(Compass Direct News) -- Seven Christians working with the Indian Missionary Society (IMS) in Indiaâ€™s Gujarat state were released on bail this morning. The group was charged with attempted murder after Hindu extremists waylaid and assaulted them last week.
Extremists beat the group, took their valuables and warned them of dire consequences if they continued to share the gospel in the area. One of the extremists, Kanji Nayak, then filed a complaint against the eight, claiming that the Christians had tried to shoot him after he refused to convert.
An eighth member of the group, Pastor Dasrath Nanji Dilwad, remains in judicial custody and his case has been transferred to the High Court. Dilwad was also charged with misuse of a firearm.
The group of eight IMS missionaries was returning home from a prayer meeting last Wednesday afternoon (September 20) when the attack took place. Pastor Dilwad was accompanied by his wife Manjula Bhen; Mankar Samsu Katila and his wife Saburi Bhen; and four other male companions, Valaibhai Santubhai Damor, Samsubhemla Katila, Gala Sabur Patel and Madhu Jagan Baria.
As they began the trip home, approximately 15 extremists surrounded them, beating them with wooden clubs. One of the women, Manjula Bhen, suffered widespread bruising and swelling after the attack.
â€œAt first we thought they were just robbers,â€ she told Compass. â€œBut they kept hitting us with wooden clubs and abused us for coming to preach in their village. They even warned us to stay away from their village and not come back to convert people.â€
Before fleeing, the mob confiscated two mobile phones, a gold chain and earrings, some cash and the Bibles carried by their Christian victims.
Villager Accuses Christians of Attempted Murder
On the following day, when the Christians tried to report the incident at the Devaghad Bariya police station, police inspector G. R. Sharma told them that a complaint had already been filed against them by a person named Kanji Nayak.
In his statement to the police, Nayak claimed that the Christians had tried to forcefully convert him â€“ and that when he refused, Dilwad had fired two rounds of ammunition at him, attempting to kill him.
Following a brief investigation of Nayakâ€™s charges, the police arrested all six men in the group and remanded them in custody. The two women were arrested on Monday (September 25).
This morning (September 29) most of the group were released on bail; however Dilwad was held in custody and his case was transferred to the High Court.
According to their lawyer Tyab Dadi, the eight were charged under Section 307 of the Indian Penal Code for attempted murder. Dilwad was also charged under Section 25 for illegal use of a firearm. But local Christians who know the IMS workers say the charges are blatantly false.
Accusations a Political Ploy
The Rev. D. Vethanbu, IMS general secretary, told Compass it was clear the extremists had attacked the Christians, not the other way around.
â€œI have personally known Pastor Dilwad for 2 years â€“ although he has been with the IMS for 20 years. These accusations are the work of extremists who will go to any lengths to prevent the spread of the gospel,â€ Vethanbu said.
The Rev. Samuel Ravi, regional field coordinator for the IMS, also believed the incident was a well-planned attack on the group. â€œThey have laid a very serious charge against these Christians, with a lot of political implications.â€
According to Samson Christian, joint secretary of the All India Christian Council, the incident â€“ occurring only a day after an amendment strengthening the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Bill was passed â€“ points to an anti-Christian bias in the state.
â€œThe state government clearly wants to prove that Christians are involved in forced conversions, and they need statistics to prove their point,â€ Christian told Compass.
Meanwhile, Vethanbu has appealed to Indian Christians to pray for those facing trial. â€œKindly pray that the wounds on their bodies may be healed soon and the scars erased by our Lord,â€ he wrote.
â€œLet us also pray for the people who committed this crime,â€ the IMS leader requested.
Copyright Â© 2006 Compass Direct