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Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Christian priest arrested for forced conversion in MP

Last week, another illegal forced religious conversion by Christian priests came to light in Gorakhpur village of Seoni, Madhya Pradesh. Somnath Maria Prasad Das, a priest from the Madhya Kerala Diocese of the Church of South India (CSI), was arrested. 

The Christian mafia was misleading local Vanvasis with fake promises and converting them. Upon receiving information, youth belonging to Hindu organizations, including Hinglaj Sena, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, and Bajrang Dal, reached Gorakhpur village and gathered information. They lodged a written complaint to the Bandol police station stating that the accused lured and misled Vanvasis promising free education, treatment, and other financial help.

Bandol police station in-charge Dilip Pancheshwar registered a case under the MP Religious Freedom Ordinance 2020 and investigated. Two victims from Gorakhpur confirmed that Maria invited them to his house and promised a payment of Rs.3,000 each month, provided they converted to Christianity. 

He also offered to take care of their children’s education expenses and jobs for the Vanvasis. Having provided all sorts of fake inducements, Maria motivated several villagers to renounce the Hindu religion and practices. Women were forbidden from wearing Sindoors/Bindis and bangles. 

Earlier, Times Now released video footage of residents confronting a few priests, including Maria. Locals warned them not to indulge in illegal conversion. Maria remained adamant and tried to justify his actions. This was when Hindu VHP and Bajrang Dal leaders intervened in the matter.

Hindu leaders informed the authorities that the Christian pastors concentrated on converting Vanvasis from low-income families. Bandol police recorded all these statements before arresting Maria. They also seized his laptop, diary, and several Christian missionary literatures.

Another missionary working at Maria’s prayer house is absconding. Many local padres in the Seoni district have all gone missing.   

Dilip said that the accused pastor is a resident of Kerala who had been living in Gorakhpur village with his family since a few years ago. CSI priests are allowed to marry and have children, but their bishops are not. 

Police are thoroughly investigating how many Hindus converted to Christianity through coercion. Per the MP Religious Freedom Ordinance 2020, violations against a person belonging to the Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe shall be punished with imprisonment of not less than two years but may extend up to ten. The convict will also have to pay a fine of not less than fifty thousand Rupees.

The Malayala Manorama, Vatican’s alleged propaganda media outlet in Kerala, jumped in to defend the conversion mafia. They claimed Maria had been doing ‘missionary work’ in the Seoni district for seven years. Does it mean he had a long history of converting Hindus to his sect? 

Malayala Manorama added that Maria was arrested when he was about to move back home. The Sessions Court rejected his bail application, and the CSI priest was sent to jail.   

The Malayalam media might do well to note what the Supreme Court said late last year. The court reaffirmed that forced religious conversion is a very serious issue and is against the Constitution. Forced religious conversion may threaten national security and affect the religious freedom of citizens, the bench added. The apex court asked the Centre and States to take stringent steps to control fraudulent religious conversion by intimidation, threatening, and deceivingly luring through gifts and monetary benefits.

Meanwhile, Maria’s Advocate, Aljo K Joseph, said his client was framed in a false case and illegally kept in custody for more than 24 hours. If the priests did nothing wrong, why did another padre quickly vanish?

The MP Religious Freedom Ordinance assigns the burden of proof of the lawfulness of religious conversion on the person accused of causing an unlawful conversion. The accused will now have to approach the district court. 

In December 2018, the AgustaWestland middleman Christian Michel was extradited to Bharat from Dubai. In the court, Michel was represented by advocate Joseph. Back then, Joseph was also a Congress party leader and the national in-charge of the legal department of the Indian Youth Congress, the youth wing of the party.

In 2013, the Italian government found that a whopping ₹423 crore was paid in bribes to Bharatiya politicians, middlemen, and military officers. Sonia Gandhi’s name, too, allegedly popped up during the investigations. Utterly embarrassed, Congress leaders quickly expelled Joseph from the party. 

CSI Kerala Diocese repeated that they have been caught in a false case and will take legal action. The Madhya Kerala Diocese is one of the twenty-four dioceses of the CSI (successor of the Church of England) and is based out of Kottayam. Many such rabidly anti-Hindu Christian cults indulge in illegal conversion all over Bharat, but the supply of priests comes mainly from Kerala and some from Tamil Nadu.

In July 2022, the Enforcement Directorate raided multiple premises, including the CSI headquarters in Thiruvananthapuram, in connection with an alleged black money scam related to allegedly accepting capitation fees for admission to a medical college run by the church.

Searches were also conducted at the residences of CSI South Kerala Bishop Dharmaraj Rasalam, medical college director Dr. Bennet Abraham, who had contested as a Left candidate in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, and CSI church secretary Praveen. Apart from the illegal capitation fees, they also accepted fake community certificates from students.

In 2021, the Kerala Police Crime Branch probed the allegations and reported to the court that they could not find any evidence. The court rejected the probe report, and the ED was ordered to investigate.

Last month, a lecture to remember the 9th Bishop of CSI Madhya Kerala Diocese, Dr. M C Mani, was conducted at the ‘Great Hall’ of CMS College Kottayam. Several eminent guests, including Thiruvananthapuram Congress MP Dr. Shashi Tharoor, attended the function.

Last year, Rahul Gandhi began his infamous Bharat Jodo yatra after seeking the blessing of Bharat todo icon and Catholic pastor George Ponnaiah from Kanyakumari. Muslims (especially in Gandhi’s Wayanad constituency) were under the impression that Gandhi would choose an Islamist leader to kick off his journey. After all, they are the only reason why Gandhi is still a member of parliament. His supporters were utterly disappointed.

Ponnaiah is famous for his derogatory statements against Hindus and helped the M K Stalin-led DMK, and Congress win Tamil Nadu during the last assembly elections. The pastor once said that he does not walk barefoot since Bharat Mata contaminates and Christians might be affected by scabies.

Christians who were 42% are now 62% and will soon cross 70% in Kanyakumari, and the BJP/RSS should fear us, Ponnaiah thundered. In late 2021, Tamil Nadu CM Stalin expressed gratitude to Christians for electing DMK to power. He was inaugurating the 75th anniversary of the CSI and said that his government was formed because of Christians.

Ponnaiah declared that Narendra Modi and Amit Shah would meet a terrible end, and dogs, insects, and worms would devour their bodies. He slammed the Tamil Nadu Minister for Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department (HRCE) P K Sekar Babu. The padre added that DMK’s win was alms thrown at them by Muslims and Christians.

All his rants came not inside Ponnaiah’s church but at public meetings. Though he was arrested in July 2021 and ‘slammed’ by the Madras High Court, he was easily released pretty soon.

However, the anti-Hindu pastor reserved the best of his rabid comments for Gandhi. In a viral video, Gandhi asked Ponnaiah whether Jesus was a god or not. The priest insulted Hindus and replied, “Jesus is the only God, unlike Shakti (& other Gods)’. The publicity stunt (like all Congress toolkits and corruptions) assured Hindus that it was all pre-meditated.

As for the Seoni pastor, Maria, one need not look past the acquittal of rape-accused Bishop Franco Mulakkal to notice how our legal system works.

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