Updated: October 26, 2014 09:38 PM GMT
Twelve Christian villagers were injured in central India’s Chhattisgarh state after they were attacked by Hindu fundamentalists, according to a Christian activist.
The villagers were part of a group of 40 Christians who had gathered on Saturday for what was supposed to be a mediation meeting to resolve tensions with members of the local Hindu community in the state’s Bastar district. District officials and local police had called on members from both communities to reconcile their differences after months of discord between the two sides.
However, Christian villagers arrived to find nobody there from the district administration or their counterparts in the Hindu community, according to Arun Pannalal, president of the Chhattisgarh Christian Forum. Instead, he said, 50 Hindu fundamentalists armed with swords, sticks and axes showed up on a truck and started attacking the Christians, who they accused of engaging in forced conversions.
“The attack happened without any provocation,” Pannalal said. “Christians had gathered for the meeting, which never happened and instead they were attacked.”
However, district officials insist the attack was not part of any ongoing religious tensions, but a personal dispute.
“This incident is not related to any kind of religious thing happening in the village,” Ankit Anand, district collector of Bastar district, told ucanews.com. “It was due to some personal issues between the two groups. The concerned authorities have spoken with both groups and now there is no reason for the tension to escalate in the area.”
Anand said local police have filed cases against 15 people in connection with the attack.
Pannalal said four Hindu fundamentalists were arrested Sunday and Monday, though ucanews.com was unable to confirm this with police.
Pannalal, however, believes the attack was clearly part of escalating religious tensions between the two communities. In June, 50 villages in the district passed resolutions outlawing non-Hindu religious ceremonies. Pannalal is petitioning the state’s high court to overturn the ban.