A day after a group of pastors were arrested — who were assaulted allegedly by VHP and Bajrang Dal workers over rumours that they were converting Hindus to Christianity at an Agra hotel — an FIR was registered against the assailants at Tajganj police station Wednesday.
Pastor Ravi Kumar, the complainant in the assault case, claimed they were being framed in the conversion case. Seven pastors were earlier arrested on charges of promoting enmity between two groups. In the evening, they were released on personal bond.
Station House Officer (SHO) of Tajganj police station Vinod Kumar said, “Today, Kumar and others lodged a cross-FIR in the matter against workers of a Hindu organisation.”
“The FIR has been lodged against eight named and 15 unidentified people under various IPC sections, including 352 (assault or criminal force otherwise than on grave provocation), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt). No one has been arrested so far. Raids are being carried out to trace them,” he added.
Pastor Kumar told The Indian Express that Tuesday afternoon, they were holding meeting at Samobar Hotel to chalk out plans for Christmas. The meeting was called under the banner ‘UP family church’, in which pastors from Kerala were also present.
“While the meeting, which was also attended by women and children, was going on, workers of VHP and Bajrang Dal entered and started abusing us. They assaulted us with sticks, tore our clothes and damaged our musical instruments,” said Kumar, adding that three persons were injured. “Half an hour later, police arrived and took 14 of us, including three women to the police station. We were released late evening.”
The FIR against the pastors were lodged on the basis of a complaint filed by one Sunny Banswar. “The complaint alleged that people holding the meeting were involved in conversion. He also alleged that they were abusing other religions and telling people about facilities given to those who adopt Christianity,” the SHO said.
The FIR was lodged under IPC sections 153-A (promoting enmity) and 295A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs). “We are still collecting evidence in the case,” SHO said.
When contacted, VHP’s Braj Prant vice-president, Sunil Parasar said, “We were informed through local residents that conversion was going on in the hotel. Workers from VHP and Bajrang Dal went there to verify. They were recording the matter when people in the meeting attacked them.”
Hotel manager Tejveer Singh said, “Around four days ago, Ravi Kumar booked a hall for three hours to hold a meeting. While the meeting was going, a group of people arrived and entered the hall. Suddenly, they started beating them up and damaged their musical instruments. We informed the police.”
“The allegation of conversion is false. The people who had gathered were enjoying music and were busy in conversation. I have no idea how the attackers came to know about the meeting,” he added.