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3 Evangelists Harassed With False Charges in Rajasthan

Monday, July 23, 2018, 22:48 (IST)

Three evangelists were falsely accused of fraudulent conversion and were arrested twice in a village in Rajasthan.

Pr Kasiram Meghwal, 46, Evangelist Sahiram Nayak, 34, and Pr Vijender Singh, 32, were accused of allegedly offering money to two Hindus to convert, attorney Subodh Mathews told Morning Star News.

According to First Information Report (FIR) filed by Khajuwala area resident Rameshwar Lal alleges that on May 20 the trio offered him 100,000 rupees and 50,000 rupees to another area Hindu to convert.

However, the three Christians denied the accusation.

Meghwal leads a church in Choru, Rajasthan, 410 miles from the village near Khajuwala. Nayak lives 136 miles from Khajuwala in Sri Ganganagar and attends a church in Rai Singh Nagar. Singh also leads a church in a different area of Khajuwala.

According to the lawyer Mathews, the three were at their respective churches on May 20. Two days later, they visited the Khajuwala area to proclaim Christ to villagers, but didn't offer any money to anyone.

On May 24, under a statute against "outraging religious feelings", the three Christians were taken into custody.

"We wept before the Lord, but we never abandoned our faith," Singh told MSN.

"We met many people inside the prison, including a few people who told us that they were in the habit of committing murders for money, and that they related to some extremist religious groups as well. They told us that they would have gladly killed us, had they seen us outside," he added.

The following Sunday, the jailed Christians were permitted to hold Sunday worship service inside the prison.

"We got the opportunity to share inside the jail to murderers," said Singh.

Initially, their plea for bail was denied as it was the second time they were accused of fraudulent conversion. With much difficulty they were able to obtain bail on May 29 and were released.

The earlier arrest was on May 22, when the three Christians distributed Bible literature and New Testaments among families of village 16 BD.

A mob of 80 men with wooden sticks attacked the three, as they were slapped, punched, pushed down and verbally abused.

The mob shouted, "We will kill you today."

Soon police arrived and took the Christians into protective custody, or otherwise they would have been killed, said Singh. They Christians were arrested under Section 151 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, "Arrest to prevent the commission of cognizable offenses."

Singh said that police was aware of how Christians are being targeted in India. When the mob demanded that the three Christians be handed over to them or they would set fire to the police van, the officers overpower the mob to protect the Christians.

"While we were there [in the Khajuwala police station], the sitting Member of Legislative Assembly [MLA], Dr. Vishwanath Meghwal, who belongs to the BJP [Hindu extremist Bharatiya Janata Party], kept calling the police inspector and kept pressuring him to question us thoroughly," said Singh.

"The policeman, exasperated by the frequent calls of the MLA, finally asked him to come to the police station and satisfy himself by interrogating us," he added.

Since being bailed out, two court hearings have passed, one on June 5 and another on June 30. Church leaders believe the accusations are rooted only in the desire to harass the Christians.