Protestant church leaders were arrested in January after clashes with traditional animist believers in Chhattisgarh
Tribal Christians in the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand protest against targeted attacks on fellow Christians in the neighboring state of Chhattisgarh, in the state capital Ranchi on Jan 15. (Photo supplied)
A top court in central India has granted bail to 10 Protestant Church leaders, who were arrested in January following sectarian violence between tribal Christians and traditional animist believers.
The Bilaspur High Court, the top court in Chhattisgarh state, on April 19 granted bail to the Christian leaders, including pastors and evangelists, and asked them to cooperate with the police investigations.
Lawyer Son Singh, who represented the Christian leaders, on April 20 said, “They will be out in a day or two after complying with the conditions of their bail.”
The lawyer said his clients “were framed in a false case in which they had practically no role” and “their innocence will be proved" in the court.
The Christian leaders were charged with rioting, being armed with deadly weapons, voluntarily causing hurt to public servants on duty, and criminal intimidation and assault.
If convicted of all the charges, each of them faces punishments of up to 10 years in jail and fines.
The Christian leaders were arrested in the first week of January amid violent clashes in the Narayanpur district of Chhattisgarh between people who follow the traditional animist religion and those who have adopted the Christian faith, said a Church official.
According to a report by a fact-finding team, nearly 18 villages in Narayanpur and 15 in the Kondagaon district were attacked
Many tribal Christians were injured in the attack which started after the Christians refused to give up their faith, Christian leaders say.
Violence in December last year also forced nearly 1,000 people to flee their villages in the area.
"The Protestant Church leaders were arrested and remanded to appease the majority traditional animist religion followers as Christians are a minuscule minority in the area,” observed a Church leader.
“The Christian leaders,” the Church official who did not want to be named told UCA News on April 20, “had no role in the violence but they were implicated in the case as they visited the victims.”
Chhattisgarh, which is ruled by the Congress party, reported the highest number of attacks on churches and Christians after Uttar Pradesh in northern India.
Christian leaders, speaking on the condition of anonymity, alleged that the Congress government was not doing enough to protect them or their properties including churches and prayer houses.
Christians are less than 2 percent of the state's 30 million people.
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