11/19/2018, 13.25
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Priest beaten, arrested and released in Varanasi

by Nirmala Carvalho

Fr Vineet Vincent Pereira was indicted for "rioting” and “unlawful assembly". He runs the Ishwar Dham prayer centre. He had received threats in the past. An interfaith forum expresses solidarity with the attacked priest.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) – A Catholic priest was beaten, arrested and then released in Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh). Police later indicted him for rioting and illegal assembly.

Father Vineet Vincent Pereira runs Ishwar Dham, a site where prayers are recited for ten hours every day. He was attacked on 14 November.

“At 5 pm, two people came to cause tensions,” he said in recalling the incident. “Rapidly, they were joined by others and started to beat up one of the people present. When I went to rescue him, they began hitting me on the head and on the arm, and pulled my hair."

When police arrived, they "took me to the station for 'my safety'. I was locked up and released the next day."

The man who attacked the priest is called Raj Kumar. The incident itself lasted about ten minutes. "Along with me, there were nine people. I was the only priest present at the place,” he explained, adding that “I received several threats in the past ".

After releasing the clergyman, police charged him under articles 147 (rioting) and 151 (unlawful assembly) of the Indian Penal Code.

Yesterday, the Indian Missionary Society of Varanasi met to express the solidarity of the whole local community to the priest.

Fr Anand Mathew, leader of the society and founder of Kashi Qaumi Ekta Manch (United Forum for communal harmony of Varanasi), noted that Fr Vineet is "a young and saintly priest. He looks after the sick and regularly conducts prayers. People flock to him for healing."

Yesterday’s meeting – dubbed Peace Solidarity Convention (Aman-Bhaichara Sammelan) – drew the leaders of various religious groups – Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims (Sunnis and Shias), Christians, Kabir Panthis and Brahma Kumaris.

The meeting, Fr Anand noted, "had been organised before the attack [against Fr Vineet] following numerous attacks in the last two months against Christians, Muslims, Dalits and women. The various religious leaders condemned the aggression against Fr Pereira."

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