Updated: October 27, 2013 09:54 PM GMT
Five suspected Hindu extremists have been arrested for attacking a pastor and church workers in the northern outskirts of Mumbai, police said on Monday.
Pastor Ajay Kasbe and others were allegedly attacked on Sunday at their Assembly of God Christian Faith Center in Kalwa, western Maharashtra state, the second attack on the prayer hall this month.
The accused have been charged with hurting religious sentiments, assault, rioting and unlawful assembly, Kalwa police officer Praveen Bhusare said.
“They attacked us, accusing us of illegal conversions,” Pastor Kasbe said. “They punched and kicked us.”
Men believed to belong to the same group reportedly attacked Christian worshippers at the center on October 6, leaving another pastor, Anuj Raj, seriously injured.
In response, police provided two constables as security on the following Sundays but Joseph Dias, the head of rights group Catholic Secular Forum, said this had proven inadequate.
“Taking advantage of this, these fundamentalists attacked the pastor and church workers again yesterday and the two policemen could do nothing but watch,” he said.
The mob then took the pastor to the police station and asked police to file a case of forced conversions against him but police responded by arresting the complainants after they had been informed of recent persecution by community leaders.
Dias said that the attacks signaled a wider problem of Hindu groups targeting religious minorities ahead of the Indian general election next year.
He called upon the interior ministry to provide protection to Christians in prayer halls across Maharashtra.
“This is an attempt to polarize voters on communal lines,” Dias said.
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