Aligarh, December 17 (Outlook India): Christian schools in Aligarh district in the North Indian state of Uttar Pradesh have been warned by the Hindu Jagran Manch, a right-wing Hindutva group affiliated to Yogi Adityanath’s Hindu Yuva Vahini, not to celebrate Christmas because it may lure the students to Christianity.
The Hindu Yuva Vahini (HYM) suspects Christmas celebration in schools, with a major population of Hindu students, is a step ‘towards forced conversions’, reported The Times of India.
Students are asked to bring toys and gifts which is an easy way to lure them to Christianity, city president of Hindu Jagran Manch, Sonu Savita told the daily, adding that such kind of activities can affect the mentality of Hindu students.
The threat comes just days after Bajrang Dal activists accused a group carol-singing Christians of coversion, and torched their car of a priest outside a police station in Satna district of Madhya Pradesh.
Hindu Yuva Vahini, set up in 2002 by Yogi Adityanath who is now Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, had early this year, filed a complaint against the pastor of a church, accusing him of converting Hindus to Christianity.
A church event in Maharajganj district in eastern Uttar Pradesh, attended by more than 150 people, including 10 American tourists, was stopped by the police after the right-wing Hindu Yuva Vahini (HYV) alleged that religious conversion was being carried out.
Mass was held there quite often but as this time foreigners were involved, the HYV suspected that conversion was going on.
Back in 2014, Yogi Adityanath had warned Christians not to celebrate Christmas outside Churches.
“If they can call our Ghar Wapsi programme wrong then holding such function by the Christian missionaries is also wrong. Many such ceremonies by them (Christian priests) have been reported and stopped by the administration and any further plans too should be scuttled,” he had then told The Economic Times
30 Catholic Priests Arrested
Meanwhile The Indian Express reported that more than 30 priests and seminarians singing carols at a village near Madhya Pradesh’s Satna town were detained on Thursday after Bajrang Dal activists accused them of forced conversion.
One priest was also arrested under the state’s anti-conversion law on Friday.
Some of the priests and seminarians, released in the early hours of Friday, alleged they had been roughed up by members of the right-wing group on the police station’s premises. Both the police and the Bajrang Dal activists denied the allegations.
Eight priests who had come to the Civil Lines Police Station on Friday to inquire about the previous day’s detentions were also detained, while their car was torched.
Police said they were unaware of who torched the car, and added that they had registered a case under IPC Section 435 (mischief by fire or explosive substance) in connection with the incident.
On Friday, M George, who teaches at St Ephrem’s Theological College, and five unknown persons were booked under the Freedom of Religion Act and Sections 153-B and 295-A of the IPC on a complaint by one Dharmendra Dohar, who alleged he had been offered money to convert to Christianity.
A resident of Bhumkahar village, the 21-year-old alleged that missionaries were active in his village for the last two years, and that he had been given “Rs 5,000, a cross and a Bible” after he took a dip in a pond to change his faith.
Catholic Bishops Protest
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) denied allegations of forced conversion, and said that 30 seminarians and two priests from the Theological College were detained by police when they were conducting a carol singing programme — a routine practice during Christmas season for the last 30 years.
Sub-inspector Mohini Sharma of the Civil Lines Police Station said George, 60, was released on bail, and police are yet to identify the five others allegedly involved in converting Dharmendra.
She claimed police had brought the priests and seminarians to the station because the situation in the village was getting tense due to the presence of Bajrang Dal activists.
Secretary General of the CBCI, Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, told The Indian Express that charges of conversion were yet to be proven, and accused the police of complicity with right-wing activists. He alleged that the police stood by as the priests and seminarians were assaulted.
“The charge of conversion for which the priests and seminaria ns were detained is frivolous. The situation outside the police station was allowed to be so hostile that even those who wanted to approach the detained persons could not get access to them. The violence perpetrated by groups, who claim to be nationalists and have taken upon themselves the mantle of protecting nationalism and religion, is disgraceful,’’ the CBCI said in a statement.
(The featured image at the top shows the arrested priests and carol singers and the burning car)