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Hisar Church demolition: Villagers allege conversions

Hisar Church demolition: Villagers allege conversions

Compiled by Brian Fernandes | NewsKarnataka   ¦    Mar 17, 2015 10:43:16 AM (IST)

Hisar: An under construction church was demolished in Haryana's Hisar district on Sunday. The miscreants even hoisted a flag with "Shri Ram" written at the site in Kaimri village, 10km from Hisar.  Sources said that the destruction was the result of the villagers anger over the priest’s alleged efforts to convert some of the local residents.

Police have registered a case against 14 people named by the priest and started investigation into the matter. But no arrests have been made so far.

A panchayat was held in the village and the members decided to take the issue to the deputy commissioner of Hisar district. They claimed the priest, Subhash, had bought the  piece of land to build a house but started constructing a "Believers Church" instead.

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"Believers Church" is a Christian denomination with congregations and parishes across the world.

President of All India United Christian Front Sukhdev said, "This is a matter of shame that the villagers demolished a church. We will hold a press conference in Hisar soon and request the SP to take action against the culprits".

Village sarpanch Dalbir Singh told a national daily, "There is not even a single Christian family in Kaimri village. Priest Subhash is trying to convert some of the families by luring them with money, food and other facilities."

"The villagers who have been booked by the police on the complaint of the priest were not involved (in razing the structure). The land where the church was being built was bought by him (priest) from some society and it had even issued a notice to him about the illegal construction of the church. The priest is engaged in occult practices for conversion," Dalbir alleged.

Asked about the flag on the church wall, the villagers refused any knowledge about it. One of them said some children must have hoisted it.

The priest skirted the issue when asked whether he had the permission to build the church, saying, "I am on my way to Ambala for some work. Our senior priest will talk about this matter. I was out when some villagers demolished the wall of the church. I informed the police, who registered a case against 14 people. The village has two or three Christian families."

However, he refused to share contact details of his senior priest.

Mangali police post in charge and investigation officer Ramesh Kumar said, "A case has been registered against Anil Godara, Dalbir Singh, Rajkumar, Kuldeep, Satpal, Krishan Kumar, Suresh, Dinesh, Joginder, Kulwant, Sudhir, Bijender, Satyanaryan and Choturam. Police are probing the matter under IPC sections dealing with rioting, promoting enmity between groups, theft, criminal intimidation, and destroying and damaging a place of worship with intent to insult the religion of any class of persons”

DC of Hisar Chandershakher Khare, said, "No one has come to me so far with any complaint. However, I know about the incident and also that some villagers have met the local police with their complaint. Administration will take action according to law."

The village is a stronghold of INLD.

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Priest denies allegations of conversion

Chand, the priest of the church, said the allegations that he was trying to convert by luring people with money or food were baseless. 

"On Sunday (March 15), I got a call from an unknown number, telling me the church was demolished and a flag with 'Shri Ram' written on it hoisted on the church wall," he said. "I first intimated Sukhdev, president of the All India United Christian Front. We both reached there and found the church wall had been demolished, a flag hoisted and a Hanuman idol placed inside. Some of my belongings were also missing," he said. 

Sukhdev said: "I was there in Kaimri village with Chand and saw the flag and the statue inside. I'm in touch with our national leaders to hold a press conference in Hisar. As soon as we get permission, we'll talk to the media there." 

According to the police, the flag and the Hanuman idol were removed from the church on Sunday itself. 

"This is a shameful incident," National Church of India archbishop Dr Jonathan Ansar said. "The father of the Kaimri church is now with me as he feared for his life. Miscreants broke the law and some of them have still not been arrested. I request the police to arrest those who're behind this incident." 

He, too, said the villagers' allegations were baseless. "Conversion can take place only before a sub-divisional magistrate," Ansar said. "Anyone can come to God's house. Going to church and praying for goodness is not conversion." 

Priest threatened earlier

The priest of the church that was demolished at Kaimri in Haryana's Hisar district on Monday alleged that some villagers had disrupted prayers in February and threatened him with dire consequences if he did not leave the village. Subhash Chand, priest of Believers Church, said he had even lodged a police complaint and taken his family away to Ambala to ensure their safety.

"On February 8, some villagers entered the church and stopped the prayer forcefully," Chand told, "They asked me to leave the village immediately. They told me to stop constructing the church building. On February 9, I filed a complaint with the police and I came to Ambala with my family members to protect them."

But Hisar SP Saurav Singh said there was a complaint from both the sides — the villagers and the priest — on February 8. "The villagers alleged the priest was trying to convert some residents to Christianity and the priest said he was threatened," he said. "The police called both the parties on the same day and sorted out the matter on the spot."

Villagers meet SP, want cases withdrawn

Kaimri village sarpanch Dalbir Singh said rumours were being spread that some Bajrang Dal members had come to meet him and asked about the church, but that was not the case. The sarpanch said on Monday he called another meeting of the elders of about 10 surrounding villages. After the meeting, the villagers met the SP and SDM with a plea to withdraw the cases registered against 14 people.

"Villagers met me with their demands. The situation is under control in the village," SDM Ashok Bansal said.

Hisar SP Saurav Singh said: "Police are keeping strict vigil in the village and security has been tightened near the church." He said no arrest had been made so far.

VHP defends attack on Haryana church, calls 1857 'communal war'

Aggressively defending the demolition of a church in Haryana's Hisar, the VHP on Monday asked whether Christians would allow construction of a Hanuman temple in the Vatican City.

VHP joint general secretary Surendra Jain called the 1857 war of independence a communal war fought for religion and said similar wars would be waged if Christians did not stop conversions.

He also claimed that the allegations of communal overtones in the gang rape of a nun in Nadia in West Bengal were a conspiracy of the church and that sexual exploitation of nuns was a Christian culture, and not of Hindus. He said the Pope is so worried about rape of nuns that he is promoting gay sex to stop it.

In both Hisar and Nadia incidents, allegations of involvement of fringe Hindu groups have been made. But VHP on Monday categorically denied its involvement.

'Can one build a Hanuman mandir in Vatican?'

Reacting to the Hisar case, Jain said, "This is a spontaneous reaction of the local people. There are no Christians living in the village or around it where the church has been attacked. So why was a church being built there? Will the Christians allow us to make a Hanuman temple in the Vatican? Let them allow that, and we will ask them to choose any place in India for a church. We will fund it."

He added, "The church was for the purpose of conversion. Local people had warned against it. But when it went unheeded, they took whatever action they deemed fit."

Indicating that such attacks would keep on happening, Jain said, "This is a country where the 1857 war was fought for the cause of religion. People will react to aggressive conversion, just as they reacted to the killing of Swami Laxmananda in Odisha in 2008."

On the gang-rape of a nun in West Bengal, Jain said it should be viewed as a crime and not through the prism of religion. "It is a Christian culture to exploit nuns. We don't do such things. The Vatican received 5,000 complaints of sexual exploitation in five years prompting the pope to appeal for legalization of gay sex," Jain said.

The VHP member also supported the statement of Subramanian Swamy that "God does not live in mosques but in temples". "This is a truth that even Muslims agree to. Ask any Muslim if Allah lives in mosque and he will reply in the negative. Saudi Arabia has demolished so many mosques for developmental work, no body has objected," he said.