Sunday, July 24, 2005

Catholic priest arrested on conversion charge in Madhya Pradesh

Jhabua, Madhya Pradesh, July 22 : Following the revelation in an inquiry report that the Christian population in the tribal Jhabua district in western Madhya Pradesh rose by 80 percent, a Catholic priest running a middle school has been arrested on the charge of abetting conversion to Christianity.

Father P T Thomas, director of the St Michael School, run by the Catholic mission at Jhaparda village in this district's Meghnagar tahsil was arrested yesterday under the Freedom of Religion Act.

He was released on a bail of Rs five thousand, Superintendent of Police Umesh Joga said today.

The arrest followed complaints from eight tribal parents that the school management was charging higher admission fees from non-Christians.

''The management had offered the inducement to reduce the fees if they adopted Christianity,'' the parents complained.

''Since the school management had not replied to a show cause notice within the stipulated three days, steps were being taken to cancel the school's recognition,'' said Tribal Development Assistant Commissioner B G Mehta, who is currently holding the charge of District Education Officer.

The complaint was found true during a preliminary inquiry by the Education department, Mr Joga said.

Meanwhile, VHP leader Rajendra Yadav has demanded a CBI inquiry into the activities of Christian missionaries and de-recognition of the school.

A high-level inquiry by former DGP Narendra Prasad into the frequent disputes between Christian missionaries and Hindu activists in Jhabua district revealed that the Christian population in the district had gone up by 80 percent in the past two decades.