India: Christian Educators Granted Bail In Conversion Case
By UCA News
(UCA News) — India’s Supreme Court has restrained police from arresting two Christian educators in a case that accuses them of involving in mass conversion in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.
The state’s Allahabad High Court earlier denied anticipatory bail to Rajendra Bihari Lal, the vice chancellor of Sam Higginbottom University of Agriculture, Technology and Sciences, and his brother, Vinod Bihari Lal, who serves as the director at the university.
However, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud on March 3 ordered the Uttar Pradesh police not to arrest the duo “pending further orders.”
The bench in its brief order sought a reply from the state government to the bail application filed by the Lal brothers and posted it for further hearing on March 24.
The top court took cognizance of the petition as an urgent matter as the duo was summoned by the police for interrogation in connection with the alleged mass conversion case registered in April 2022.
In their application, the Lal brothers said that they were neither present at the location of the alleged crime nor involved with it directly or indirectly.
They were also not named in the initial complaint but were summoned by the police for interrogation eight months later.
The Lal brothers further claimed that their names were dragged into the alleged mass conversion case based on confessional statements by two persons, one of them a disgruntled employee and another a student who was rusticated for sexually harassing another student.
The police initiated action after a mob of Hindu nationalists targeted a Maundy Thursday prayer service at the Evangelic Church of India in Harihar Ganj in Uttar Pradesh’s Fatehpur district on April 14, 2022, alleging that Christians were converting Hindus.The mob locked the gates of the church until police arrived and filed cases against 55 Christians.
Police arrested 26 of the Christians for violating the state’s stringent anti-conversion law.
The complainant against the Lal brothers came from Isaac Frank, a member of the university board of directors, and Dinesh Shukla, a student of the university. They claimed to have evidence to substantiate their charges.
In his complaint, Shukla alleged that some 90 Hindus were called to the church in Harihar Ganj with the intent of converting them to Christianity.
The Lal brothers were influential people who were using undue influence and promising easy money to convert the poor, he added.
Frank, who is a witness in the case told UCA News that the Lal brothers were originally members of the Church of North India (CNI) but now head Yeshu Darbar (court of Jesus), an independent evangelical group.
The university, earlier known as the Allahabad Agricultural Institute, was founded by Presbyterian missioner Sam Higginbottom of the United States in 1910 and after British colonial rule ended in the country in 1947 it was brought under a board of directors representing 14 Christian denominations, including the Catholic Church.
The ownership of the institution is currently under dispute, which a source told UCA News, could have led to trouble for the Lal brothers.
Christians make up 0.18 percent of Uttar Pradesh’s 200 million people.