Madhya Pradesh, Pentecostal pastor arrested on charges of 'forced conversions'
by Nirmala Carvalho

Rev. Indrapal Bharati was questioned along with his wife and an assistant. Right wing extremists accuse him of having extorted the conversion of a young Hindu with the offer of money. Sajan K George: "The anti-conversion law is used as an instrument of intimidation and harassment".

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - A Pentecostal pastor from Madhya Pradesh was arrested and interrogated by police on charges of converting a young Hindu with a promise of money. Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), told AsiaNews: "It's all false. Far-right radicals have fabricated the conversion charge".

The incident occurred on Sunday, September 9 in the city of Mangawan, Rewa district. Rev. Indrapal Bharati  has led worship and organized "Christian missionary meetings" for years in this locality. During the Sunday prayer gathering, a hundred members of a far-right extremist group broke in causing commotion.

The mob accused the Christian of having tried to have tried to convert Mohan Kumar, a young local, with the offer of 5 thousand rupees [59 euro, ed]. Later the police arrived at the place and took away the pastor, his wife Mamta Bharti and assistant Sharmila.

Sajan K George reports that the radicals continued to shout slander against the Reverend even when he was in the police station, blaming him for having corrupted and driven many Dalits and the poor into converting. "These accusations are groundless - he claims - the conversions extracted with the promise of money are illicit and illegal. In Madhya Pradesh, right-wing fundamentalist groups keep Pentecostal churches and their activities under strict surveillance. The rights of Pentecostal Christians are denied by the instrument of the anti-conversion law, the draconian Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Bill, which is used to harass and intimidate. In India there are constitutional guarantees that affirm religious freedom. But to Pentecostal Christians, second-class citizens, these guarantees are denied ".