Satna church row: Pastor, wife held on conversion charge
THREE Christians were arrested on Sunday from near a prayer hall in Aber village in Satna district on charges of allegedly conducting conversions by force and hurting religious sentiments, said local police. The accused were later sent to judicial custody after a local court rejected their bail application. Police said they had acted on a complaint from three villagers who alleged that they were promised jobs after converting to Christianity a fortnight ago but felt hurt when attempts were made to tear images of Hindu gods during Sunday prayers at the hall. Residents said police were accompanied by right-wing activists during the arrests.
Pastor V A Anthony of Brethren Assembly and his wife Prabha, who live in Satna but conduct weekly prayers in Aber, and another woman were taken into custody on a written complaint from Rambhan Adivasi, Hemraj Varma and Prashant Gupta, all residents of Goraiya village, police said. Madhya Pradesh State Backward Classes Commission member Laxmi Yadav said he was present at the Kotar Police Station when the FIR was registered.
“I will ensure that the sedition charge is invoked against Pastor Anthony because it’s clear from the complaint that he spoke against the nation,’’ Yadav told The Indian Express. Three week ago, Yadav, who enjoys minister of state status, Bajrang Dal activists and police had entered a church in Satna and stopped a wedding, alleging that the girl was minor. In the latest FIR, the complainants were quoted as saying that the accused allegedly asked them to convert before insulting Hindu gods and the religion. Satna SP Mithilesh Shukla said the three Christians were booked under Sections 295 A of the IPC (deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings) and Sections 3 and 4 of the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act. According to Pastor Sam Samuel, who is an accused in the church-wedding case, police and right-wing activists stopped a vehicle carrying Pastor Anthony when he was returning to Satna. He alleged that the activists roughed up the pastor and were present in the police station and court till the bail plea was rejected. Bajrang Dal leader Rajbahadur Mishra said Pastor Anthony had been booked previously, too, in a case of forced conversion. SP Shukla said police are checking previous records but denied that the Christians were roughed up.