By UCA News
By Bijay Kumar Minj*
(UCA News) — Hindu activists disrupted Sunday prayer services in two Indian states alleging forced religious conversions that were denied by Christians.
The first incident was reported on Nov. 7 from the southern state of Karnataka, where members of the Sri Ram Sene (Ram’s army) barged into a Christian prayer hall in Maratha Colony in Belgavi (formerly Belgaum) and locked in the devotees.
Police had to rush to open doors of the locked-up hall and asked those inside to go home.
Sene members alleged that Pastor Lema Cherian was converting poor Hindus to Christianity by organizing prayer services.
Pastor Cherian denied the allegation. “We have been organizing prayer services every Sunday and all are free to join,” he said.
He said that the local police were informed about the Sunday meeting and nobody was forced to attend it. “We are free to practice any faith of our choice and it is our fundamental right. No one can infringe upon it,” the pastor added.
But Assistant Commissioner of Police Ajjol Chandrappa told media that a Hindu man who attended the prayer service had filed a complaint alleging conversion. The police were verifying the facts and may register a case, he said.
Sene leader Ravi Kumar Kotikar alleged that pastors from other states were touring villages in the state to lure Hindus by offering freebies such as sugar, rice and money.
In a similar incident reported in Jaipur, the capital city of the northern state of Rajasthan, a Hindu mob interrupted a Sunday prayer service alleging religious conversion.
The police rushed to the spot and found around 10 people participating in the prayer service.
Investigating officer Anil Kumar Tailor said: “We reached the spot after receiving a written complaint but did not find any evidence of anyone being converted.”
Ashok Mahawar, a Hindu man who was present at the prayer service, said he was just another devotee of Jesus Christ and was there to offer prayers and sing hymns.
The mob of 100 including mostly local residents interrupted the prayer service and said they shouldn’t take the name of Jesus, he said.
A.C. Michael, a human rights activist, told UCA News that such incidents were becoming a common practice to harass Christians.
Michael recalled a recent meeting with John Barla, the federal minister of state for minority affairs, seeking action against such frequent attacks on Christians.
Barla had assured to take necessary steps to sensitize the police on the concerns of the minority community and ensure better security arrangements.
The difference between the two incidents is that the state of Rajasthan is ruled by the Congress while Karnataka is ruled by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The southern state has announced enacting a law to regulate and criminalize fraudulent religious conversions as some northern states like Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh have already done.