Chennai: At least three Christian prayer halls have been vandalised and preachers allegedly abused, threatened and beaten up in Tamil Nadu's Madurai district since Sunday.
Christian groups say a prayer hall called Vaanathin Vaasal (Gates to Sky) at Madurai's Sikkander Savadi was attacked at 9 am on Sunday when the prayer meeting was on.
Pastor Ravi Jacob, 41, said, "A group of around 30 people led by one Thangam Venkatesh ransacked the prayer hall. They also burnt our bibles and song books, destroyed our musical instruments and other items."
"He attempted to strip my wife and threatened to parade her naked. They pushed her down. He twisted my arm and threatened to kill my family if I don't close the prayer hall," he added.
A video that NDTV can't verify shows the accused, Venkatesh, abusing the couple and warning them of dire consequences. He tells the pastor, "I'm from Hindu Munnani. Gracefully go away. If you don't go we'd make you run and slap you with slippers in public. Are you a born Christian? Were you born at Bethlehem or Vatican? I'd make you a proclaimed accused."
"They filmed and released all their abuses at us but they did not record the ransacking and assault" said Ravi Jacob, denying allegations of conversion. He said, "We offer free tuition to children. We pray for others."
Madurai District Police has registered a complaint against 50 unknown people for burning the Bible, abusing and attempting to strip a woman. "We had given the names clearly and even shown them the video but the police did not record it," the pastor said.
Madurai Superintendent of Police N Manivannan did not take calls when NDTV tried to contact him.
Two other similar prayer halls too under Madurai City Police's limits were allegedly targeted by the same group. However, no police case has been filed yet.
Madurai Police Commissioner Mahesh Kumar Aggarwal told NDTV, "Yes some people have gone there and wanted them closed saying they don't have approval. We've registered their petition and are investigating."
MDMK Chief Vaiko who visited the prayer hall and held talks with the community has slammed the police.
"I accuse this government of abetting fanatic attempts to convert this country into a Hindu country by killing people of other religions. In the FIR why do you say unidentified people? The entire world has seen their faces and their acts of threatening, scolding and burning The Bible. This is so dangerous. Tamil Nadu has not seen communal clashes when there was bloodbath in the north," he said.