Rediff.com (India), Jan. 17, 2003
January 17, 2003 21:43 IST
Three days after suspected activists of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in Kerala attacked American missionary Joseph W Cooper, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad on Friday demanded his arrest.
As Cooper — who was attacked with iron rods, swords and crowbars when he was returning after attending a Bible convention — continued to be treated at the Kerala Institute of Medical Sciences in Thiruvananthapuram, the VHP’s state unit alleged that the missionary carried out religious propaganda in violation of Indian laws.
VHP state organising secretary Kummanam Rajasekharan told rediff.com that Cooper and his team of evangelists were trying to convert residents of a scheduled caste colony in Kilimanur village outside Thiruvananthapuram.
“The US missionary was not entitled to hold evangelisation programmes on a visiting visa to India,” he said.
He said the VHP would submit a memorandum to the government requesting the missionary’s arrest.
“As per the Foreigners Act of 1956, citizens of other countries visiting India should not engage in religious preaching. They are only supposed to go sightseeing and visiting relatives,” the VHP leader said.
But Church leaders deplored the VHP’s stand. “The attack on Cooper was an unfortunate incident. But sadly… violent elements have been emboldened by the rhetoric of certain fundamentalist leaders of Hindutva, who spread hatred against minorities,” Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil, who heads Kerala’s largest Syro Malabar Church, told rediff.com
As for the VHP’s demand for arresting Cooper, the cardinal said, “A section of the people are trying to add insult to injury.”
He also asked all the church groups in the country to be sensitive to the religious feelings of others while professing Christian faith.
Police on Friday arrested five more persons, all said to be RSS workers, in connection with the attack, sources said.
The five — Baiju, Deepu, Shile, Binu Kumar and Manesh — were remanded to judicial custody by the first class judicial magistrate at Attingal in Thiruvananthapuram district. Four were arrested earlier.
The police also took a statement from Cooper, who suffered a deep cut on the right palm, about the incident.
A pastor, Benson Sam, who was injured in the attack was discharged.
The RSS denied any involvement in the attack.
“It has become customary for a section of the media to drag the name of RSS whenever such incidents occur, as was evident from Jhabua nuns rape case, or missionary Graham Staines’ murder in Orissa,” joint general secretary of the RSS, Madandas Devi, said in a statement in New Delhi.
“I will refrain from giving the details of the undesirable proselytising activities of some of the Christian churches, as also the dubious antecedents and the character of the family that was targeted in Kilimanur,” he added.