Tension mounts in Nowshera after attacks by right wing groups over Christian conversions

A number of Christian families in Sayal village of the border town of Nowshera are facing nightmarish situation after allegations of attacks by right wing groups on them over the conversion of Hindus into Christianity.
Earlier a church, some shops and a tractor were set on fire by a right wing mob on January 15 after a woman died under “suspicious” circumstances.
The allegation of conversion of Hindu families into Christianity and their reconversion to Hinduism has triggered unprecedented tension in Rajouri and Poonch districts.
The woman Seema Devi, who died in Jalandhar, had married to a local boy Rinku Kumar of Sayal (Nowshera) and the couple was living happily before the woman developed some problem in Punjab where her husband used to work as a labourer. Later she died there. Her body was brought to the Sayal for last rites, but the saffron brigade alleged that the woman was murdered and was forced to convert to Christianity. The allegations were however refuted by the woman’s in-laws.
Eyewitnesses told Kashmir Post that the members of the saffron brigade torched a church, a tractor, and shops outside a house of Christian family. Recalling the horrible day on January 15, Kala Ram, who had converted to Christianity from Hinduism years back, told Kashmir Post, “When the body of Seema Devi reached the village a mob pelted stones at the police and then burnt down the church and some shops.”
He said that after the attack, the “women and children locked themselves within four walls.” “Fortunately, they were not hurt,” he said.
Sensing trouble, he recalled, the police took body of Seema Devi into its custody and shifted it to the hospital for legal formalities and post mortem. Four male members of Christian families namely Baldev Raj, Kala Ram, Chaman Lal and Ashok Kumar were kept in Nowshera police station for security reasons after “tension flared up in the village.”
“We were set free in the evening from the police station. When we reached the village, we were terrified to see the burnt church, tractor, a motorbike, one grinding machine, and two shops,” Ram said, pointing towards the burnt shops.
Standing outside the shops, Ram said, “The villagers have boycotted us. They don’t invite us to marriages and other social events. Fortunately, the shopkeepers have not denied selling us goods. Administration has also provided us police security but we continue to live in fear after the attack.”
“I have not allowed my sister Priya Kumari to attend her school out of fear. She had to skip her board examinations for class 12 because we have apprehensions that locals may abduct her to take revenge from us,” said Ram.
He further said, “No one talks to us in the village. We have heard around 40 families have been re-converted back to Hinduism from Christianity.”
However, Ram’s claim of re-conversion to Hinduism from Christianity has been turned down by the Deputy Commissioner, Rajouri, Dr Shahid Choudhary and SSP Rajouri Yougal Manhas.
Talking to Kashmir Post, SSP Rajouri, Yougal Manhas, said that the police had arrested two people after violence in Sayal village of Nowshera and both of them have been bailed out.
“The post mortem report of the deceased woman is yet to come. However, there is no injury mark on the body of the deceased woman. She died in Jalandhar (Punjab),” he informed.
Deputy Commissioner, Rajouri, Shahid Choudhary, while speaking to local media, informed that there was no re-conversion of Christian families and the victims have been provided police protection to “avoid such incidents in future.”
Speaking to Kashmir Post , Bajrang Dal leader from Rajouri, Karan Thakur, said, “The deceased woman was being allegedly forced to convert to which she resisted. They (Christians) have allegedly murdered her.”
“The couple had married as per Hindu customs and later, the boy converted and also forced his wife to do so to which she declined and hence, she was allegedly murdered,” he further claimed.
When asked whether they have re-converted Christian families who had converted from Hinduism, Karan said that they have re-converted around 100 families in twin border district of Poonch-Rajouri.