As anti-conversion ordinance becomes reality in Karnataka, police arrest Kerala’s Christian pastor couple for forcefully converting over 1000 Adivasis

Bajrang Dal members question the pastor couple after they are caught trying to convert an Adivasi labourer's family to Christianity (source: TNIE)

The day the Karnataka Governor Thawar Chand Gehlot gave his assent and promulgated the ordinance brought in by the government on the anti-conversion Bill, the state police Tuesday, May 17, arrested a Christian Kerala-based pastor couple for forcing Adivasis to convert to Christianity in the Kodagu district. According to reports, the couple is accused of the illegal conversion of more than 1000 Hindus working in the coffee estates of Kodagu district. 

The couple namely, Pastor V. Kuriyachan (62) and his wife Selenamma (57) was arrested under IPC Section 295A (deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs), a cognisable and non-bailable offence punishable with up to three years in jail. After being arrested the couple was sent to 14 days of judicial custody on Tuesday. The incident, however, came to the fore only on Wednesday.

Police said that despite the fact that the anti-conversion law has been notified, they are yet to receive any information that would allow them to charge the pastor couple under the new law. For the time being, the couple has been charged under relevant provisions of the Indian Penal Code, and if necessary, they would be charged under the new law depending on higher-ups’ orders.

Notably, the Karnataka Right to Freedom of Religion Ordinance got the assent of Karnataka governor Thawar Chand Gehlot on Tuesday. It aims to prevent conversions under various circumstances. A jail term of 3-5 years and a fine of Rs 25,000 has been proposed for people violating the law and converting people from general categories and a jail term of 3-10 years and a fine of Rs 50,000 for people converting minors, women and persons from the SC and ST communities.

Meanwhile, according to reports, some Bajrang Dal members had caught the Christian Pastor couple red-handed while trying to convert a tribal couple in Karnataka’s Kodagu district’s Manchahalli village and filed a written complaint in the matter. The police arrived at the scene and took the two into custody.

The pastor couple was reportedly caught trying to get Paniyaravara Mutha, a tribal, and his family to pray with them after handing over copies of the Bible.

Mutha said in a written complaint that the pastor and his wife attempted to convert them to Christianity in the same way that they had previously converted his nephew and niece-in-law. The nephew and his wife have been regularly attending church in Tholpetty, a village in Kerala’s Wayanad district. Muthu added that the pastor often used his nephew’s example to convince him to embrace Christianity.

Sajan Ganapathy, a member of the Hindu organisation was quoted by The Telegraph as saying that they got a “tip-off” about the conversion and rushed to Mutha’s house. “The couple had come ready to convert them and even had a list of people whom they had already converted in the area. So we handed them over to the police,” Ganapathy said.

Despite the consistent efforts of mainstream media to whitewash forced religious conversion by calling it a figment of ‘right wing’ imagination, the fact is that this menace has been increasingly plaguing many parts of the country in the last few years. In fact, as recently as May 18, a Hindu woman from Tamil Nadu had attempted to set herself on fire in front of the Ramanathapuram Collector’s office after being forced to convert to Christianity.

Calcutta HC orders CBI-NIA probe into forceful conversions, VHP demands strong anti-conversion law

On May 19, OpIndia reported how the Calcutta High Court ordered a joint probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the National Investigation Agency (NIA) into the allegations of forceful religious conversions at Kaliachak in Malda district of West Bengal. 

The matter came to light after a video of a female BJP worker, narrating the ordeal of the said women, went viral on social media. In the undated video, the BJP worker informed that several posters had come up near the post office in the Englishbazar area of the Malda district. The protesting women were seen holding several placards saying that the police officer is forcing them to convert to Islam. They had also hung several banners behind them in front of the Malda post office saying that they will resist this and will not change their religion.

Amiya Kumar Sarkar, east zone secretary of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad demanded a strong anti-conversion law for the state to check illegal proselytization of innocent Hindus and stop Jihadi barbarism

OpIndia Staff: Staff reporter at OpIndia