A group of Hindu fundamentalists attacked the Christian bookstall at the World Book Fair in Pragati Maidan, New Delhi, India on March 01, alleging distribution of free Bibles to the people.
The Hindutva group targeted a stall of Gideons International, a Protestant Christian non-profit organization.
The report states that around 2.15 PM, the stall was surrounded by people wearing tikkas (religious symbol) on forehead on their foreheads and saffron scarves. In addition to displaying spiritual books at the fair, the booth displayed posters advertising free copies of religious texts, including the Bible.
It is reported that around 50 people surrounded the bookstall, chanting 'Jai Shree Ram' slogans, and accusing Christians of luring the poor Hindus and forcing them into religious conversions.
The group "ripped the posters" and grabbed copies of the New Testament: Psalms and Proverbs.
A group attacked them and tore copies of the Holy Bible, shouting, "Free Bible bandh karo, dharam parivartan bandh karo" (Stop distributing free copies of the Bible, stop religious conversion), along with 'Jai Shree Ram' [hailing Lord Ram] and 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai' [hailing Mother India].
The man leading the vandalism group identified himself as Mahindri Panchandham, a self-proclaimed member of Unite Hindu organization. Despite the fact that some in the audience reminded Panchandham that the Indian Constitution describes the country as a democratic nation where one can follow free will, he shouted back, saying, “Democracy allows us to preach religion, but it does not allow us to lure poor Hindus and convert them.”
The New Delhi World Book Fair began on February 25 and ended on March 5, and was organised by the state-run National Book Trust and supported by the India Trade Promotion Organization, which promotes the country's external trade.
Dr. Rajkumar Ranjan Singh, India's Minister of State for Education, opened the nine-day mega event, which features 30 countries and over 1,000 publishers and exhibitors.
Volunteer David Philip said the group shouted, "Jai Shri Ram" and "Bharat Mata ki Jai," and seated themselves forcefully around the stall for 20 to 25 minutes without moving. Additionally, they recited the Hanuman Chalisa while shouting at those in charge.
Some stalls at the Delhi Book Fair are run by Hindu, Muslim, and Sikh groups, and some distribute free copies of religious books to passers-by. This is just one of many religious organizations stalls at the event. - Anbu Selvam
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