Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan told the media that among those injured, the condition of two was serious.
The incident happened at the Zamra International Convention and Exhibition Centre at Kalamassery, where around 2,500 faithful from across the state had gathered for a prayer session.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah spoke with Vijayan and directed the National Investigation Agency and the NSG to reach the spot and start a probe.
Who are Jehovah’s Witnesses?
Jehovah’s Witnesses are a Christian sect, but do not believe in the Holy Trinity (the doctrine that God exists in three equal persons of the Father, the Son (Jesus Christ) and the Holy Spirit). They worship Jehovah as “the one true and Almighty God, the Creator”, who is “the God of Abraham, Moses, and Jesus”. They believe Jesus Christ to be the “King of God’s Kingdom in heaven”, but not as the Almighty God. They base their beliefs only on the text of the Bible, which they see as the word of God. They don’t celebrate Christmas or Easter, because they believe such festivals to be inspired by Pagan traditions.
Jehovah’s Witnesses are known for their evangelical work, for which they go door to door, to spread “The Truth”. They believe the end of the world is near, and the “Kingdom of God” will “replace human governments and accomplish God’s purpose for the earth.” The denomination has millions of followers worldwide.
The origins of the sect lie in a Bible Student movement started in the 1870s by American pastor Charles Taze Russell. Today, the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses is located in Warwick, New York. The main body to disseminate the doctrines of the sect is called the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, also headquartered in Warwick.
Jehovah’s Witnesses generally keep away from other religious groups. The website jw.org, dedicated to the sect, says, “… we remain strictly neutral in political affairs and avoid affiliation with other religions… However, we respect the choices that others make in such matters.”
Jehovah’s Witnesses in India
According to jw.org, India has about 56,747 Ministers who teach the Bible. “Jehovah’s Witnesses have been present in India since 1905. They established an office in 1926 in Bombay (now Mumbai), and obtained legal registration in 1978. The Witnesses benefit from the guarantees of India’s constitution, which include the right to practice, profess, and propagate one’s faith,” the website says.
A landmark case involving the sect in India was Bijoe Emmanuel & Ors vs State Of Kerala & Ors. The Supreme Court, in its 1986 verdict, granted protection to three children belonging to the sect, who did not join in the singing of the National Anthem at their school. The court held that forcing them to sing the Anthem violated their fundamental right to religion under Article 25 of the Constitution.
The children, siblings Bijoe Emmanuel, Binu, and Bindu, who were students of Classes 10, 9, and 5 respectively, were expelled from NSS High School, run by the Hindu organisation Nair Service Society, on July 26, 1985. Their parents pleaded unsuccessfully before the Kerala High Court that Jehovah’s Witnesses permitted worship of only Jehovah, and since the Anthem was a prayer, the children could stand up in respect, but could not sing.
The Supreme Court then ruled that “Article 25 (“Freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion”)…[was] incorporated in recognition of the principle that the real test of a true democracy is the ability of even an insignificant minority to find its identity under the country’s Constitution.”
The Jehovah’s Witnesses website mentions that their members in India have at times been accused of trying to convert people due to their evangelical work.
Another case involving the sect hit headlines in 2020, when a private hospital in Bengaluru claimed it had successfully performed a live liver transplant on a Jehovah’s Witness from Nigeria, by not using blood or blood products (fresh frozen plasma, cryoprecipitate, platelets, etc.), in order to protect the patient’s religious beliefs.