A group of Christmas carol-singing Catholic priests and seminarians were arrested over allegations they were trying to convert people in a state in central India.
Before their arrest, they were also allegedly attacked by the hard-line Hindu group known as Bajrang Dal, reported The Times.
Another group of priests, who came to the aid of those arrested for singing the carols, were also detained by police. The incident occurred last Thursday in a village in the state of Madhya Pradesh.
At least one vehicle owned by the priests who came to assist their colleagues was torched during the incident, reported NDTV.
This is not a capture from Mosul or Syria, unfortunately, it's a scene from India. Catholic Seminary Students, Priests and a group of Carol Singers, being arrested by the Madhya Pradesh State Police after letting the BJP/RSS Groups attack the group and torching their vehicles. pic.twitter.com/tkXMkqMBpm
— VishakhCherian (@VishakhCherian) December 15, 2017
Media reports on the incident have been inconsistent on how many people were arrested, but among them was a professor at a Catholic theological college, reported the BBC.
According to The Times, a villager told police that a priest offered him cash, a cross, and a Bible if he would get baptized.
The Hindu reported that the complaint was made by a 21-year-old man.
Christians aren’t supposed to sing carols in India? Priests assaulted, car set on fire—those in the rights community say Satna incident was the 48th attack on carolers this Xmas season. Carol singing = conversion? Indians have an opinion on the other, but very little knowledge. https://t.co/NJzUcE0oJT
— Vinod K. Jose (@vinodjose) December 17, 2017
After being questioned by police the carol singers were released.
The state has strict anti-conversion laws, a result of the state’s ruling Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). If someone is to convert from one religion to another, they have to formally notify the authorities in advance.
The head body of the Catholic Church in India has complained about the incident.
Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India said the priests’ singing program has been carried out each Christmas season for the last 30 years, reported The Hindu.
The attack and case against Priests and seminarians who went for carol singing in MP are shameful and abominable to the whole nation. The culprits and fanatics must be brought before law. https://t.co/MubcZUo9Yt
— Kottayam Archdiocese (@pankottayam) December 16, 2017
The police told the paper that no one has yet to be charged over the conversion charge as investigations are ongoing, but they have arrested an 18-year-old man for torching the priests’ vehicle.
There has been a surge of reports about mistreatment of religious minorities in the state and elsewhere in India ever since the BJP at state and federal levels have come to power.
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