Pastor booked in Kodagu over conversion charges, say police
A day after governor Thawar Chand Gehlot gave his consent to the Karnataka Right to Freedom of Religion Bill, 2021, or anti-conversion bill, a Kerala-based pastor and his wife have been booked in Karnataka’s Kodagu district in connection with the alleged conversion of a labourer.
An FIR in the case was registered in the case on Tuesday but the news came to the fore on Wednesday after a video of right-wing group members ‘forcing’ the labourer of Manchalli village, Kodagu, to file a complaint against the pastor for conversion, was shared widely on social media platforms.
In the video, Bajarang Dal workers, who had visited the pastor’s house, can be seen confronting him and his wife regarding the conversions. The pastor and his wife were identified as 62-year-old Kuryichan V and 57-year-old Salenamma.
“Tell us how many people have you converted... what (money) have you collected... and (what are) these accounts kept for,” an unidentified person who appears to be the group leader is heard telling the pastor in Malayalam before he threatens to beat him up, in the video. HT is in the possession of the said video.
In the video, the group members could also be seen demanding that those who were converted go to the police station and file a complaint that they were converted after being lured with monetary rewards.
Charges against the pastor and his wife have been framed under Section 295 (a) (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) at Kutta police station.
The right-wing leaders who had accompanied the labourer to the police station, can be heard as telling the cops that the anti-conversion bill should be applied to the pastor and his wife.
The bill proposes imprisonment from three to five years with a fine of ₹25,000. For violation of provisions concerning minors, women, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, offenders will face imprisonment from three to 10 years and a fine of not less than ₹50,000.
“The court shall also grant appropriate compensation payable by the accused to the victim of said conversion, which may extend to a maximum of ₹5 lakh and shall be in addition to fine,” the ordinance read.
In another development, reverend Peter Machado, the Archbishop of Bengaluru on Wednesday said that the approval to the anti-conversion bill has deeply hurt the entire Christian community.
“The Christian community feels betrayed when its sentiments are not taken note of. For the past couple of months, we have repeatedly drawn (to) the attention of the state and public that the bill was irrelevant and malicious, and only aimed at dividing the Christians from other religious minorities,” Machado added.
The offences committed under the ordinance are cognisable and non-bailable.
Whoever desires to convert his religion will have to submit a declaration in Form-I at least 30 days in advance before the district magistrate or additional district magistrate.