India: Mastermind in pastor attack case arrested


JAIPUR: May 6, 2007. Police on Sunday arrested a local Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) office-bearer, Virendra Singh Ravana, and his associate Ramavtar Saini on charges of assaulting a pastor here this past week.

Seven people arrested earlier in the case had admitted that the brutal attack was carried out at Virendra`s behest. Virendra, stated to be the mastermind behind the attack, is VHP`s Organising Secretary for Jaipur city. He is also an employee of the Employees` State Insurance (ESI) Hospital, from where he has since been suspended. Police sources said Virendra was arrested at Bagru town and Ramavtar at Kotputli, near here, following raids at their hideouts. Though Virendra`s credentials are well-known, police were still reluctant to link the pastor`s assault with the VHP. A group of about 20 masked youths stormed into Pastor Walter Masih`s house in Nandpuri locality here on April 29 and thrashed him mercilessly with lathis while claiming that he was trying to convert people in the nearby Bhojpura slum colony to Christianity. The pastor was seriously injured in the incident. The two accused were produced in a Judicial Magistrate`s court, which remanded them to police custody till May 8. With these arrests, the number of those held in the case has gone up to nine. Five of the accused arrested on April 30 are in judicial custody till May 15. Police have so far maintained that the link of the accused with any outfit had not been clearly established. However, the latest arrest of a VHP office-bearer is expected to give a definite direction to investigations. Pastor Walter Masih, without naming the attackers, had said they were from VHP and Bajrang Dal.

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