06/15/2011, 00.00
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Three American tourists expelled from the country for "converting the poor"

by Nirmala Carvalho
The New Age Hindutva Group arrested the three women, along with some Protestant Indians, and put pressure on the police to expel them from the country. The accusation was not proved, but the women must leave.

Kottayam (AsiaNews) - Three American tourists were asked to leave India over complaints filed against them and against local evangelical pastors. They are charged with having converted "poor families" to Christianity in the coastal area of Alappuzha in Kerala. The police, however, ruled that the three tourists were forced to leave because they violated the rules on tourist visas, trying to participate in activities and group meetings. Investigating police inspector J Santhoshkumar said the three women Shelly Deeds Louise, a nurse in Pennsylvania, her daughter Heather Katelyn Deeds (15) and Diane Gean Harrington, a teacher in Wisconsin arrived 15 days ago and their tourist visas were valid until November 2011.

The women and three men from Kottayam (Kerala), were stopped by a group of Hindu fanatics from the Hindutva New Age Group June 13, and turned over to police on charges of being involved in religious conversions in the village of Thrikkunnappuzha, hit by tsunami in 2004. The Hindu activists first arrested them and then called the police. It seems that the arrested women told the police that they were tourists. The irony of story is that New Age Hindutva Group, which filed the complaint against the Americans, is very active in the propagation of Hinduism in the United States.

The police inspector said they found no evidence of conversion activities, but the women participated in religious and prayer meetings. "Since they had a visitor visa, and since the law of the country does not allow them to participate in an organized meeting, or in group activities, including prayers, and since it was not clear what were their intentions were, they were asked to leave, and the women agreed. There was no deportation, and they are now waiting for their return tickets, "said district chief Asok Kumar.

Father Pauk Thelakat, spokesman for the Syro-Malabar Synod told AsiaNews: "It was a mindless reaction by the police. They are literally following the letter of the law, and may have some justification. But the more realistic possibility is that some Hindu fundamentalist created a problem, and the police agreed”.

Father Paul, who is also director of the influential newspaper "Satyadeepam" (Light of Truth) noted that "The report suggests that the 'poor families' are too poor to make a decision in matters of religion and can easily be bought with money. And the poor must be protected from high-caste Hindus to save their faith. This ridicules the poor and considers them less than human. Even if poor they are able to make decisions on their religion and others do not have to worry about their faith. Let them take care of their faith and not promoters of Hinduism, from foreigners. This mentality is based on caste, and despises the poor. "
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