Hindu leader arrested in Indian church attacks
rahul | September 20, 2008 at 09:20 amby
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2008-09-20 09:59:02 - NEW DELHI (AP) - Police in southern India have arrested a senior leader of a right-wing Hindu group in connection with attacks on Christian churches and prayer halls last weekend, an official said Saturday. Mahendra Kumar, a state convener of the radical Bajrang Dal group in Karnataka state, was arrested late Friday night, according to A.M. Prasad, a senior local police official.
«He's part of the investigation of the attacks on Christian places of worship,» Prasad said. Right-wing Hindu mobs mainly linked with Bajrang Dal attacked at least 20 churches and prayer halls in the Mangalore, Chikmaglur and Udupi districts of Karnataka state on Sept. 14, alleging that some churches had circulated literature defaming the Hindu religion, Prasad said. The attackers stoned the buildings, broke windows and furniture and in one place set fire to a car belonging to a pastor, Prasad said. At least 34 people, including five police, were injured in the violence, he said. Police also have arrested 77 other people, most of them members of Bajrang Dal, in connection with the attacks, Prasad said.
The violence in Karnataka followed weeks of Hindu-Christian violence in the eastern state of Orissa.
Orissa has been plagued by religious tensions between Christian missionaries, who work with mostly poor tribes in the region, and hard-line Hindu groups who claim the Christians are forcing or bribing people to convert. Churches deny anyone has been pressured or paid to change their religious beliefs. Christians account for about 2.5 percent of India's 1.1 billion population. The recent violence in Orissa started on Aug. 24 following the killing of Hindu religious leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati in Kandhamal district. At the time, police blamed Maoist rebels active in the area for the killings, but right-wing Hindu groups blamed local Christians and set fire to a Christian orphanage. The violence then spread to include mob attacks on churches, shops and homes. The death toll from more than three weeks of violence has risen to 25. Thousands of police and paramilitary troops have been deployed in Kandhamal since the violence broke out and the area continues to be under an overnight curfew. About 20,000 people have been forced to flee their homes and move to 14 government relief camps in safer areas, according to state officials.
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