At least 10 Christian pastors were brought in for questioning to Surajpur Police station in Greater Noida on Saturday over allegations that they were “forcefully converting Hindus to Christianity”. Soon after their detention, the police station was surrounded by protesters from various Hindu groups.
Christian community leaders in Greater Noida said allegations of forced conversion had been trumped up and were aimed at creating mistrust in the district.
The Gautam Buddh Nagar police said the 10 pastors were allegedly participating in a fasting ritual, which was not connected to religious conversion, at Kulesra village.
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But, SP (Rural) Brijesh Kumar Singh said since they had received complaints from villagers, the matter would be investigated. Police said no FIR had been filed yet.
Meanwhile, protests outside the police station reflected the growing communal tension in the area.
Reverend Wilson Joseph, president of the Calvary Ashram Seva Sangh, has been working in Uttar Pradesh since 1992 and has been in Greater Noida for the past 12 years.
“I have never seen this kind of communal tension. We are not even being able to get close to Surajpur police station. Some members of our church, who went there, were beaten up. We will file a complaint once the mob clears,” he alleged.
Joseph alleged that members of the RSS had incited villagers at Kulesra village through false allegations of forced conversions.
Sources indicated that police initially intended to let the pastors go after questioning, but the protests outside the police station made that difficult.
Police denied that the incident had sparked off communal tension in the area. “There were allegations made that these Christian pastors were forcing people to convert. Police brought them in for questioning. We will be investigating the matter,” Singh said.
Police sources said tension had been brewing in the area for the past few months, with rumours doing the rounds that Hindus, especially
Dalits, were being converted forcibly. But, police said they had no evidence to corroborate the rumours.
“The allegations of conversions are primarily regarding the Dalit community, which is the poorest. Many convert because they think that they will be able to escape caste-based biases. Others think that there will be financial benefits of such a conversion,” Singh said.
However, minority activists alleged that rumours of “forced conversions” were being spread with the intent of spreading communal tension to reap political dividends. “Hindu organisations connected to the RSS and VHP are spreading tension based on the propagation of their ideology that Christianity is inherently alien,” John Dayal, civil rights activist, alleged.