Pentecostal pastor denies conducting illegal religious conversions in Karnataka state
Six Christians including two pastors were attacked by a Hindu radical group at a birthday party in the southern Indian state of Karnataka.
Some 25 Bajrang Dal religious hardliners entered a house where the Christians were celebrating the birthday of Pastor Sadashiv Raju’s son on March 1.
“The Christians of Idga village in Chitradurga district were attacked when the Hindu group objected to the loud music coming from the Pentecostal pastor’s house,” Pastor Samuel Bhalekar of the evangelical Hindustani Covenant Church told UCA News.
The Pentecostal pastors filed a first information report at the local police station.
“It is very unfortunate that even after the complaint the police have not taken any action. In the meantime, the Hindu group attacked another pastor of the Assemblies of God church in Sitapur village, injuring two Christians,” Pastor Bhalekar said.
In the first attack, the Hindu group locked the door of Pastor Raju’s house from the inside and then attacked the Christians, International Christian Concern (ICC) reported.
Pastor Raju told ICC that six Christians including a blind man were injured and three were taken to a hospital in Gokak town. The attackers also damaged musical instruments and electrical equipment.
He said the Bajrang Dal activists accused him of conducting illegal religious conversions.
“I have never forced anybody to convert or change their religion but when people come to me I pray over them,” Pastor Raju said. “Sometimes people are healed after the prayer service and they want to attend the church service.”
A local Christian who did not wish to be named told ICC that the radical groups are emboldened by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the state. “There is no protection for Christians here,” he said.
However, Bishop Robert Michael Miranda of Gulbarga told UCA News that “we have a good rapport with other faiths and so far we have not faced any problem.”
He added: “We are aware of the latest incidents and hope the administration will take the appropriate action. A complaint has been already filed and police are working on it.”
Karnataka state is enacting a law to regulate religious conversions and criminalize fraudulent religious conversions.
Similarly, the BJP-led state of Uttar Pradesh introduced a similar anti-conversion law last month. Other BJP-led states like Madhya Pradesh, Assam, Haryana and Karnataka have declared their intention to enact similar laws.
Hindu nationalists often accuse Christians of using force and surreptitious tactics in pursuing conversions, often storming into villages and leading “reconversion” ceremonies in which Christians are compelled to perform Hindu rituals.
Under religious conversion laws, a person officiating an act of conversion must inform state officials a month ahead of the ceremony. They also criminalize an act of conversion using fraud, force or allurement with jail terms and fines.