Catholic priest, Bajrang Dal activist held

Catholic priest, Bajrang Dal activist held

A Catholic priest and a Bajrang Dal activist have been arrested from Satna in Madhya Pradesh, police said on Sunday, three days after suspected workers of the right-wing group reportedly beat up priests and seminarians over forced conversion of Hindus to Christianity.

Father M George was arrested for forced religious conversion under the Madhya Pradesh Religious Freedom Act, 1968. Vikas Gupta, the Bajrang Dal activist, was arrested in connection with setting a vehicle on fire on December 14. Both were arrested on Saturday, a police officer said.

Suspected Bajrang Dal activists had reportedly beaten up a group of Christians, including 10 priests, and set their car on fire outside the Civil Lines police station over alleged conversion of Hindus to Christianity.

Father George and five others were booked on the complaint of a local, Dharmendra Dohar, who claimed he was lured with money to convert to Christianity, V D Pandey, Superintendent of Police, said.

He said Gupta was arrested on the complaint of Father George Joseph, who was among the 10 priests and who alleged that a group of activists burned down their car.

Father M Rony, social work director of Satna Diocese, had said that a group of young men stormed into the venue of a pre-Christmas function at Bhoomkar village, about 15 km from the district headquarters, on Thursday night and created a ruckus, alleging religious conversion.

The function was organised by the Syro-Malabar Church of Northern India for children.

After receiving a complaint, police had taken 32 brothers (trainee priests) and two priests, Father Rony had said. "When they reached the police station, they were beaten up by Bajrang Dal activists on the station campus. Four other priests who rushed to the police station were also thrashed and their car set on fire," he had claimed.

Denying allegations of conversion, Father Rony said the diocese has been running a seminary at Barakala village in Satna district for 20 years and not a single person has been converted to Christianity.

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