Move follows complaint filed by a Hindu nationalist group about converting tribal people
Catholics pray during a Good Friday service in New Delhi on April 14, 2019. (Photo Bijay Kumar Minj/UCA News)
A Christian pastor and his companion have been arrested in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh for alleged religious conversion activities.
Pastor Christopher Tirkey and Jyoti Prakash Toppo were arrested in Jashpur district of Bhalutola locality on March 27 following a complaint filed by Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP).
The Hindu group in its complaint said Pastor Tirkey and Toppo held a changai prathana (healing prayer) on March 27 at Toppo's house wherein they allegedly tried to convert tribal people to Christianity.
Bishop Emmanuel Kerketta of Jashpur said the diocese came to know that some people were conducting healing prayer services in the locality.
"But it was not held by our people. They belong to a house church from another locality,” Bishop Kerketta told UCA News.
“Most of the time they come from other places, even from other districts, conduct prayers, and then disappear. The Hindu group suspects religious conversion activities, which is not true, he said.
“We have a very good rapport with other faiths and the local administration. Whenever we hold any big gathering or prayer convention, we give prior notice to the local police and administration and they are well informed about our activities,” the Oraon tribal bishop said.
“As far as religious conversion activities are concerned, the police and administration are there to take appropriate action, laws are there to check it, and others should not bother about it”
“People are free to profess and propagate any religion according to their will as it is their fundamental right given by the Indian constitution,” Sunil Minj, a tribal activist in Raipur, the state capital, told UCA News.
“As far as religious conversion activities are concerned, the police and administration are there to take appropriate action, laws are there to check it, and others should not bother about it.”
Manish Kunwar, deputy superintendent of police in Jashpur, said a case under the Freedom of Religion Act had been registered against Pastor Tirkey and Toppo and an investigation is underway.
Earlier, VHP leader Rajesh Gupta alleged that 68 Kanwar tribal people attended a prayer meeting conducted by Pastor Tirkey on March 27.
“The police and administration are doing their work but our organization is also actively stopping conversions. The arrested men were presented at the court and later sent to judicial custody,” he told media.
Pastor Sudhir Tirkey, a member of the Fellowship of the Pentecostal Churches in India, said people come to their house church for prayer meetings, not for conversions
“People come here and pray and some even convert but they have converted themselves legally, there is no forced conversion. Our work is to impart biblical teachings.”
Hindu nationalists often accuse Christians of using force and surreptitious tactics in pursuing conversions.
Hindu groups also storm into villages and lead “reconversion” ceremonies in which Christians are compelled to perform Hindu rituals.
Chhattisgarh is India’s most densely Hindu state with 98.3 percent of its 23 million people being Hindu. Muslims account for 1 percent, while Christians, mostly tribal people, account for 0.7 percent.
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