Pentecostal pastor arrested in Tamil Nadu for criticising compulsory yoga in schools
by Nirmala Carvalho

The clergyman had praised the benefits of yoga for body and mind. His Church welcomes Dalits and the poor held down by the caste system. In Uttar Pradesh another Pentecostal pastor was beaten and arrested. A pastor and five members of the Life Worship Centre were also detained but later released.

Lucknow (AsiaNews) – Police in Tamil Nadu arrested a Pentecostal clergyman for criticising yoga.

Speaking to AsiaNews, Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), said that Rev Mohan was jailed for speaking out "against compulsory yoga in schools and elsewhere”, which “forcibly promotes a Hindu lifestyle."

The pastor "is a leader involved in civil society,” George said. He “works in favour of Dalits and the poor in Tamil Nadu’s rural remote areas."

"Many people,” the GCIC president added, “go to his Pentecostal church seeking refuge and comfort from the oppression of the caste system, which is still strong in South India. By contrast, in his church, they are treated equally and with dignity."

Rev Mohan was arrested because of one of his sermons "in which he spoke against the use of Hindu terminology in the practice of yoga." However, "the clergyman has praised the ancient Indian practice for its beneficial effects on mental and physical health".

This incident did not happen in a vacuum. George said that other arrests have taken place in Uttar Pradesh, a state where a radical Hindu recently became chief minister.

The first incident occurred on Wednesday, when a Pentecostal clergyman in Kushinagar was first beaten and then arrested.

The second took place in Agra, where police jailed Rev Mahesh Chand and five members of the Life Worship Centre Church. They were all released later without charges.

“Christians were not doing anything unconstitutional,” the GCIC leader explained, noting that “Our founding fathers and the architects of the Indian Constitution granted minorities full freedom of religion and freedom to practice, preach and spread their faith. Instead, we [Christians] are still forced to suffer intimidation, verbal and physical abuse, detention and harassment."