A few brothers in Bangalore, India were falsely imprisoned for preaching the gospel. They are now out on bail. For details, please see message below from Shajus Philip, preacher in the Bangalore Church of Christ. -- Nikesh G.
5 days and 4 nights in prison [unedited]
I Shaijus Philip, evangelist, Bangalore church of Christ. On Monday, the 19th of November,2007, my wife and I were evangelising on CMH road in our locality, when I received a phone call from David Noronha, the lead evangelist, saying that Prem, who recently joined the full time ministry was being beaten up quite near to where we were. We immediately rushed to the scene, and I joined Prem to defend our cause. We were both slapped and beaten up badly by a group of Hindu fundamentalists who have top political support. One man holding a video camera slapped me on the face while focusing the camera on us, while others held us by our collars, and a huge built guy kept hitting and boxing us, showering abusive language about Christianity, the church and us. They caught hold of three more brothers who were on the scene (one of them was actually only studying the Bible), and called the police, falsely accusing us of various crimes.
As the police arrived on the scene and took us to the police station, the mob had attracted a huge crowd, blocking the traffic, and the whole mob chanted slogans and raised shouts of victory in their wicked schemes to trap us. In fact they had phoned Prem asking him to come to their shop to pray for them, while waiting to assault him as he went there. At the police station, the police were completely biased against Christianity (They have lots of idols at the station) and refused to listen to us or even let us read the complaint filed against us! They forced us to sign, threatening more dire consequences if we were demanding anything.
After midnight, the police took us to the respected Magistrate, who hardly looked at us, and then to the Central Jail, around 10Kms away. En route, one of the policemen was watching blue (porn) film on the mobile phone of his counterpart who was with us in the same vehicle. They also warned us that the Police inside the Jail would take away our valuables and money and may never return them to us! That was the 'honourable opinion' they had about their own counterparts in the Police department. We reached Central Jail around 3am . The cop at the gate received us from the other policemen who brought us there and put us into a cell nearby. After finishing the formalities, the cop in charge for admitting new prisoners came and checked us thoroughly and told us to take out all valuables. We removed our wedding rings, mobile phones, watches, currency and the chain that one of the brothers had. To our relief, the cop was willing to enter the details of our possessions into the register and put them in envelopes with our names to be returned at the time of our release later. However, he took away some money and only entered the remaining, reminding us that anyone else in his place would have removed much more. He also ordered us to remove our trouser belts, which of course, would not be returned. (We heard that the Police will sell the belts to make money for themselves)
Then he took us to the 'Admission Cell' near the gate and informed the guard (Usually guards in a cell are some among the Convicted prisoners) that we were the new admissions! We were taken to our 15m long, 5m wide, furniture-less cell, where we found around 50 people sleeping on the floor. There were two toilets there, having only namesake walls that reach below our hips, and spreading a foul stench throughout the cell the entire day. We were given a narrow thick cotton sheet and another bed sheet, which we spread wherever we could find a gap among the rest of the inmates. Though we were tired from the trauma of torture, abuses and denial of our fundamental rights, we found it hard to sleep as the floor and room were very cold besides being infested with mosquitoes.
By 6 0' clock in the morning, the guard woke up everyone in the cell. He ordered all who came the previous night to raise their hands. As we all raised the hands, we were asked to take the brooms from the wash room and were assigned to sweep the floor of the cell, the staircases, corridors and the courtyards of two buildings housing many cells. We found a lot of Beedi and Cigarette buds all around. When we finished sweeping, and were going back to the cell, one cop beat brother Robert with a cane and told a couple of us to clean up all the red marks created by spitting of pan in the courtyard and pick up all cigarette buds from the lawns. It took a lot of effort to clean up the red marks. Then we were asked to pull out weeds from the lawn nearby where the 'senior' prisoners who had spent a long time in the prison were jogging and doing exercises.
While sweeping the corridors, we were encountered by an inmate of a neighbouring cell. After finding out our story he demanded whether we did not know him. We expressed our helplessness in identifying him. He said he was a very well-publicised notorious criminal who had murdered 33 people, adding that we could use his mobile phone if we needed to contact our family. Shivering out of our first encounter with a real murderer, we were only too glad to respectfully decline his offer as we did not want to get into more trouble using a mobile phone which is supposed to be banned inside the jail.
After cleaning up the premises we were allowed to wash our hands, though we could not even brush our teeth as we had neither brushes nor toothpaste. After this, we were allowed to collect break fast, a dry rice meal, from the courtyard nearby. Five of us struggled to have the food with some tap water from the washroom with only two plates given to us. Soon after breakfast, we were asked to line up near the prison gate and wait for the routine rounds by the police officers, holding up a card with details of our case and then to a hospital inside the Jail complex. We were asked to sit on the hospital floor for registration.
