NEW DELHI, INDIA (BosNewsLife)– A pastor and his wife remained behind bars Friday, December 18, after they were mistreated by militants and police detained them for “forceful” conversion of Hindus to Christianity in India’s state of Karnataka, Christians said.
The arrest in Mysore, Karnataka’s second-largest city, reportedly came after about 15 militants of the radical Hindu group Bajrang Dal stormed the house church of Pastor H. T Manjunath and his wife Saraswati, where they allegedly beat up the couple.
Saraswati sustained injuries from the beating but was denied medical help, Christians said.
International Christian Concern (ICC), a rights group with close contacts to churches in India, told BosNewsLife that police detained the couple after a person, identified only as Ashoka, filed a police complaint against them alleging that they “forcefully converted Hindus to Christianity.” Ashoka apparently produced five witnesses to testify against the couple.
ICC quoted police as saying that the Christians were charged with “defiling a place of worship with intent to hurt another religion and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings,” a reference to the Indian Penal Code. Police also blocked off the house church of Pastor Manjunath, according to ICC investigators.
Pastor Manjunath was reportedly sent to the regional K.R Nagar jail, his wife Saraswati to Mysore jail. Area Christian leaders have hired “a leading lawyer” to defend the couple against “the false accusations,” ICC said.
“Arresting a Christian couple on false charges even after they were assaulted is unacceptable and a violation of their basic human rights,” said ICC’s Regional Manager for Africa and South Asia, Jonathan Racho. “We urge Indian officials to release the couple, bring the perpetrators of the attacks to justice, and provide Saraswati with medical assistance.”
ICC said it had also urged supporters to pray for the couple and contact Indian embassies across the world to demand their release.
Church groups have reported increased pressure on Christians in several states where authorities have been cracking down on what they view as “forced” conversions by missionaries and church leaders.
Christians have denied the charges, saying forced conversions are impossible under Biblical guidelines as the Bible speaks of a voluntary “personal relationship” with Christ. Hindu groups have complained about the spread of Christianity, especially under Dalits, viewed as the ‘lowest caste’ in India’s Hinduism structures.[
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