Christmas carol singers detained over allegations of religious conversion in MP
BHOPAL: A group of 32 Christmas carol singers were detained by police in Satna of Madhya Pradesh over their alleged involvement in forceful religious conversions by the right-wing group Bajrang Dal on Thursday night.
Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI) said that the group comprised seminarians and two priests from St Ephrem's Theological College in Satna and were detained when they were conducting a routine carol singing program. They were picked up by police from outside as they were moving around the town singing carols for Christmas.
Later when eight other priests went to the civil lines police station inquiring the matter, they too were held. One of their cars was also set afire outside the police station.
Senior police officials including Satna SP Rajesh Hingankar did not respond to repeated calls for their version on the matter. Chief of the state's intelligence wing Rajeev Tondon however said that a cross complaint has been done and all allegations are being verified to the depth. "Justice would be done", Tondon told TOI.
Police said the detention followed a complaint lodged by Dharmendra Dohar, of Bhumkahar village who alleged that he was being forced to embrace Christianity.
They have booked M George and five others under Sections 153B (Imputations, assertions prejudicial to national-integration) and 295A (outraging religious feelings).
Other hand police have also registered a case under Section 435 (mischief by fire or explosive substance) against "unidentified" for car burning.
About the detention, a police officer who was not authorised to speak to media said on condition of anonymity that "action was taken on the basis of a call that they were involved in religious conversions in the city.
"We have not charged them under the anti-conversion law as Dohar's allegations were under probe," said the officer. All of them were forced to remain in the police station till midnight. Many pro-Christian organisations have registered a strong protest on the matter. A delegation also met DIG (law and order) Manoj Sharma at police headquarters and registered their protest on the matter. CBCI too expressed concern over the unprovoked violence against the carol singers, which was a routine during this time for over last 30 years.
Shibu Tomas who runs a pro-Christian portal on 'persecution' also condemned the matter and asked
"Unfortunately, in Madhya Pradesh there have been other signs of harassment of the Catholic Church in the last few months about which we have not raised a hue and cry. What is even more shocking is that eight priests who later went to inquire about the detained priests and seminarians were also taken into custody," said Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, SFX, Secretary General, CBCI in a release issued here on Friday. "Charge of conversion on which the priests and seminarians are detained is frivolous and laughable," he said.
"I have received information that some people from Kerala and other parts were there for religious conversions. Our people had informed police and got some people detained. This has to be stopped. It's spreading in other districts also. We have appealed with the police to take strong action," said Rajendra Tiwari, state convenor of Bajrang Dal.