By Santosh Digal, BosNewsLife Asia Correspondent reporting from India
CALCUTTA, INDIA (BosNewsLife)– Devoted Christians in eastern India remained detained and at least one woman was in hiding, late Friday, March 30, after they were attacked by anti-Christian mobs and Hindu extremists backed by local police, Christians said.
Among those captured were five pastors, Weleston Kisku, Animesh Das, Nripen Das, Satyanarayan Soren, Rajesh Das and two unidentified believers, who were harassed by “anti-Christian elements,” while “distributing Gospel tracts” March 15 in Asansol, a coal mining and industrial metropolis in India’s West Bengal state, BosNewsLife learned.
After the mob allegedly abused and mistreated them, one Christian reportedly telephoned police who soon arrived and took them to a local station.
They were initially released following questioning but soon summoned to appear again when Kora tribal people filed a police complaint saying Christians were involved in “forceful conversion” and “luring people to convert to Christianity by offering them food and clothes”, explained local Pastor Muktaram Baag.
The Christians were held on charges of “promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion” and “deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings”, Baag explained.
A local court apparently rejected their appeal to be released on bail and they were sent to the regional Dulal Mandal jail.
Besides Indian Christians, foreign missionaries were also facing charges of involvement in “forced conversion”, including eight Koreans, who were distributing evangelical pamphlets on March 15 in the city of Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh state, Christians said.
Police briefly detained them after Arvind Baba, a leader of the hardline Hindu Dharma Sena group, reportedly claimed that the Koreans “were offering huge money to people and other facilities to convert them to Christianity.”
The Koreans, whose names were not identified, were eventually released, without charges. Evangelical Christians have denied they are pressuring people to believe, saying the Bible makes clear that faith in Christ is a personal, free, choice available to anyone.
News also emerged Friday, March 30, that elsewhere in Madhya Pradesh a Christian woman, Satwantin Mandari, was chased out from her home and village of Tuthuly because she refused to abandon her Christian faith.
Her husband allegedly forced Mandari to leave as Hindu extremists threatened him that they “would ostracize the whole family” if his wife continued to believe in Christ.
“On the same night, after Satwantini Mandari refused to denounce Christ, her husband along with the extremists drove her out from her home and from the village. The community strictly prohibited her from returning home unless and until she returned to Hinduism,” Christians said.
The homeless Christian is staying with Pastor Paduram and his family in nearby Kanker municipality, BosNewsLife established.
The cases have underscored concerns among Christians about attempts by Hindu groups to halt the spread of Christianity in this mainly Hindu nation of 1.2 billion people.