Human rights activists on Friday accused police of brutalising a group of visiting Christians in Jaipur, fuelling an already raging controversy over growing incidents of minority-bashing by right-wing groups across the country.
According to the activists, who addressed a press conference in Jaipur, the 20-member group from Hyderabad’s Hebron church was bundled into police vehicles and caned in custody on February 25 for allegedly distributing religious pamphlets in the city.
The incident comes in the wake of controversial comments by leaders of Hindu groups on the role of Christian missionaries including Nobel laureate Mother Teresa who they accuse of converting people in the guise of social service.
There have also been several attacks on Christian institutions in Delhi and other places besides a campaign to convert people of other faiths to Hinduism, triggering outrage among political parties and minority organisations.
The activists, belonging to the NGO People’s Union for Civil Liberties and members of Sadbhav Manch, an inter-faith dialogue platform, also produced “photographic evidence” of the torture and said the same night, the group was “forced” to leave Rajasthan, a BJP-ruled state.
“It is clear that police carried out this action at the behest of Hindutva forces, who were hurling abuses and barged into the house where they (the group) were staying, before they were taken to the police station,” said pastor John Mathew of the manch.
PUCL general secretary Kavita Srivastava said several RSS members were present at the Mansarover police station during the incident.
Manch leaders said they had submitted a memorandum to police commissioner Janga Srinivas Rao seeking an FIR against “miscreants who terrorised the group”.
When reached for his comments, Rao said he would look into the allegations of custodial torture.
The station house officer (SHO) of Mansarover Hemant Sharma, however, denied the allegations.
“It was necessary to bring them to the police station because there was resentment in public against them. When it became clear that there was no conversion, they were released,” the SHO said.
On the other hand, RSS leaders here refused to speak on the issue saying they were not authorised to speak to the media.
(With PTI inputs)