Mumbai (AsiaNews) – Authorities in Dhar District, Madhya Pradesh, banned on “law and order” grounds a Pentecostal meeting scheduled for today. After issuing the appropriate permits to the Church, they cancelled them. For Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), this is another blow to India’s “secular credentials”.
Rev Bharat Singh Mehda had obtained on 15 April all the permits for the meeting, which included the following conditions: the activities to take place between 8 am and 11 pm; no loudspeakers; and no “objectionable slogans".
"They told us at the last moment that the permits had been revoked,” the Pentecostal clergyman said.
“Many participants from other parts of the country are already here. We spent a lot of money to organise everything,” he explained. “Each year, about 1,000 people participate in the event. However, this year we expected more than 5,000”.
District official K. Sharma said the permits were revoked because the organisers had kept the administration "unaware of the turnout to the event."
"They [Christians] are free to hold small prayer meetings in the local church,” he explained, “but no permit will be granted for large-scale services."
For the GCIC president, “the presence of many people is just an excuse to cancel. In fact, the government of Madhya Pradesh is not new at large scale religious events,” the Christian leader said.
For example, “In February 2011, almost 2 million people attended the Narmada Samajik Kumbh, a gathering organised by Hindu nationalist groups who openly engaged in hate propaganda against Christians.”
Conversely, “In October 2014, the same state government banned a Christian gathering, citing possible disturbances to the peace,” a decision influenced by Hindu organisations opposed to the marriage of a Christian man to a Hindu woman.
In fact, “We have evidence that radical elements periodically disrupt prayer services in private homes,” George told AsiaNews.
The head of the Christian rights group “also knows of Christians beaten for praying in their own homes."