30 Pastors Arrested for Singing Carols in Madhya Pradesh
In excess of 30 priests who were singing Christmas carols in Madhya Pradesh village of India were arrested on Thursday after a Hindu nationalist group accused them of forcibly converting Hindus.
According to the British Asian Christian Association, the Catholic Priest said, “A group of students training to become priests was moving around Satna town, visiting Christian institutions and singing carols.
“Some 15 km from here in Dara Kalan village church they were getting ready for the Christmas celebrations, when a group of people attacked them, accusing them of carrying out religious conversions.”
The Hindu group raised slogans and called up the Civil Lines Police Station. All 32 carollers, accompanied by two priests, were taken to the police station.
Many of the victims who have been arrested have described extrajudicial violence by members of Bajrang Dal, whilst being detained at Civil Lines Police Station in police custody, they say that police officers watched, in some cases goaded the rioters and even joined in the beatings that the priests and seminarians were subjected to.
Members of Bajrang Dal and the police have however denied the allegation as is customary in these situations.
Madhya Pradesh is one of five states in India that outlaws ‘Forced Conversions’ and requires people who leave Hinduism to first apply for conversion through their local Government. ON completion of approved papers conversion is permissible but administration officers make the process extremely difficult, challenge those who convert and the outreach ministry unnecessary and are known to enact false forced conversions claims themselves.
Bajrang Dal is a militant organisation that forms the youth wing of the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP). It is a member of the RSS family of organisations.The ideology of the organisation is based on Hindutva (Hindu nationalism),
Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of the British Asian Christian Association, said, “This alarming incident so near to Christmas evidence the deepening level of animosity for minorities in India under the Narendra Modi regime.
The singing of carols which has at least a 30 years history in Satna has always been an enjoyable and accepted tradition in the area, till now.
According to Wilson, “These arrests and the obvious pariah status Christians are experiencing more often across large swathes of India will impact negatively on their right to freedom of religion, rights that enshrined in Article 18 of the UN convention for Human Rights – a Convention that India has ratified.
“Pastors have suffered beatings from maniacal rioters yet not one of the perpetrators of violence has been arrested. Christians however have been targeted with criminal charges by a police force as zealous as the extremists they are meant to be protecting vulnerable minorities from.
“It is obvious that these priests and seminarians are innocent and the only just action would be to set them free, without charges. Mr Modi’s Government will have to stop ignoring the increasing nationalism in his country and put in place mechanisms to restore community harmony or he tarnish further India’s increasingly poor human rights record.
“With the new freedoms and authority that Hindu nationalist groups are able to exhibit in India, one can only assume this situation will worsen and multiply. Such a trajectory in India will stifle progress for a nation that has achieved so much in the last few decades.”