Lucknow, July 13 (IANS) Tensions were building in the rural interiors of eastern Uttar Pradesh between fringe Hindu outfits and Christians over the issue of conversion.
While the outfits are accusing Christians of forcibly converting Hindus, attacks on churches and priests were also increasing.
The police, in majority of the cases, were being accused of taking action only against Christians.
Two priests in Rae Bareli, Azad and Kahadi Yadav, were recently arrested on charges of forcible conversions.
On July 4, a local priest Jitendra Sahni was attacked and injured by ‘Hindu’ leaders.
Similar attacks have been reported from Jaunpur, Robertsganj, Varanasi and Gorakhpur in the eastern region.
Jaunpur, in fact, witnessed violence and attacks on churches in September 2018 after which some churches had closed down.
Officials of the US Embassy then met the state’s Minister of Minority Affairs Mohsin Raza and sought his intervention.
The minister said: “In December last year, a delegation came from the US Embassy and gave me a list of churches most of which were located in Jaunpur, Sultanpur, Azamgarh and some other districts and I spoke to the district officials. The churches were later reopened.”
Rajinder Chauhan, a priest in the Jaunpur church, says he was arrested after the church reopened. “I was sent to jail for 15 days because Hindu groups in connivance with the district administration does not want us to remain here,” he said.
Police officials in these districts have claimed that they did not have the details of cases but said that they “often” received complaints of forced conversions.
According to a BBC report, the US-based ‘Alliance Defending Freedom’ (ADF) stated that more than 125 cases have been registered against Christians in this region and 110 priests were arrested on conversion charges.
Chauhan said that more than 2,500 people come to attend his prayer meetings on Sundays.
“Surely I do not force 2,500 people to come and attend the prayer meeting. They come because they get peace of mind.”
In Robertsganj, a priest Narendra Kumar was asked by the police whether he had the license to run a church. “When I said that no license was needed to run a church, they got it locked up,” he added.
Defending the ‘crusade’ to check conversions, Harsh Agarwal, an RSS functionary in Robertsganj, said: “These people (Christians) are luring the poor with money and they abuse the Hindu religion. We have to stop this.
“We are not against the Christian religion but we are definitely going to oppose forced conversions.”
Nirbhay Singh, the self-styled head of an organization called ‘Hindu Yuva Shakti’, has been accused of vandalizing churches.
“We are committed to ‘ghar wapsi’ (homecoming) of Hindus who have been misled. I am proud that I have brought 2,500 Hindus back into their parent religion.”