Wednesday, 15 July, 2020
Exclusives - 27 June, 2020

Religious fanatics vandalise church in Jharkhand; USCIRF raises alarm

Hindu religious fanatics on June 22 vandalised a Protestant church in Dhanbad district in the Indian state of Jharkhand; police arrest two Christian preachers... #IntimidationofChristiansforPoliticalReasons

Samuel Mathai

Dhanbad, Jharkhand: Alleged Hindu religious fanatics on June 22 vandalised a Protestant church in Dhanbad district in the Indian state of Jharkhand. They damaged the under construction church building located at Belagadia township and destroyed a cross. The police cordoned off the area.

According to sources, a church is being built on the land that has been leased for 30 years, and has a congregation of 16 families mainly from Belagadia. Christian preachers Kaina Pansal and Sushant Pradhan used to teach the word of God to the believers on the premises.

The sources said, on June 22, some religious fanatics, along with local BJP MLA Indrajit Mahota, accusing the Christian preachers of converting local people, attacked the church.

However, the police arrested the two Christian teachers on the alleged charges of forced conversion, and the district administration sent a report to the government.

As reported in AsiaNews, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) Sajan K George maintained that the charges levelled against Pansal and Pradhan are false. He accused the police and the local administration of making the anti-conversion laws tools for intimidating, mistreating and frightening the tiny Christian community.

Meanwhile, the United States Commission for Religious Freedom (USCIRF) reacting on the report that a Christian church was vandalised by a mob in Dhanbad district of Jharkhand state, raised alarm over attacks on churches in India.

A report that appeared in UCA News said that the vandals destroyed the holy cross, a symbol of Christianity, and damaged the under-construction Protestant church of the town.

It said that a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lawmaker Indrajit Mahota, along with his party workers and some activists of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) joined the crowd in the attack.

MLA Mahota accused the Christian missionaries of giving inducements to poor “which is wrong”. He demanded action against them.

However, Father Augustine Topno, former administrator of Jamshedpur Diocese, termed the allegation of conversion “baseless”. “There is no truth about religious conversion in the area as the Church does not believe in or practice religious conversion. Allegations by the legislator are baseless,” he told UCA News.

An anti-conversion law was passed in 2017 in Jharkhand after which the state is strictly prohibiting the practice of proselytization or conversion by force. Those found violating the law can be jailed for three years and a fine of Rs 50,000. Conversion by choice is allowed only after informing the district commissioner concerned about the reasons for the decision.

In the last few years, several states have passed laws prohibiting conversion as Hindu nationalists accuse missionaries of converting people forcibly. But leaders of minority communities see an element of hypocrisy in the implementation of the law. They say Hindutva groups have been given a freehand to go about their business as they have started a new narrative of “Ghar Wapsi” according to which all Muslims and Christians in India were originally Hindus and they should return to Hinduism.

According to reports, in February last, Hindu extremists destroyed at least 19 mosques during anti-Muslim riots in parts of Delhi in which over 50 people were killed by mobs.

Ever since the BJP assumed power in 2014 under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India has seen a sharp rightward turn. Hate and mob violence against Muslims and Christians have increased manifold.

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