06/14/2011, 00.00
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Karnataka: Three Christians arrested on false charges of forced conversions

by Nirmala Carvalho
The men were donating clothes, food and shelter to 70 lepers. Twenty Hindu activists stormed the premises and called the police who took the men away without listening to them or the sick. Sajan K George (Global Council of Indian Christians): "Yet another stain on the history of India, the state must guarantee the safety of the Christian minority."

Bangalore (AsiaNews) - Hennur police have arrested three men on false charges of forced conversions in Karnataka, reported by 20 Hindu activists. According to police, the men brought about 70 lepers from Dharmapuri (Tamil Nadu) to Bangalore. The Deputy Commissioner N Narasimhaiah said: "The three Christians offered food, clothing, shelter to the sick, before teaching them certain prayers and other Christian religious rites." For Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), it is "yet another stain on the history of secular India." The GCIC has petitioned the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the Department for Social Assistance, to demand the release of three men.

"The state must guarantee the safety of the Christian minority, vulnerable to the continuing intimidation and violence justified in the name of religion, of far-right groups," says Sajan George. The Christian community in Karnataka is increasingly being targeted by Hindu radicals since May 2008 when the BJP (Bharatiya Janatha Party, ultra-nationalist Hindu party) came to power. While Christians are systematically taken into custody, interrogated and accused of various crimes by Hindu radicals, their attackers roam about on the loose. "Justice is not pursuing those committing the crimes - reiterates the GCIC president - only innocent Christians suffer humiliation and arrests."

Like every year, Henry Baptist Reuben, a Catholic, had organized a day of service to the lepers in his house, in which he distributes clothes, food and other household items. In the early afternoon, a local Hindu raided his home with 20 other activists, accusing Reuben and his family of forced conversions. The Catholic was not even allowed to explain the situation, before the Hindus called the Hennur police station. Inspector Hanumantharayappa arrived quickly, taking Reuben and two lepers away under section 295-A of the Penal Code, for "injury to religious feelings."

Sajan K George criticizes the work of law enforcement: "The police even ignored the cries of the sick who are present there, who tried in every possible way to explain that it was a regular annual activity in which they received help and there was no attempt to force them to convert. "

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