Indian Christians Report 'Peculiar' Police Behavior

Police in India responsible for protecting Christians against the onslaught of Hindu-led attacks are reportedly neglecting their duties or turning a blind eye to the violence, an Indian Christian group reported.

Thousands of central and state law enforcement troops have been deployed to squelch the violence in the eastern state of Orissa, but to not much effect. The Orissa anti-Christian violence continues unabated for the seventh week, with most of the victims being Dalits, formerly known as untouchables.

"The events of the last month, not only the attacks but the negligence of government, would be sad if it happened in a dictatorship or a totalitarian regime," said Dr. Joseph D'souza, president of the All India Christian Council, on Saturday. "The fact that it's happening in the world's largest democracy makes it infinitely sadder."

Some police, mostly in rural areas, are ignoring cases of attacks against Christians, AICC reported.

In Kanjemandi village, Orissa state, a Roman Catholic nun was raped amid mob violence on Aug. 25, according to AICC. A medical examination of the nun conducted that night confirmed the rape. Both the nun and a priest, who tried to defend her and was severely beaten, tried to file cases at the local police station, but was rejected.

After persistent efforts, the report was accepted at another police station but was not investigated until 38 days following the attacks. Even with numerous eye witnesses, the police did not make any arrest until last Friday.

"We demand that the officials in Orissa follow the law," stated the Rev. Madhu Chandra, AICC regional secretary. "We know multiple cases where Christians have tried to file cases with police after being attacked and the police turned them away."

"Police say they are overwhelmed and don't have time to file cases or investigate since they must focus on maintaining order," he said. "But surely they realize that, unless crimes are promptly punished, the perpetrators are indirectly encouraged to continue their crimes. Justice is being denied to hundreds of victims."

There is still no news about a second rape case involving a young nun of the Cuttack-Bhubaneswar Roman Catholic diocese near Nuagaon. The nun was reportedly gang raped by mobs on Aug. 24.

Besides ignoring reports filed by Christians, police were also reportedly coming to churches before violence breaks out to warn the pastors to be careful. But when the violence actually occurred, the police were missing. Then within a few minutes after the violence, they would appear as if they were waiting somewhere nearby.

"A most peculiar aspect of the entire episode from the time of the violence has been the role of the police," noted AICC's secretary general Dr. John Dayal in a statement issued on Sunday.

"At each church, they forced the pastor and his associates to clean up the damage, remove broken glass and furniture before the press, sometimes accompanying them, was allowed to take pictures," Dayal reported.

"In one case, attempts were made to wipe out all evidence of attempted arson," he added.

Violence broke out in Orissa state in late August after Hindu radicals blamed Christians for the death of a controversial swami. Although Christians have denied involvement and Maoist rebels have publicly claimed responsibility, Hindu militants continue to accuse Christians for the murder.

Since August, anti-Christian violence has spread to at least ten other states and resulted in the deaths of dozens of Christians and the destruction of hundreds of Christian-owned homes, businesses and churches.

"The death tolls are climbing, but less than a hundred are confirmed," Chandra said. "Perhaps this is why the Orissa attacks haven't gained international attention the worst violation of the freedom of religion in any democracy in recent history."

"The attackers believe India is only for Hindus and their stated purpose is to convert people to Hinduism or force them to leave," he continued. "To accomplish this, they only need to kill one or two people in each village or church. This is clearly terrorism and ethnic cleansing, but few Indian leaders are admitting it."

Christians and human rights advocates have held peace rallies in the United States and India to demand an end to the violence. In New Delhi last week, more than 15,000 people, including politicians, marched on the streets to protest the violence against Christians. The march coincided with the 139th birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, who was famous for his non-violent civil disobedience.