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Hindu activists disrupt prayer meet in southern India

Police filed a case against Christian pastor for religious conversion activities

Bijay Kumar Minj, New Delhi

Bijay Kumar Minj, New Delhi

Published: September 16, 2021 06:15 AM GMT

Updated: September 16, 2021 06:16 AM GMT

Hindu activists disrupt prayer meet in southern India

Catholics pray during Good Friday services in an East Delhi church on April 14, 2019. (Photo: Bijay Kumar Minj/UCA News)

Police in the southern Indian state of Karnataka have filed a case after Hindu activists interrupted a prayer service alleging the pastor of religious conversion activities.

According to police in the coastal town of Karkala in Udupi district, more than 35 activists of Hindu Jagaran Vedike barged into Pastor Benedict’s house last Friday and stopped the prayer service.

Police have registered a case against Hindu activists on charges of unlawful assembly, rioting, intentional insult, criminal intimidation and voluntarily causing hurt based on the complaint filed by Pastor Benedict.

Pastor Benedict in his complaint to the police also has alleged that the Hindu activists misbehaved with women inside the church, so the police have also registered a case of assaulting or using criminal force on women.

However, police have also booked Pastor Benedict for deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings and uttering words with deliberate intent to wound the religious feelings of any person.

“The area at the church in Kukkandur village is quite tense now but the administration has made adequate arrangements for the security for the local people and it is constantly monitored by the higher authorities,” George Castelino, former president of the Catholic Association of Immaculate Heart Church, told UCA News.

“A few Protestant churches and small sects are operating in our area quietly, of which we don’t have much information. They are not in big numbers but occasionally organize prayer services at their homes for faithful,” Castelino said.

“As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, we have a good rapport with other faiths and we had no problems in the past. We will wait for the investigation team to finish their job and come up with the truth, we have full faith in the law and order situation in our area,” the Catholic lay leader said.

“We came to know about the incident from the local newspaper. It is too early to say anything at the moment as the matter is under investigation. It is an allegation about religious activities so it is better for us that let the law of the land work accordingly,” Pastor Samuel Jose of Healing Church, Udupi district, said.

The IANS media report quoting police sources said Pastor Benedict did not have prior permission to hold religious meetings. Police officials said a complaint had been filed against Pastor Benedict on July 15 for organizing prayer services with the intention to carry out religious conversions.

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The officials also said the pastor was warned by police not to carry out such activities without permission but on Sept. 10 he organized a meeting without permission.

Police have also recorded the statement of one Sunil, a laborer who participated in the prayer meeting, saying that Benedict forced him to attend the church prayers.

Meanwhile, Karnataka state, run by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is in the process of enacting a law to regulate religious conversions and criminalize fraudulent religious conversions.

Seven Indian states have laws criminalizing conversion from one religion to another without prior government permission. Attempt to convert a person using force, inducement or fraudulent means also is punishable with jail term. 

Hindu nationalists often accuse Christians of using their social service activities, particularly in fields of education and health care, as tactics for conversions.

They often storm into villages and conduct “re-conversion” ceremonies, forcing Christians to perform Hindu rituals.

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