the Church service was in progress the mob [of some 35 members of the Arya Samaj Hindu sect] entered the room and started arguing,” said Pastor Rockwell Louis of the Masih Satsang Mandali Church. “They blamed people for converting people,” he added in published remarks.
The church strongly denied the accusations, but the pastor said the mob only disappeared after police intervention. Earlier, other Hindu activists disturbed the church service September 5, saying the pastor was “eating meat” and “converted people,” Christians said.
The mob reportedly argued that “the Bible is wrong and presents a false god”. They had warned that they would return September 12 and would not allow Sunday worship service to take place, Pastor Louis said.
He said two police officers have been deployed to protect the church, but it remained unclear whether that would be enough to prevent further attacks.
India is a predominantly Hindu nation where minorities, including Christians, face growing opposition, rights groups say.