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Catholic priest, three others sent to jail in India

Father Babu Francis from Allahabad diocese and others are charged with violating the sweeping anti-conversion law
Yogi Adityanath, chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, with Italian rider Marco Bezzecchi  at the Indian MotoGP Grand Prix, held in  Greater Noida on the outskirts of capital New Delhi, on Sept. 24. Under Adityanath, Uttar Pradesh enacted the draconian anti-conversion law.

Yogi Adityanath, chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, with Italian rider Marco Bezzecchi  at the Indian MotoGP Grand Prix, held in  Greater Noida on the outskirts of capital New Delhi, on Sept. 24. Under Adityanath, Uttar Pradesh enacted the draconian anti-conversion law. (Photo: AFP)

Published: October 03, 2023 11:49 AM GMT
Updated: October 03, 2023 11:57 AM GMT

A court in a northern Indian state has remanded four Catholics, including a priest, to judicial custody under the stringent anti-conversion law.

The court in Prayagaraj district in northern Uttar Pradesh on Oct. 2 sent Father Babu Francis, director of social work of Allahabad diocese, and three other Catholics to jail, a day after their arrest.

“The priest was arrested when he visited the police station to inquire about the detention of other three Catholics,” Father Isidore D’Sousa, chancellor of the diocese, told UCA News on Oct. 3.

A pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Vibhavnath Bharati in his complaint to the Naini police station in the district accused the priest and others of attempting to convert villagers.

The BJP under the leadership of monk-turned-politician Yogi Adityanath is ruling Uttar Pradesh since 2017 and enacted the draconian anti-conversion law in 2021.

The complainant charged the priests and others with attempts to defame Hindu gods and physical assault.

“The police complaint is based on totally fake charges,” noted D’Souza.

Bharati, according to the chancellor, on Oct. 1 visited a Sunday prayer service by a Protestant pastor in the district after accusing him of religious conversion.

“When the BJP leader and his supporters created a ruckus and sought police help, the pastor ran away,” D’Souza said.

However, police detained the pastor’s brother who is a Catholic, employed with the diocesan social work department.

Later, two of his colleagues reached the station. However, they, too, were detained.

Subsequently, Francis reached the station to inquire about the illegal detentions.

“The police arrested the priest and accused all of them of violating the anti-conversion law,” D’Souza added.

In the complaint, the police have listed nine persons, including some women, as accused.

The diocese will file bail applications for their release, said the chancellor.

Christians in Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state in the country, face serious hurdles to practicing their faith as right-wing Hindu activists disrupt prayer meetings.

Christian leaders said that Christians are often charged with false conversion cases under the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Religious Conversion law.

The gross misuse of the anti-conversion law has made life miserable for Christians in the state, they added.

Christians make up a mere 0.18 percent of Uttar Pradesh's more than 200 million people, who are mostly Hindus.

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7 Comments on this Story
JOHN MASCARENHAS
this surely is going OVERBOARD WITH THE MISUSE/ABUSE OF LAWS! why should people going to enquire with the police about their fellow christian IN POLICE CUSTODY be also JAILED? HOW DOES THE ALLAHABAD COURT PERMIT SUCH INJUSTICE? WHY DO THE BJP HINDU BIGOTS GO TO CHRISTIAN CHURCHES AND CREATE PROBLEMS? IF THERE IS A CASE, THEY SHOULD FIRST GO TO THE POLICE WITH PROOF. THESE BASTARDS HAVE NO RIGHT TO DISTURB A CHRISTIAN SERVICE AND ATTACK CHRISTIANS! THIS IS HINDU TALIBANISM!
CHHOTEBHAI
This is my parent diocese. It is very depressing. Section 3 of the anti conversion act states that an aggrieved person or his near relatives can file a complaint. Then what locus standii does the complainant in this case have. It is outright abuse of the law, obviously under political pressure
JOE FERNANDEZ
The Constitution enshrines freedom of conscience. The court of law is only about law. It can’t get into theology.
JUDE NORMAN
These frequent and flagrant violation of fundamental rights on trumped up charges have become all too common. The matter should be reported to Amnesty international, the UN human rights commission and other international fora. Has the anti conversion law been challenged in the court of law?
SAVIO FERNANDES
This highhanded action of the police is unjust and highly condemnable. Are we in a police state or is there an undeclared emergency by the government. How could they jail Fr. Babu Francis for questioning the police about the reason for the arrest of some of the Christians? This government has proved to be a lawless, bulldozing government jailing innocent, peace-loving Christians on the false pretext of forced conversion. This is a blatant abuse of law. The police as well as the government should be dismissed. These are diversionary tactics to distract people from misgovernance, lawlessness, rising unemployment, skyrocketing prices and corruption allegations.
N DAVID RAJU
No religious freedom leads to man turning to animal behavior not having humanity.
N. DAVID RAJU
Christianity means following christ foot steps not harming any man and making animal behavior man convert to human behavior that is all . Not converting to religion to religion. Christianity not religion. It is way to bad behavior to good behavior. And giving knowledge of real way of human life to eternal God and eternal life. Know the reality is ignoring and leaving bad behavior.
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