Evidence Concocted in Hindu Murder Case, Christians Retort

( [email protected] ) Oct 15, 2008 05:05 AM EDT

Circulating documents that implicate Christians planned the murder of a Swami are forged, declared Indian Christian leaders.

The Hindu Jagaran Samukhya (Society for Revival of Hinduism) spread “evidence” that accused 17 people of plotting the murder of Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati during a meeting at Bethikala Church on May 25, reported the Press Trust of India news agency last week. Saraswati was killed on Aug. 23.

But Indian police have publicly said that Maoist rebels are behind the death, and even the Maoists themselves have claimed responsibility for the murder. Last week the police in the eastern state of Orissa confirmed that Maoists killed the Hindu leader, after which the alleged documents started to circulate, blaming a local church for the murder.

“We will file both civil and criminal defamation cases against the person who made such allegations,” said Father Joseph Kalathil from the Catholic Archbishop House in Bhubaneswar and the Rev. Fr. Prafulla Ku Sabhapati, president of the Bethikala Parish Council of Kandhamal, according to Compass News. “Not only our signatures were forged, the contents of the documents were also fabricated.”

A day after Orissa state police made the Oct. 6 announcement that Maoists killed Saraswati, the Orissa leader of the outlaw Communist Party of India-Maoists went on a TV news station and confirmed that his organization was behind the murder, according to Compass.

Sabyasachi Panda said Maoists killed the Swami because he was a key figure in the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council). The VHP used non-tribal traders’ money to build a VHP youth action arm and ran a smear campaign against Christians, that falsely accused them of forced conversions and killing cows, considered holy by Hindus, he added.

“This forced us to attack him,” Panda said. “We left two letters claiming responsibility for the murders. But the [Chief Minister Naveen] Patnaik government suppressed those letters. It is a BJP (Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party) government; they will support the VHP. The state government made it look like Christian groups were responsible for the attack. The Christian community in Orissa does not have any Maoist organization supporting them here.”

Also recently, Orissa police arrested three tribal Christians for suspected involvement in the murder. They reportedly confessed their involvement.

But a representative of the Christian Legal Association said according to sources, the police had tortured the three Christians into confessing a crime they did not commit.

The murder of the fundamentalist Hindu leader has led to an outbreak of anti-Christian violence across the country – the worst seen in India’s 60 years of independence.

More than 60 people have been killed, over 18,000 injured, about 4,500 houses and churches destroyed, and more than 50,000 people are homeless, according to All India Christian Council.

The violence, which shows no signs of letting up, is heading towards its two month mark.

In an interview with Zee News channel on Oct. 5, VHP president Ashok Singhal said what the Hindu organizations, such as VHP, the Bajrang Dal and the RSS, are doing in Orissa “is all legal and is the reaction of the murder of VHP leader Saraswati, who was like Jesus Christ to us.”

Singhal, in another interview with The Week magazine, said a “Hindu uprising” had begun, and that Hindu youth are “ready to die and, if necessary, to kill.”

Meanwhile, a leader of the Bajrang Dal in the southern state of Karnataka admitted to supporting attacks on churches in an interview with The Week magazine.

“We supported those who attacked the churches, as it is a justified fight,” Bajrang Dal convener Mahendra Kumar said.

About 2.5 percent of India’s 1.1 billion population is Christian. More than 80 percent are Hindu. The country is officially secular.