Priests detained in MP shows minorities are suffering blow after blow in India

DailyBiteDec 15, 2017 | 21:21

Priests detained in MP shows minorities are suffering blow after blow in India

The complaint was lodged by 21-year-old who claimed he was being forced to convert to Christianity.

On Thursday, a group of priests and carol singers were detained in Madhya Pradesh’s Satna on the complaint of a Hindu right-wing group.

A report quoted the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) saying that “30 seminarians and two priests from St Ephrem’s Theological College in Satna were detained” while going about a routine carol singing programme.

“Eight priests, who went to the police station to inquire about the detained priests, were also held. A vehicle belonging to them was set on fire outside the police station,” the report said.  


The complaint in the case was lodged by 21-year-old Dharmendra Dohar, a resident of Bhumkahar village, who claimed he was being forced to convert to Christianity.

Matters India quoted Father M Rony, the social work director of Satna diocese, as saying: “Our 30 seminarians and 10 priests are in police custody. The situation outside the police station was so hostile that we cannot reach to the police station for helping our brothers and priests inside (sic)”. The right-wing Hindu activists, he added, “have virtually created a siege around the police station, denying us entry.”


It deserves mention that while a case under Section 435 (mischief by fire or explosive substance) of the Indian Penal Code has been registered in connection with the torching of the carol singers’ vehicle, six members of the Christian group have been booked under Sections 153B (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration) and 295A (outraging religious feelings) of the IPC.

No one has been held so far for burning the car.

On Tuesday, December 12, Amruta Fadnavis, the wife of Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, was trolled on Twitter for launching the Be Santa campaign for underprivileged children in Mumbai.

The Thursday case

People going about neighbourhoods singing carols is a fairly regular practice ahead of Christmas. The alleged illegality here seems to be the accusation by the 21-year-old youth backed by the Bajrang Dal, who has claimed that the Christian group had previously asked him to “worship Jesus Christ” and had offered him money to convert.

Madhya Pradesh has an anti-conversion law to deal with such cases, but, so far, a case has not been registered under that Act, as the police say “probe into the allegations by the Bajrang Dal is still on”.  


It is not clear on what grounds the eight priests who went to enquire after the detained party were held.

The state of Madhya Pradesh

Christian heckling is not new to Madhya Pradesh, which has been under the rule of the BJP for the past 12 years.

On October 23 this year, Hindu Jagran Manch activists made seven children alight from a Mumbai-bound train, where they were headed for a Bible reading class, and had them rounded off to the police station along with the adults accompanying them.

In April, three Christians were arrested from a village in Khandwa district on charges of converting people.

In 2016, Archbishop Leo Cornelio had alleged that the anti-conversion law was being misused in Madhya Pradesh.

The state, incidentally, was among the earliest to enact an anti-conversion law in 1968. Under the BJP government in 2013, it was amended despite opposition and made more stringent. Borrowing provisions from the law in Narendra Modi’s Gujarat, it was now made mandatory for those wishing to convert to inform the authorities via a formal notice, along with hiked punishments. This, however, has not quelled various Hindu groups’ “ghar wapsi” chants.  

Increasing threat to minorities

At a time when the nation is aflame with increasing atrocities on Muslims – as evident with the recent spate of lynchings and gau rakshak attacks, capped by the horrific live-recorded murder of a man in Rajasthan – such reports can further disturb the country’s atmosphere.

That the Satna incident took place in a BJP-ruled state does no favour to the image of the party, already under attack over its leaders’ hate-fuelling statements and its failure to safeguard Muslim lives in states where it is in power.

Not for nothing was the Archbishop of Gandhinagar forced to issue a statement to defeat “nationalist forces taking over the country” in the Gujarat polls.

Photo:India Today
Photo:India Today

“Human rights are being violated. The constitutional rights are being trampled. Not a single day goes without an attack on our churches, church personnel, faithful or institutions,” Archbishop Thomas Macwan had said in a letter released last month.

A democratically-elected government is answerable to each and every one of its citizens, irrespective of the ruling party’s ideology. If non-Hindu Indians feel insecure in the BJP’s regime and if the party in power does not control — or even condemn — bloodthirsty elements, it loses the moral authority to rule.

The BJP had come to power with the slogan of "sabka sath sabka vikas". The government needs to urgently send out the message that minority communities matter to it as much as Hindus. Alienating a section of the country’s populace and allowing them to feel vulnerable in their motherland means cheating the mandate Prime Minister Narendra Modi was given in 2014.

Last updated: December 15, 2017 | 21:21
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