Monday, August 14, 2006

Pastor arrested on false charges in Jabalpur, India

By Vijayesh Lal

August 14, 2006

Jabalpur, India:

According to reports received just now, the Jabalpur police moving on the direction of Dharma Sena and Bajrang Dal have arrested Brother Vinod Karsal, an Assemblies of God Pastor in Jabalpur.

Pastor Karsal was arrested from the home of one Mr. Kushwaha, a Christian who works in the World Vision Jabalpur.

Pastor Kushwaha had gone there to conduct a prayer meeting when all of sudden the Dharma Sena accompanied by the police and led by Yogesh Agrawal attacked the residence of Mr. Kushwaha. They dragged Pastor Karsal in the Gora Bazar police station and last heard were still trying to frame false charges of conversion on him.

We spoke to the Police Inspector Mr. Soni and he alleged that "Conversion material" was recovered from the Pastor although he did not specify what that material was. Eye witnesses outside the police station also told us that the Dharma Sena involved the local Television and Print media and also produced two Bajrang Dal volunteers who claimed that Pastor Karsal offered them money and a Bible in order to convert them.

Please pray for Christians in Jabalpur as they face pressure from the Hindu fundamentalists.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Congress against anti-conversion laws: Sonia

Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: Congress president Sonia Gandhi has reiterated her party's opposition to anti-conversion laws in a letter to the All India Christian Council (AICC). In a statement issued here on Saturday, the Council said Ms. Gandhi had informed it in a letter that: "These [anti-conversion laws] are enactments passed by State legislatures where the Congress is in Opposition."

Response to memorandum

Ms. Gandhi's letter to AICC was in response to a memorandum articulating the concern within civil society and minority communities over the manner in which many a State was enacting anti-conversion laws.

In her letter, Ms. Gandhi also pointed out that the Congress had opposed the anti-conversion laws strongly in the respective State assemblies and outside.

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Sunday, August 06, 2006

Chhattisgarh puts curbs on conversions

Source: AFP

Raipur: A sixth Indian state has passed a controversial anti-conversation law, banning religious conversions by force or allurement.

Passed by the legislature of central Chhattisgarh state late on Thursday, the law provides a three-year jail term and a Rs20,000 fine for those found guilty of forced religious conversions.

The bill has to be formally signed by the state governor. Hindu nationalist groups, led by the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which rules Chhattisgarh, have long accused Christian missionaries of forcibly converting Hindus.

The missionaries, who run schools, health centres and other charity programmes in the country's remote rural areas, deny the allegations. They say those who do convert do so willingly to escape the rigid Hindu caste system.

Four of India's 29 states, ruled by the BJP or its allies, have enacted such laws while in western Rajasthan state, the legislation has been passed by the assembly but has been held up by the state governor.

In Madhya Pradesh state, an existing anti-conversion law was amended last month to make it tougher. It is now mandatory for individuals seeking to change their religion to inform top officials one month in advance or face imprisonment and a fine.

Priests conducting conversion ceremonies in Madhya Pradesh have also been asked to pre-notify the authorities.

Moving the legislation in the Chhattisgarh assembly, Home Minister Ramvichar Netam said it would have a "stronger impact on containing forceful conversions mainly in remote and backward areas where external elements are trying to destroy the country".

In May, Pope Benedict condemned efforts to introduce anti-conversion legislation in several states in India, saying they were a "disturbing sign of religious intolerance". Christians form less than three percent of India's 1.1bn people, 80pc of whom are Hindus.

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Friday, August 04, 2006

Chhattisgarh passes anti-conversion bill

By Indo Asian News Service

Raipur, Aug 3 (IANS) The Chhattisgarh assembly Thursday passed an anti-conversion bill providing for a three-year jail term and a fine of Rs.20,000 for those indulging in religious conversion by force or allurement.

The legislation, which is an amendment to Freedom of Religion Act, 1968 that was retained by Chhattisgarh when it was carved out of Madhya Pradesh in November, 2000, was passed after a heated debate and exchange of allegations between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and opposition Congress legislators.

The new law, Chhattisgarh Religion Freedom (Amendment) Act, 2006 requires that those wishing to convert their religion have to seek permission of local district magistrate 30 days in advance. The district magistrate will accept or reject the request after studying the case.

The legislation is widely seen as a move by the BJP government to check the alleged growing influence of Christian missionaries in vast tribal areas in north and south of the state. The BJP governments in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan too have enacted similar laws.

While Congress legislators alleged the BJP government had a hidden agenda and the legislation was aimed to whip up communal feelings, Home Minister Ramvichar Netam said the new law would have stronger impact on containing forceful conversions, mainly in remote and backward areas where 'external elements are trying to destroy the country through conversions'.

The new law says that cases of those who converted their religion under force but reverted to their original religion would not be categorised as 'forceful conversion' and they would be exempted from punishment.

Copyright Indo-Asian News Service

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