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Hindu hardliners target Christian stall at India’s top book fair

Hardliners vandalize Gideons International stall, at New Delhi World Book Fair over free Bibles
The Gideons International stall at the New Delhi World Book Fair

The Gideons International stall at the New Delhi World Book Fair. (Photo: Bijay Kumar Minj/UCA News)

Published: March 03, 2023 06:06 AM GMT
Updated: March 06, 2023 05:35 AM GMT

A group of Hindu hardliners allegedly vandalized a Christian book stall at the prestigious New Delhi World Book Fair in India’s capital, objecting to the distribution of copies of the Holy Bible. 

The stall, run by The Gideons International in India, a Protestant Christian non-profit organization, was targeted on March 1 at the 31st edition of the book fair, considered a major calendar event in the publishing world.

“All of a sudden, around 40 men came, wearing saffron scarves and a tilak [an ornamental spot worn on the forehead mainly by Hindus] and began shouting: ‘Free Bible bandh karo, dharam parivartan bandh karo [stop distributing free copies of the Bible, stop religious conversion]. Jai Shree Ram [hail Lord Ram]’,” David Philip, a member of The Gideons International in India, told UCA News on March. 2.

“One of them pushed me and I fell down on a chair. Some of them even picked up the Holy Bible and threatened my colleague and me to stop the free distribution of the copies,” he said.

“For the past 10 years, we have been attending the book fair in New Delhi and there were no such problems. It was shocking and we still feel a sense of fear in our minds but pray that the event may pass peacefully,” Philip added.

The New Delhi World Book Fair, organised by the state-run National Book Trust and supported by the India Trade Promotion Organization, an agency under the Ministry of Commerce tasked with promoting the country's external trade, started on Feb. 25 in New Delhi and ends on March 5. The nine-day mega event, in which 30 countries and over 1,000 publishers and exhibitors are taking part, was opened by India’s Minister of State for Education Dr. Rajkumar Ranjan Singh.

Philip said that there were different spiritual and religious book stalls, but only The Gideons International, an evangelical association of Christian professionals, was targeted. 

Like other spiritual books stalls at the fair, we also had posters that said “Free Holy Bible” which were damaged by the protesters. They accused us of converting people, he said. 

Later, police arrived and asked us to file a complaint. However, as directed by our head office, we did not follow it up, Philip said. 

Pastor Ashok Mashih, who runs a Christian book stall at the fair, told UCA News that the protesters also came to his shop and warned him against selling or distributing the Bible.

They accused us of converting poor Hindu families, Mashih said.

Pandit Ram Prasad, who runs a Hindu spiritual book stall, said, “Whatever has happened is unfortunate. It gives the wrong message to the world. Hope the administration takes notice of it.”

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