By Santosh Digal, BosNewsLife Asia Correspondent
NEW DELHI, INDIA (BosNewsLife)– Police briefly detained missionaries and Bible school students in India’s southern state of Karnataka in recent days as part of what local Christians said is a Hindu government backed crackdown on “churches and communities.”
In one of these incidents, five missionaries of the Indian mission group Friends Missionary Prayer Band were arrested “on false charges of alleged forced conversion” of Hindus in the village of Nangali in the state’s Kolar district, explained Madhu Chandra, the regional secretary of advocacy group All India Christian Council.
“About 30 Hindu fanatics rounded them at a church building construction site and dragged them to the local police station” last Tuesday, November 24, accusing them of forced conversion, he said.
“Police without investigating the allegation detained the five missionaries the whole night,” before releasing them the next day, Chandra told BosNewsLife. AICC linked the detention to the missionaries work among impoverished Dalits, viewed as the ‘lowest caste’ in India’s ancient system of Hinduism.
He said the missionaries were released after intervention of AICC and local Dalit leaders. Additionally, dozens of Hindu militants abducted four Bible school students of the International Cultural College of Studies organization on November 24 in Karnataka’s hill town of Madhugiri, according to AICC investigators.
They said the students were taken during a culture trip in the town and brought to a local police station. Police held them for “24 hours” after hearing accusations of “forceful conversion,” added AICC investigator David Kumarm who “rescued” the students.
He said his team had made clear that the “allegation levelled by the Hindu fanatics on students are the pretext of a hate campaign against the Christian minorities” of nationalist Hindus. “They were released the next day without a cases registered against them,” AICC added.
The incidents have added to concerns among the local Christian population with some saying the life of religious minorities “is a hell like situation”.
Since the radical Hindu-led Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in Karnataka, an attack on Christian churches and community is reported about every fourth day, AICC and Christians said.
Police and other government officials have made no comments about the reported incidents, however Karnataka and other states have come under international pressure to improve religious rights.
AICC and other rights groups also say that Hindu militants have “misused” government and law enforcement agencies to arrest “innocent” Christians on conversion charges.
Christian missionaries have denied they are involved in forced conversions, saying Christianity is based on a voluntary choice to accept “Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.”