S. Stanley, 58, a Christian house owner and a retired government employee was brutally stabbed to death in his house in the presence of his wife by three unidentified youth, February 10, at Kalliyoor, near Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala.
"We tend to think that our houses is the safest place and we do not have to be afraid, but it is hard for us when we know being killed by others at our own house is a great tragedy," Stanley wife said, recounting the murder.
Lalu, 30, who is the son of V. Soman a retired police constable, and the other named Akhil, 30 living in a neighbouring house, have been named as main accused.
According to Sisilet Bai, on February 10, while they were taking rest after having lunch, Lalu, Akhil and another youth who she could not identify, stood in front of their house and started abusing them and banging on the gate with full force and anger.
Realizing that all three youth were drunk, Stanley approached them and requested them to leave. However, this appeared to infuriate them more as they became more violent and abusive.
Being unable to tolerate their behaviour any further, Stanley retreated into his house to call the police over the phone. However, before he could do so, Lalu ran after him and repeatedly stabbed him in the back, neck and stomach with a huge cleaver till he collapsed on the ground bleeding to death.
Horrified by the situation, Stanley's wife appealed to them saying, "Child, what enmity do we have with each other? Why do you want to kill us?" However, blinded by anger and hatred, Lalu and his friends continued on hacking at Stanley with the cleaver and also thrashed his wife.
Jeyakumar, Stanley's son–in– law recalled that both Lalu and Akhil are professional ruffians and suspected a religious angle behind the attack.
"There could be extremists behind the murder of my father–in–law, as we had no problems with the three youths or their families," Global Council of indian Christians (GCIC) quoted Jeyakumar as saying.
"It seems the cutting knife is strong and purposely made for the murder," Vincent, Stanley's another son–in–law added.
"Where Stanley was martyred has traditionally been an area of India that has seen less persecution. The fact that something like this is happening is further evidence of the worsening climate for Christians in India," a source close to the development said.
When the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) contacted the local police station, they were informed that an FIR (First Information Report) has been lodged against the attackers by Stanley's sister, Ms. Shireen Nelson under sections 302 and 34 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
Investigations are still going on. No cause has been established for the murder yet.
Stanley is survived by his wife, daughters Sherin and Celine and sons–in–law Jeyakumar and Vincent.
In spite of being a secular democratic nation, India has witnessed several persecutions of minority communities in the past. A number of organizations that monitor the level of Christian persecution worldwide have consistently ranked India as among those nations where violation of freedom of religion is a significant concern.
Several states in India have passed anti–conversion laws, which ban anyone from changing religious beliefs through "force, fraud or allurement." These draconian laws are perceived as being targeted at Christians and hinder their socio–religious work.
Even government reports within India have documented the frequent harassment and persecutions of minority Christians by Hindu extremists, who have falsified complaints to have Christians arrested.
Sometimes the Hindu radicals have even destroyed the homes of Christian families. Violent attacks have often led to Christians being seriously injured or even dead.
Though Christian and human rights advocacy groups have claimed that over 500 incidents of attacks take place every year, yet, it is difficult to document the exact figure as in many cases, the local police either have participated in the attacks or have simply refused to take the reports of the attacks.
According to the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA), more than 200 million Christians in at least 60 nations including India are routinely denied fundamental human rights solely because of their faith.
Stanley and his family are active members of Devasahayam Memorial C.S.I. (Church of South India) Church, Kalliyoor. The entire congregation and their vicar Rev.Christudas are shocked at his brutal murder and expressed their condolence.
Christian murdered in Kerala
Published 14 February 2007 | Jacob Chaterjee