Relaymedia

Tonsured Indian Christians Return Home

( [email protected] ) Sep 04, 2004 03:04 PM EDT

A group of 28 Christians returned to Kilipal village in Orissa after fleeing from home for six months due to an incident in February 10, when Pastor Subas Samal and eight woman were dragged out of their homes and forcefully tonsured, a practice of shaving the head bare as a mark of affliction to Hinduism.

Upon returning home, the police spokesman told the Indo-Asian News Service that police forces are deployed in the village to prevent further religious clashes within the vicinity.

Christians lodged a complaint against 35 Hindu villager after the attack which lead to 6 Hindus arrested on May 3rd. But proceeding in February 16th, Babajee Das who represents the Hindu villagers of Kilipal, lodged a complaint stating that their ministry has forcefully converted 25 Dalit villagers in a span of ten years. Eventually, a search warrant was issued against Samal and his family and on May 29 Samal and his wife Kandi were charged under the “Orissa Freedom of Religion Act,” the state anti-conversion law, and the “Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes Prevention of Atrocities Act,” and sections of the Penal Code. Two of them from the group were released on July 14th from bail after the decision of the Christians to return home. The Church of Mount Zion provided the accommodations for the tonsure victims and their families.

Reverend Sonathan Mohanty, who took care of the group, commented that “victims made the decision to go back to their village only after the police assured their protection.”

“Initially the other villagers boycotted the Christian families by refusing to let them draw water from the public well,” he added. “Later they allowed the Christians access to the well, seemingly because of the police presence. But the villagers are still not willing to give employment to any member of the Christian families.” The employment may end up to be an ongoing problem.

Yet for Samal and other Christians, there was a desire to extend the hand of fellowship to their fellow villagers and to settle the case outside the court. But dealing with the villagers, despite the peace that was brought forth to the village, some concerns were noted by observers that fundamentalism maybe active in the organization.

“Some villagers have warned me that the fundamentalists have targeted me because I’m helping the Christians,” Mohanty confirmed. “They’re also targeting Rasul Kumar Das, who was the first person to convert to Christianity in the village; and Gaurangan Das, in whose house the church meets every week.” Yet the church was able to survive through all the hardships despite persecution.

The state of Orissa has been reported with frequent outbreaks again Christianity, and is notably marked by the murder of the Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two sons Philip and Timothy in January 1999.