Members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Hindu Munani (Hindu Front Party) demolished parts of a new church boundary wall belonging to The Church of Jesus in Akkaraivattam, Karaikal District, Puducherry on 2 August.
The Church of Jesus, led by Pastor Robinson for nearly 14 years, purchased the land in March and commenced building a temporary prayer house with metal roofing and walls in June.
On 23 July at 8pm Pastor Robinson’s son, Deril M. Robin, and some youth from the church were confronted by Mr Jayashankar, a local leader of the Hindu Front Party, who threatened them, saying that neither Christians nor churches were welcome in the area. He then falsely accused the youth of picking a fight with him and lodged a complaint against them at the Niravi Police Station.
When Pastor Robinson heard of the incident, he approached the police to make a complaint, but was instead sent on a futile quest to seek permission from various local authorities to construct the church. After several failed attempts to get clarification on the position of the church construction, the Superintendent of Police gave oral permission for the church construction work to continue.
Following the incident on 2 August, Pastor Robinson lodged a complaint at the Niravi Police Station, which a local source has told CSW led to the arrest of 42 members of the RSS and Hindu Munani, including Mr Jayashankar. On the same day, the RSS and Hindu Munani lodged a counter-complaint against the church at the Niravi Police Station and copied the District Collector, demanding the church be refused permission to construct a church building and conduct prayers.
According to Mr Thomas Zechariah, Synod of Pentecostal Churches (SPC) Regional Director Legislation & Regulation Department, told CSW: “Investigations are on the way. The Hindutva ideology has been steadily making in-roads into south India, including Puducherry. In the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu nearly 85% of churches are not given permission to construct churches because of pressures from state political parties, which are closely linked with the central government. Nationalist groups with Hindutva agendas in Tamil Nadu, are using intimidation techniques to force religious minorities to cave in. Churches face resistance when they wish to build or renovate places of worship, even when it is on their own land. This case will be the first of many cases to emerge in Puducherry, if the harassment and intimidations is not dealt with promptly and thoroughly. If nationalist elements are operating in neighbouring Tamil Nadu, Puducherry is there for the taking.”
CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said: “We urge the authorities in
Karaikal Distict to uphold the rule of law and ensure that justice is done by
not yielding to the demands of the RSS and Hindu Munani, who are set on
stripping religious minorities of their freedom of religion or belief.
Christians in Karaikal District should be allowed to freely practice and
profess their faith, as should all religious minorities in India, without fear
of harassment and discrimination.”