GOOD NEWS IN THE PRISON
While we were sitting there in the Hospital floor, few guards came there and started asking who came from some church. One of the brothers introduced himself while others were praying with fear that it would not be another group coming to hit us! Soon it was revealed by the visiting guards that they belonged to the Prison Ministry inside the Jail and were informed by our guard that some people from a Church came as fresh admissions. Soon all of us introduced to each other and were in tears of joy to meet the first friendly human beings in many hours ever since we were tortured by the angry mob. These brothers were so friendly and excited to meet us and they took permission from our guard to take us to the Chapel inside the Jail. Soon we started getting to know them. The leader of the ministry is one brother Raju (name changed for his safety and privacy) and he said that he was convicted for murder and that he had already finished 10 years out of his 12 years prison sentence.
They also had a pastor who came regularly to conduct services for them from out side but they were hungry for more deeper teaching, and listened eagerly to whatever we could share with them. Many of their families were starving as they were the bread earners. We took down the addresses of the families so we could reach out to them and help them. Raju, we believe, will surely become a disciple as soon as he leaves the prison. We were glad that we could contact him and the 300 prisoners belonging to that ministry. When we reached the Chapel we were so fired up to sing a song and pray together fearlessly! They kept encouraging us saying that they are so proud of us for suffering for spreading the Gospel. They also said, we reached the prison by doing heinous crimes that they are now ashamed of but you are here for doing what is right in the eyes of God.
Soon we were back in our cell, which we could not leave unless we were called for. The cell was filled with unbearable smoke from all of them smoking Ganja, a narcotic substance, cigarettes and beedis. We tried to fellowship some of them. Most had committed murders or printed and circulated counterfeit currency notes. Most of them proudly boasted of their deeds, and were not in the least remorseful. However, we found a car driver, who had unfortunately ended up there because a lady on a two-wheeler had come and hit his car from behind. She suffered a minor injury and filed a case. The cops asked him Rs.500/= on the spot as bribe to let him go free. He did not have the money with him and so he ended up there. We shared our faith with him and told him to contact the prison ministry. We gave his details to the people from the prison ministry when he was shifted to another cell.
We spent our time in Jail huddling together and praying on our knees, singing, and reading the Bible. One of the prisoners was not happy about us doing it, and threatened us not to try our tricks in the jail. We were fearful, but kept praying. We also prayed that we would not end up being sexually abused since the environment was as such.
We were witnesses to the full-fledged corruption that was thriving in the prison. Most of the inmates did not eat the prison food, as they paid bribes to the police, and had food brought from outside. Only those who were too poor to do these things, or who had no influence at all with any higher authorities, ate the food provided which happened to be the same everyday. There were hard core criminals, supported by their political leaders and their gangs, who spent even as much as 100,000 rupees (2565$) in two months, to the prison officials, and had their own special privilege to be in the 'Admission cell' itself. We saw other hard core criminals, supported by their political leaders and corrupt officers having "A-class" cell, with attached bathrooms, proper facilities, mobile phones, TV, prisoners who served as personal servants for them, cooking food of their liking, equipments to work out, games to play, and company with the cops! They were allowed to be visited any number of times, although the rule was that the prisoners can be only visited once a day. Anyone inside could get whatever they wanted depending on the amount they are willing to pay the cops. The cops serve as drug traffickers, working in connection with outside dons, and reselling at high prices. We saw some cops practically putting their hands inside the pockets of prisoners, and forcefully taking away currency for themselves.
We were longing to get out of this environment, believing that we would be there only one night. But after being presented in the court, our case was adjourned to the next day, and we had to brace ourselves to be there as long as it took. The prison ministry brothers, were definitely overjoyed to see us back, just as they were in tears to see us leave for the court. Early next morning some brothers visited us, and at every point- to be called out, to be allowed to talk, to take whatever they brought for us, we were demanded money almost 10 times by cops and guards. We did not pay any amount, and they were very upset, using abusive language, and promising us that we would not be called next time someone came to visit. Our sandals and slippers, however got stolen meanwhile. The judge again passed on our case to another judge the next day, and our bail was delayed two more days. Our wives came early in the morning to visit us, but they were kept waiting for hours, before we could get to see them. After the visit, the cops checked us to see if there was any currency they could take. They were angry that there was none.
Finally on the day of our release, they delayed their procedures to the maximum, and while giving back our belongings, the cops took out part of our money and shared equally among themselves. Finally, after 4 nights and 5days in prison on Friday, 23rd Nov, we could breathe in the fresh air of freedom and we were reunited with our families by late evening.
Through all these events, the whole church became very united in praying, fasting, reaching out and caring for the families of the brothers in jail, and coming to the court to show support and encouragement. There were Christians who left the church calling up to express support, there were many non-disciples, who were all out to help our cause, and many new contacts and friends made through all these experiences, like two prominent business men, who use their money and talents to support Christian causes. Of course
God used us to reach out to the prison ministry too, which otherwise we may not have had . I am so grateful to God who kept us safe, and who has a wonderful plan in all He allows to happen. Amen!