By Santosh Digal, Worthy News Asia Correspondent
NEW DELHI, INDIA (Worthy News)-- Indian Christians have held a prayer meeting in remembrance of a murdered pastor and other attacks against the Christian minority in India's Madhya Pradesh state.
Pastor Amit Gilbert was killed by suspected Hindu militants in April amid escalating violence against minority Christians in the area, said organizers of the April 25 "All Christian Prayer Gathering", which was attended by an estimated 600 Christians from different churches.
Armed Hindu militants from the Bajrang Dal group attacked Gilbert and other Christians during an evangelistic event on April 17 in the town of Betul in Madhya Pradesh, explained the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) a major umbrella group of evangelical Christians.
EFI said some "10 Hindu extremists" forced their way into meeting, which was organized by the Evangelical Lutheran Church. The militants "broke glasses of vehicles, electrical lights, furniture and mercilessly beat the Christians with their sticks," EFI added in a statement. It was difficult to reach Bajrang Dal for comment, but the group has been behind several incidents.
Christians tried to escape, including Pastor Amit Gilbert. "After realizing that Pastor Amit Gilbert was lost, a search team was formed and they found his dead body in a well" EFI said.
Local Christians have suggested that Gilbert was forcefully thrown into the well, although it remained unclear whether he drowned.
Pastor Shantwan Lal said at the April 25 prayer meeting that a post mortem showed Amit Gilbert had "a big wound on his head and back." Other reports said Amit’s hands were tied with a rope when searchers ound his body, but few details were released about the investigation.
Christian leaders met the government and urged local authorities to improve protection of Christians in the area.
There are also attacks reported elsewhere in India, including in Uttrakhand state police where police briefly detained Pastor Jaswant Singh after Hindu militants of the group Hindu Jagrang Manch, or Hindu Awareness Platform, accused him of "forced conversions" on April 25 in the town of Rooria, local Christians said.
A church leader with close knowledge about the situation, Sanjay Paul, recalled that militants disrupted a prayer meeting of a house church by Pastor Jaswant Singh" and "verbally abused" Christians and "accused the pastor of forcibly converting people."
The "extremists" marched to the house church after submitting a police complaint against the pastor, he claimed.
Police arrived and took Pastor Singh to the police station and released him on bail from the regional Roorkie District jail on the same day amid pressure from Christians, he added. It was not immediately clear when a court hearing would be held.
While there was no official statement from Hindu Jagrang Manch, radical Hindu groups have increasingly targeted devoted Christians, including church leaders and missionaries. They are concerned about the spread of Christianity in the mainly Hindu nation of over one billion people, according to several mission groups and rights activists. (With reporting by Worthy News' Stefan J. Bos).