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Hindu Extremists, Media Attack Mega Church in UP Alleging Forced Conversion
Thursday, September 20, 2018, 21:26 (IST)
Police under pressure from Hindu extremists have slapped false charges of fraudulent conversion against a pastor and 270 others belonging to a 7,000-member church in Uttar Pradesh.
After its initial attempts to stop Hindu extremists from shutting down the large church in UP, police who had told the pastor that they had found no evidence of fraudulent conversion are now denying the initial investigation took place, sources told Morning Star News.
Initially, Hindu extremists Brijesh Singh and Siddharth Singh filed charges of fraudulent conversion against 45-year-old pastor Durga Prasad Yadav. Then, they started a media campaign slandering the members of Jivan Jyoti Satsang Prarthana Kendra church in Bhulandih village, Jaunpur District.
On Aug. 5, the extremists stopped Christians en route to worship services, according to video captured by Deep Gupta, editor and chief of National TV News.
"I had placed hidden cameras all over the place," Gupta told Morning Star News.
"About 10-15 of them were stopping the three-wheelers going towards the church filled with people. They broke the vehicles and threatened the drivers to not carry passengers to church. The people were made to leave the transport," Gupta added.
The attackers beat the drivers and broke the three-wheeled vehicles going in the direction of the church, Yadav told MSN.
Despite threats, people still attended the service as they walked as much as four kilometers to reach the church, Yadav added.
The Hindu extremists also filed the charges against Kirit Rai, a Christian identified only as Jitandra and 268 others alleging conversion by fraudulent means and hurting religious feelings under section 156 (3) of the Criminal Procedure Code.
The extremists contended that Christians are "alluring the poor and the downtrodden with money and converting them to Christianity."
Dainik Jagran, a Hindi-language, national newspaper, reported on Aug. 2 that the complainants further alleged that the Christians "ridicule the worship of Sanatan religion and idols. They claim to cure incurable diseases and make the people testify of the false healing. They are made to eat the restricted food [Holy Communion] and made to shout praises to Jesus Christ and declare themselves Christians."
A court ordered Chandwak police to investigate the conversions of the church members.
Gupta told MSN that he interviewed 500 of the 7,000 worshippers, questioning them about their faith and the allegations of "conversion by fraudulent means."
"As many as I interviewed had stories to share about their sickness and how they got healed after Pastor Yadav prayed for them," he said.
"They said that they attended the church out of their own free will, and that they were not subjected to any force or allurement. They said that despite threats, they will continue to attend church," he added.
Gupta broadcasted his footage and investigation renouncing the allegations against Yadav and the other 270 Christians.
Police also found the allegations of forceful or fraudulent conversions to be false, Yadav told MSN.
On Sept. 5, however, the newspaper published the same false news story stating, "A case shall be registered against 271 Christians including the pastor against the allegations of religious conversion." It stated that a court ordered the police on Sept. 4 to probe and submit a report.
Station Head Officer (SHO) Shashichand Chaudhary told MSN that police received orders from the court on Sept. 5 to investigate the accusations. Questioned about the earlier investigation on Aug. 5, with a report renouncing the allegations against the Christians submitted by Officer Mahendra Kumar Yadav on Aug. 7, he denied any prior investigations took place.
The previous investigation report was dismissed in order to make way for the new investigation, said Gupta.
"A lot of pressure is being exerted by the Hindu fundamentalist political parties over the authorities, be it judiciary or the police," he said.
Yadav said Hindu extremists continue to threaten him nearly every other week.
"Threats kept pouring, from here-and-there," he added.