MUMBAI, India (BP)–Police in India’s Karnataka state, accompanied by 10 Hindu extremists, arrested the Christian operator of a boys’ hostel Aug. 28 after the extremists accused him and another Christian of offering food, shelter, education and future job prospects as an “allurement” to convert to Christianity.
Hanuma Naik is also pastor of Indian Gypsy Works Fellowship. After his release on bail Aug. 29, Naik dismissed the allegations as fabricated, saying parents of the 42 students voluntarily sent their children, ages 6 to 19, to the hostel. The parents had prior information and knowledge that Christian teachings are part of the program at the church-run hostel, popularly known as a “Christian Ashram,” Naik said.
A local police official told the Compass Direct news service that Naik and another staff member of the hostel, Rama Naik, who also was arrested, had disclosed in voluntary written statements that another pastor, Madesh Kumar, was supplying them with books and other tracts. Naik said both he and Rama Naik were forced to sign blank sheets of paper at the police station.
The police official told Compass that Ramesh Kariyappa, a resident of Kunigal, on Aug. 28 filed a complaint of “forcible conversion” and using food and shelter as an allurement to convert. The police official went to the hostel, where 42 students mainly of the Lambani tribes are housed. He claimed the students were forced to pray to the biblical God, whereas Hindus “have gods like Hanuman and goddess Lakshmi.”
The Christians were accused of having promised the parents of the boys that they would take care of all the children’s needs for food, clothing and education — a potentially criminal activity under draconian “anti-conversion” laws in force in some Indian states, but not in Karnataka. Such laws seek to curb religious conversions made by “force, fraud or allurement,” but human rights groups say Hindu nationalists invoke the laws to harass Christians with spurious arrests and incarcerations.
The Global Council of Indian Christians reported that three police officials arrived at Naik’s church with 10 local Hindutva (Hindu nationalist) extremists. After falsely accusing the two Christians of fraudulently converting students to Christianity, the extremists slapped Rama Naik repeatedly and questioned many of the children about hostel activities, their studies and families. Police took the two staff members into custody and confiscated Bibles and other Christian literature from the hostel.
Police took the two to the police station at 11 p.m. and charged them under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, including “acts intended to outrage religious feelings by insulting its religion or religious beliefs” and “promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion.”
Binaifer Wadia writes for Compass Direct News.