Christians celebrate Christmas at a church in Hyderabad, capital of Telangana state, on Dec. 25, 2018. (Photo: IANS/UCA News)
Police in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh have arrested a pastor for making derogatory videos about Hindu deities.
Pastor Praveen Chakravarthy from Kakinada was arrested on Jan. 12 for alleged involvement in a video where he admitted he had kicked images of Hindu gods, police said.
“There are some fanatic groups who are trying to create hatred among different faiths by dividing people in the name of caste, creed and religion and trying to push their propaganda,” Pastor Joseph Benjamin Gootam of Kakinada Church of Christ told UCA News.
“There is a trend in the state where vested interest people are even targeting the chief minister, accusing him of favoring minority groups, especially Christians since he is himself a Christian.
“I’m very surprised about the arrest of Pastor Chakravarthy as the case is very old, but we are sure that some people may have complained to the police recently. We have full faith in the judiciary and hope the pastor will come clean in the investigation.”
Meanwhile, R. Vijaya Paul, superintendent of police, told media that Pastor Chakravarthy was arrested after a complaint against him.
“Although the case is from 2013, there was no complaint filed at the time. It was filed recently and we cross-checked the matter and apprehended the pastor and added it is not a suo motu case,” he said.
“The pastor has admitted that the voice in the video is his. Though it is an old video, it is inflammatory in nature and we are investigating the case.”
The pastor was arrested under the Penal Code’s Section 153 A and other relevant ones. According to Section 153 A, a person will be arrested if found guilty of indulging in wanton vilification or attacks on the religion, race, place of birth, residence and language of any particular group.
Meanwhile, Sunil Deodhar of the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party said Pastor Chakravarthy had claimed to have converted 699 villages, adding that more than 3,600 pastors are working under Chakravarthy.
According to the 2011 census, there were 1.17 million Christians in Andhra Pradesh before the state was divided in 2014 into Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.
Most Christians live in Andhra Pradesh, especially along the coast. The percentage fell in 2011 to 1.34 percent from 4.39 percent in 1971.
Researchers say the number of Christians in the state, which had witnessed a steady growth until 1971, later declined, primarily because many Christians, mostly from lower castes, began to identify as Hindus to become eligible for government benefits.
The All India Christian Council in 2013 ranked Andhra Pradesh as the state with India’s highest rate of anti-Christian incidents.