04/18/2012, 00.00
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Hindu radicals use the law to persecute Christians in Andhra Pradesh

The Indian state does not have any anti-conversion law, but enforces three ordinances that ban non-Hindus from proselytising near Hindu temples. A Pentecostal clergyman could go to jail because of calendars found in his possession. Meanwhile, a court convicts 11 Christians on forced conversion charges that date back to 2007.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - Even without anti-conversion laws, ultranationalist Hindus have a legal tool to persecute Christians, said Sajan George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), namely the Worship or Prayer (Prohibition) Ordinance of 2007, which empowers the State to prohibit propagation of other religions in particular places of worship or prayer than the religion traditionally practiced there. Recently, a group of activists from the Rashtriya Sawayamsevak Sangh (RSS) used it to demand the arrest of Rev Ahron, a Pentecostal pastor accused of trying to convert Hindus near the Hindu temple in the city of Dharmapuri.

On Monday, the clergyman was visiting the city to meet Kople Easwar, a member of the state's legislative assembly. As he waited for his friend, a group of Hindu radicals saw him and the pocket calendars he carried.

After attacking him, they forced him to hand over the calendars and dragged him to a police station, where they filed a complaint against him on the basis of Government Order 746, which bans propaganda by other religions near the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams temple and 19 other Hindu temples across the country.

For the GCIC president, these ordinance and orders "violate rights protected by the Indian constitution." For this reason, the "chief minister of Andhra Pradesh should change them."

On a related story, a local court convicted 11 Christians from the village of Kyatamballi on the basis of these rules on charges of forced conversions that go back to 2007.

Two of the accused received a 20-month sentence and 5,000-rupees (US$ 100) fine. The other nine were given a 12-month sentence and a 2,000-rupee fine (US$ 45) each. (NC)

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