South Asia

Indian pastors jailed after false allegations of ‘conversion’

Pastor Amar Singh Solanki, Pastor Kishore Barela, Pastor Prabhakar Solanki

Hindu extremists targeted three pastors with false allegations of ‘conversion’ in Madhya Pradesh in the latest attempt by nationalists to shut down Christian worship.

Three pastors of the Indian Evangelical team in the Khandwa district of the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh were jailed on Monday (10 April).

A group of Hindu extremists comprising of members of the Bajrang Dal and Hindu organisations gathered in the Sitabedi village and protested against a prayer meeting that was taking place on Palm Sunday in the house of a Christian.

Videos filmed by some of the Christians show that the extremists were menacingly questioning the three pastors and the host family about the meeting.

“The lady of the host family persistently emphasised that she was getting this prayer service done in her house as a token of thanksgiving to the Lord for delivering her from prolonged sickness,” said Pastor Shivram Mujalde, the Area Supervisor of IET in an interview with Global Christian News.

Munjalde described how the leader of the Hindu extremists made allegations against the three pastors for luring a Hindu from amongst the extremist crowd to convert to Christianity.

“The Hindu extremists were carrying a necklace with a cross in it to be worn in the neck along with them and they concocted a story saying that the pastors had told the Hindu man that, ‘your faith in your god does you no good….wear this necklace with the cross in it and start to believe in Jesus’,” said Mujalde.

The meeting arranged in the open space in front of the host family’s house

Contradicting the fabricated story Mujalde told Global Christian News that the Hindu man was not even in the Church service and the three pastors had never met him.

“We ourselves don’t wear a cross and do not encourage our congregation members to wear one,” added Mujalde calling their bogus story baseless and a cheap trap.

“Everything was pre-planned. The police were already informed, arrived about 20 minutes after the Hindu mob began to intimidate the Christians. They were shouting slogans of ‘Jai Shri Ram’ (Hail lord Rama),” said Mujalde.

At the false testimony of the Hindu extremist five Christians – Pastor Amar Singh Solanki, Pastor Kishore Barela, Pastor Prabhakar Solanki and two women (the wives of the Pastors) were arrested and taken to the Piplod police station. The women were later released in the evening, while the three pastors were charged under the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, which outlaws attempts to convert people from one faith to another. Penalties for conversion includes fines and up to a year in prison.

Pastor Kishore Barela from Badwani (4 kilometers from the incident) and Pastor Prabhakar Solanki from Jalgaon, Maharashtra (200 Kilometers) along with their families were special guests invited for the worship service by Pastor Amar Singh Solanki, who conducts regular Sunday service in village Gudi (2 kilometers) for the past 4 years.

Mujalde told Global Christian News that the host Amar Singh and his family were attending Church with Pastor Amar Singh Solanki since August 2016 after Amar Singh’s wife received healing and deliverance.

She wanted to testify of what God has done in her life and arranged a two-day prayer and thanksgiving in her house. Inviting all the Church members (45 people), she requested the Pastor to conduct the Palm Sunday Church service from her house. It began Saturday evening and was going to end with Sunday lunch,” said Mujalde.

Shivram Mujalde told Global Christian News that he confronted the policemen in the court room on 10 April, while they were waiting to hear from the magistrate, saying, “Do you not understand what is right and what is wrong? You have arrested the pastors on the testimony of a false witness?”.

“To which the policeman said that we should have filed a counter FIR (First Information Report) against the extremists. ‘We know the truth, but they have called us and we have to take action’,” said the policeman to Mujalde.

Mujalde was dumbstruck to what happened inside the court room and said, “The magistrate had granted bail to the three pastors, but instantaneously the Hindu mob along with media personals with camera’s and equipment’s rushed inside the court-room. The extremists demanded strict action against the Christians and the court revoked the orders.”

The three pastors remain in jail and await bail today (12 April).