Mumbai, Hindu radicals block a Pentecostal gathering. Pastor denounced for "forced conversions"
by Nirmala Carvalho

The municipal school of Worli Naka, rented for prayer meeting. Extremists of the "Bajrang Dal" youth wing raided the rally and called on police. Sajan K George: "They film meetings to say on social media that we practice forced conversions".

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - A group of radical Hindu nationalists interrupted a meeting of Pentecostal Christians and accused the pastor of practicing forced conversions to Christianity. The incident against the Christian minority, increasingly targeted by Hindutva's nationalist policies, took place last September 1st in Worli Naka, in the Mumbai municipality.

Speaking to AsiaNews Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), condemns "the growing aversion to the Christian faith".

The gathering was organized by the Pentecostal Christian movement "New Life Fellowship Association" in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation school in the Mumbai district. The guest of honor was the Rev. Allen Salins, from Mangalore. He had been invited to share his experience of faith in front of about 80 Christians.

The meeting, however, was suspended by the police, alerted by activists of the Bajrang Dal, a youth wing of the far-right Hindu nationalist faction Vishwa Hindu Parishad. The radicals were led by the local coordinator, 28-year-old Dinesh Shrivastav, who infiltrated the meeting and ordered one of his men to film what was happening. Then he warned the police, who intervened in support of the nationalists.

Sukhlal Varpe, chief police inspector of Worli Naka, agreed with the Hindus, arguing that "the organizers were not allowed to hold the meeting. According to activists of the Bajrang Dal, the gathering has disturbed social harmony and could have caused disorder to public order ".

Rev. Salins objected: "We were all shocked. We had organized the event to pray and sing. There was no threat to public order. The New Life Fellowship Association paid the school to hold the meeting ".

However, according to the inspector, even though the Christians "had received permission from the school, they should have informed us. They cannot hold religious events of this type ". The nationalist leader Shrivastav urges: "They should have kept it in church. Why did they do it in school? "

Sajan K George laments: "In rural areas it is not unusual for right-wing factions to send their spies to prayer meetings and even ask the pastor to pray for their recovery. In the meantime, they resume everything and then broadcast the videos on social media, saying that they are "forced conversions". It is all false and without groundless, with the sole purpose of sowing suspicion against the Christian minority ".

The Christians, he concludes, "enjoy rights guaranteed by the Constitution and are citizens who respect the law. Instead, these marginal groups disturb public order, threaten and intimidate the tiny community of faithful. The vigilantism of the majority is taking over and wants to destroy religious minorities. Christians are seen as "others". We are very worried".