Organisers of a Christmas event in Rajasthan’s Pratapgarh district have alleged that members of different Hindu groups disrupted their programme Tuesday night and manhandled some members of the organising committee and guests, accusing them of forcibly converting people. Pratapgarh’s Superintendent of Police Shivraj Meena, however, told The Indian Express that the event was being held without permission, and that the police had received information about religious conversions being conducted there. The tip-off turned out to be false, he added.
One of the organisers also claimed that a police official asked him why he came for the event even though he is a Hindu — going by his name — before taking him to the police station. Additional SP Ratan Lal Bhargava said two people were taken to the police station to verify information about the religious conversions. “We did not find anything suspicious after questioning them, and let them off. No one has been arrested, and no case has been registered,” Bhargava said.
A local leader of the Shiv Sena, one of the groups accused of disrupting the Christmas programme, denied that the party’s members were involved. The incident comes in the backdrop of alleged threats by right-wing Hindu outfits in different parts of the country against celebrating Christmas.
According to Laxman Meena, secretary of Masih Shakti Samiti, which had organised the programme, they had planned to hold the Christmas programme over two days, and held it at the community centre of Pratapgarh Housing Board Colony on Tuesday evening after a go-ahead from the police and district administration.
“As we were reading from the Bible, and some guests had gone for dinner, members of Hindu outfits such as Shiv Sena and VHP barged in and alleged that we were forcibly converting people. The police also arrived at this point,” Meena said. He alleged that members of the Hindu outfits manhandled some guests.
“Around 300 people had come to take part in the celebrations from villages around Pratapgarh. The Hindu outfit members shoved me over a stack of Bibles and beat me,” said Ramesh Meena, another organiser.
Ramesh Meena said that along with another person he was later taken to the police station. “One of the policemen told me, ‘tum Hindu hoke yahan kyun aye? (You are Hindu; why have you come here?)’…. We were allowed to leave (police station) after midnight,” he said. The organisers alleged that the assailants took a music system, worth approximately Rs 20,000, and have not returned it still.
SP Shivraj Meena said, “The programme was organised without permission, and the police had got information that religious conversions were being conducted. A team of officials went there and found the conversion allegations were false.” He said neither party has filed a complaint.
The organisers said they have submitted a memorandum to the district administration, demanding action against those who disrupted the programme. Additional SP Bhargava said, “Local residents and Hindu groups objected to the event, and at that point the person who had allowed the organisers to use the community centre wanted it vacated.”
Gaurav Nagda, Shiv Sena’s Udaipur division media in-charge, said, “The Shiv Sena has nothing to do with the event. Locals objected to it on their own. On Wednesday, Hindu youths in the area sought our help in the matter.” Civil society activists have criticised the incident and called it an effort to polarise the state on religious lines.