India is the world’s most populous democracy, but it has been rocked by sectarian strife from the beginning. In recent years, Hindu nationalists have gained power in places, bringing with them increasing threats to the secular underpinnings of democracy as well as persistent persecution to non-Hindu minorities.
On Friday, a Christian priest was arrested on Friday after a member of the Bajrang Dal, a powerful Hindu group associated with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling party, accused 50 members of a seminary of distributing the Bible, photos of Jesus Christ and singing carols in a village in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.
According to Reuters;
“Madhya Pradesh, governed by the BJP, has strict religious conversion laws. People must give formal notice to local administrators in order to change religion.
“We have arrested the priest but have not booked him under the anti-conversion law because the probe into the allegations is still on,” said Rajesh Hingankar, the investigating official in Satna district, where the incident occurred.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India said they were “shocked, and pained at the unprovoked violence against Catholic priests and seminarians”.
“We were only singing carols, but the hard-line Hindus attacked us and said we were on a mission to make India a Christian nation … that’s not true,” said Anish Emmanuel, a member of the St. Ephrem’s Theological College in Satna.”
When another group of priests went to the police station, their car was set aflame by a group of Hindu nationalists.
From the Daily Mail
“When a group of priests went to the police station to enquire about the detentions, their parked car was torched, allegedly by a mob belonging to a right-wing Hindu group, said Theodore Mascarenhas, secretary general of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India.”
image: stock photo of Christians in India celebrating Christimas