The Conversion Agenda

"Freedom to convert" is counterproductive as a generalized doctrine. It fails to come to terms with the complex interrelationships between self and society that make the concept of individual choice meaningful. Hence, religious conversion undermines, and in extremes would dissolve, that individual autonomy and human freedom.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Christian Terrorists Kill 44, Wound 118 in Attacks in Northeast India

GUWAHATI, India (AFP)

Some 44 people were killed and 118 wounded in three nearly simultaneous bomb blasts Saturday morning in Dimapur, Nagaland's commercial hub, in what a top official called the "worst ever terrorist strike" in the tiny state's history.

Gunmen in neighbouring Assam state later killed 15 villagers and injured a dozen more, police said.

"There were limbs everywhere and blood was splattered all over," said student leader T. Zheviho who was at crowded Dimapur railway station where one bomb exploded as passengers awaited a train.

Two other bombs went off in the Hong Kong market, which sells Chinese goods, and an adjacent market.

"I had a miraculous escape," Zheviho told AFP by telephone from Dimapur, 70 kilometers (45 miles) east of Nagaland capital Kohima.

Police said the plastic explosive RDX appeared to have been used in the railway blast that created a huge crater beside a platform.

"We found a briefcase with fuse wires... it contained RDX and a timer-device," V. Peseyie, Dimapur additional police chief, said.

Seventeen more people were killed in a wave of attacks in neighbouring Assam, police said.

Unidentified attackers raked shoppers with gunfire at a marketplace in Makri Jhora village, 290 kilometres (180 miles) west of Assam's main city of Guwahati, killing 11 and injuring about a dozen, police said.

The same gunmen later shot dead four more villagers in a nearby forest, police superintendent L. R. Bishnoi told AFP. Two more people were killed and 10 injured in two blasts in the Assamese district of Bongaingaon, 220 kilometres (136 miles) from Guwahati, Bishnoi said.

One person was killed and seven wounded in an earlier bomb blast in Assam.

Police also reported two other bombings in a village on the outskirts of Guwahati in which four people were injured.

There were no immediate claims of responsibility for the day of bloodshed in the insurgency-infested northeast where some 30 guerrilla groups are battling for greater autonomy or independence.

The attacks occurred as India marked the 135th anniversary of the birth of Mahatma Gandhi who waged a campaign of non-violence to free the country from British rule.

"It is distressing such violence broke out on the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi," Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in the capital New Delhi.

Nagaland's ill-equipped hospitals battled to treat the wounded.

"Many have multiple face and abdomen wounds. They're in a state of trauma. We're trying to cope. We've never had such a devastating emergency," said doctor T. Lotha at a private hospital in Dimapur treating blast victims.

Nagaland Chief Minister Neibhiu Rio said at least 26 people were killed in the Dimapur blasts and another 86 were in hospital. "The death toll may go up as many are in a very critical condition," he said.

"This is the worst ever terrorist strike in Nagaland. People are still dealing with the shock -- they're not yet thinking about who to blame."

Mourners crowded churches across Nagaland, which is mostly Christian, to pray for the victims.

The blasts were the second major burst of violence in the northeast since mid-August. Fifteen people, many of them children, were killed in a rebel attack on an Independence Day parade in Assam August 15 for which the United Liberation Front of Asom claimed responsibility.

The armed insurgency in Nagaland began soon after much of the local population converted to Christianity. Many militant groups, seeking to secede from India to form an independent Christian state, are funded and armed by the Southern Baptist Church. Some of the groups such as the National Liberation Front of Tripura have been involved in a campaign of “gunpoint conversions” and “ethnic cleansing” of native non-Christians, which has left over 50,000 dead and many more refugees over the past two decades.

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