Indian Pastor Threatened with Repeat of Orissa Violence

"The situation here is very tense," says a pastor in the northern India state of Jammu and Kashmir, who claims that the "highest police officials of Jammu" arrested him and harassed him for conducting Bible classes for the locals.

Pastor A.M. Samuel of Maranatha Ministries International, says the local authorities in the northern state arrested him on allegations of "converting people," eventually leading to his detention and constant "police harassment" in the Central Jail.

"They ordered me to leave Jammu and go to Kerala or otherwise people will burn me alive. They threatened that the incidents of Orissa – Kandhamal – will be repeated here aggressively," he said.

Last August, anti-Christian violence broke out in the eastern Indian state Orissa after the murder of a Hindu fundamentalist leader despite Maoists claiming responsibility for the murder. More than 60 Christians have been killed; 18,000, wounded; 181 churches, razed or destroyed; 4,500 Christian homes, burned; and more than 50,000 Christians, displaced.

On May 4, after the Jammu and Kashmir pastor was released on bail, police under a different jurisdiction arrested him again on new charges. This time he was arrested for allegedly defaming other religions, a claim the pastor denied.

"The ASI told our people that no matter how many times they would apply for bail, they would again arrest him," his website reported.

Furthermore, "in the prison, they mentally tortured him a lot, they tonsured (shaved unevenly) his head, made him sweep the floors time and again. They did not allow him to sleep."

The pastor's health is said to have deteriorated during his detention. The case hearing is scheduled for the May 25.