Patna (AsiaNews) – Hindu nationalists organised a demonstration in Patna district against the Pentecostal Church, claiming that it tried to pay local Dalits to leave Hinduism and become Christian. The Pentecostals have rejected the accusations and John Dayal, president of the All India Catholic Union, told AsiaNews that “there is no evidence whatsoever of forced or fraudulent conversion.” The charges are “illegitimate, false, mischievous and designed to create enmity between communities.” They are, in his view, “punishable under the law.”
Gopal Prasad, local leader of the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), and Kishori Sao, who heads the local branch of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), stated on Sunday that the Pentecostal Church brought about a hundred people, including women and children, to a home in Bankipore Gorakh, in the city of Fatua, to baptise them. They claim that the Dalits were enticed with the offer of 5,000 rupees cash and a job paying 8,000 per month.
With this in mind Prasad called for an immediate ban on religious conversions, claiming that the Pentecostal Church is closely involved in a campaign to convert poor people by dangling money in front of them and making all sorts of promises.
Hindu protesters took up those charges in a vocal demonstration against the Church, which they accuse of dividing rural communities along religious lines.
Rev Rudal Paswan, a Pentecostal minister, reacted to the statement and the demonstration by flatly denying the charges that his Church was involved in trying to convert Dalits.
“We never engage in such activity and charges against us are completely false," he said.
The men and women who had gathered at the church also denied having come there with the intention of converting to Christianity.
Conversely, there have been some reports that Reverend Paswan was taken by Hindu nationalists to a local Hindu temple and forced to repeat Hindu religious mantras like ‘Jai Sri Ram.’
“We are looking into the matter,” said B Rajender, Patna, a divisional magistrate, who asked a sub-divisional magistrate to investigate and submit a report.
As the former chairman of the National Minorities Commission, now Vice President of India, Hamid Ansari said in the past, state governments must prove what they claim. So far only one Indian state has been able to gather evidence that two people were forced to convert, and this over a 20-year period.
For Mr Dayal there is no widespread anti-Christian sentiment in the country. “If it did exist we would be all dead or forced to become Hindu,” he said.
The reality is that the Sangh Parivar, an umbrella group linking various Hindu organisations to promote Hindutva or Hindu nationalism, “is trying desperately to garner support by pursuing a hate campaign. Even some good people like Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Raja Virbhadra Singh have fallen into that trap.”
As for the BJP leader’s claim that Dalits will be “treated as our brothers and sisters” if they remain Hindu, Dayal said that “considering the large scale violence against Dalits of all faiths in India, it is no solace to be considered a brother by the Sangh Parivar.”