Jharkhand cops probe south Indian institution’s role in Dumka ‘conversion’ case
Jharkhand police are probing a south India-based institution’s role in Dumka’s alleged conversion case, in which 16 Christian preachers were arrested on Saturday, the first since an anti-conversion law came into effect in the tribal state in September last year.
“During investigation, some accused revealed their association with a south India-based institution. Its name cannot be divulged until it is verified,” said Kaushal Kishore, Dumka superintendent of police (SP).
He said five of the 16 arrested have been identified as key players. “They would be taken into remand,” he added.
The 16 preachers, including seven women, were sent to judicial custody on charges of luring tribal villagers to convert to Christianity in Jharkhand’s Dumka district, around 310 km northeast from Ranchi.
They were booked under section 4 of Jharkhand Religious Freedom Act, which came into force in September 2017, and section 295A and 34 of Indian Penal Code (IPC).
Police had detained 25 religious preachers, including 14 women on a complaint by Phulpahari villagers in Shikaripara. Apart from the 16, the role of others would be investigated, the SP said.
The police are also investigating West Bengal’s connection with the case, as 10 out of 16 people had come from a neighbouring district in the state.
“Among the arrested people, majority had come from Birbhum district of West Bengal and the rest were from Shikaripara, Dumka and Pakur,” the SP said.
The preachers had visited Phulpahari, a village with 68 houses and population of 323 people, on Thursday night and were allegedly luring villagers to convert into Christianity. The villagers, led by its head Ramesh Murmu, however, held the preachers hostage for the night and handed them over to the police next morning.
Murmu had told police that the preachers had visited their settlements earlier also with the same motive and the villagers had asked them to refrain from entering their village, as it has no Christian population.
The villagers in their complaint said the preachers criticised other religions and were forcing them to convert to Christianity.
Meanwhile, Rashtriya Isai Mahasangh (RIM), a socio-religious body of the Christian community, has sent a fact-finding team to the village.
“We can say anything on the issue after team’s report comes to us. But, if the preachers had gone to village only for preaching, it is not any crime,” said RIM national general secretary Prabhakar Tirkey.
“Preaching religious belief is everyone’s fundamental right. But, here in Jharkhand, fear is spread in the name of law. Besides, the government is also trying to defame Christian missionaries by doing such activities,” Tirkey said.
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