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Mob attacks Christians for playing hymns

Religious tensions grow in Maharashtra

Ritu Sharma, New Delhi

January 16, 2013

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Police have opened cases against eight women for alleged rioting after attacking tribal Christians in a western Indian town.

A mob of some 200 women allegedly assaulted the Christians on Monday for playing hymns and gospel music on a mobile phone in the village of Manor, in Maharashtra state’s Palghar district.

The assault follows an attack on December 30 in which Christians were assaulted while praying in a house church in the village. Christians were also subjected to a recent boycott in which Hindus refused them access to water and other necessities.

“An investigation into the attack is ongoing,” said Inspector Vijay Pawar, who is probing the incident.

No one has been arrested yet in the case, he said on Wednesday.

Activists say there is currently a high degree of anti-Christian sentiment in Palghar district.

“There is much animosity in the area. The place is a strong breeding ground for anti-Christian groups,” Joseph Dias, president of the Catholic Secular Forum, told on Wednesday.

Dias, a rights activist who campaigns for tribal Christians, said the Christian community fears more attacks will take place in the run-up to state elections next year.

“Hindu fundamentalists want to consolidate the Hindutva vote. That might be the motive behind these moves against Christians,” he added.

He said his organization has started training volunteers to help Christians file police complaints in case of persecution.

Local media reports say the tensions began after Christians stopped attending and contributing towards traditional tribal rituals and festivals in the village.

Christians say tension has been building in the region over the last two years, and has been largely ignored by the police.

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