ASIA/INDIA - Blasphemous image of Christ: Police defend Hindu extremists in Punjab

Jalandhar (Agenzia Fides) – Things could worsen following the violence that broke out on February 20 in the town of Batala in Punjab (Northwest India), and in some neighboring villages, after the publication of blasphemous portrait of Christ on publicly displayed posters (see Fides 22/2/2009). According to information collected by Fides, the militant Hindu fundamentalist organizations such as the "Sangh Parivar,” which launched the violence and attacked the churches, have tried burning alive two Christian families. As the All India Christian Council (AICC), an organization that deals with the protection and promotion of Christian minorities in India, tells Fides, Deacon Victor Gill and his wife, Parveen, in addition to another Christian who lived near the Church of North India, were saved by a miracle when extremists set fire to the area. “The police watched the attack and attempted murder without doing anything,” the AICC noted. “There is no police report on the incident. In fact, Christians were told not to complain if they wanted to avoid unpleasant consequences, and to secure the release of the Christians already arrested,” continues the organization, which led a mission in Punjab to investigate the events. “The strategy of indiscriminate attacks, and no respect for human life, reminds us of what took place in Orissa in 2008,” notes an alarmed John Dayal, AICC leader of the delegation. Furthermore, the attacks took place despite the curfew that, due to protests and riots, had already been decreed. This, the AICC says, leaves us to think that the police must be complices, accused of providing protection for the fundamentalist groups and arresting several young Christians involved. They are mostly Dalits, who had asked all shopkeepers in the area to close their shops in protest and solidarity with the Christian community. The AICC has drafted a report of the incident, urging the state authorities of Punjab and federal officials to investigate the facts. In Punjab, the Christian population is about 300,000 people, 1.2% of the total population. The state government is in the hands of the Hindu nationalist party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, the political arm of the fundamentalist movements. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 3/3/2010)

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