The Satna Police late on Thursday evening detained a group of priests and seminarians conducting “routine” carol singing during the Christmas season, alleging a conversion bid.
According to the police, they detained some people on the basis of a complaint lodged by 21-year-old Dharmedra Dohar, resident of village Bhumkahar. In his complaint, Mr. Dohar alleged that some people were appealing to him to convert to Christianity.
A statement from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) expressed concern over the incident, adding that vehicles of priests were also torched by “goons”.
“We have lodged a case against M. George and five others under Sections 153 (B), 295 (A). We have also registered a case under Section 435 in connection with the torching of a vehicle by unidentified people,” head constable of Civil Lines police station Kamlesh said over telephone.
According to Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, SFX, Secretary General, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, a group of 30 seminarians and two priests from St. Ephrem’s Theological College in Satna were detained on the night of December 14. This happened when they were conducting a routine Christmas carol singing programme that has been the practice during the Christmas season for the last 30 years in the town.
“What is even more shocking is that eight priests who later went to inquire about the detained priests and seminarians were also taken into custody. Shamefully the situation outside the police station was allowed to be so hostile that even those who wanted to approach the detained persons could get no access to them,” he added.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India has expressed its “shock, pain and hurt at the unprovoked violence against Catholic Priests and Seminarians.”
The police said that no one had been arrested so far, adding that the accused have not been booked under the anti-conversion law because the probe into the allegations was still on.
The incident has created panic among the small Christian community of the district town ahead of the Christmas season.
“We appeal to our political leadership at the Centre and in the states to bring back the rule of law and to deal severely with miscreants,” the statement from the CBCI added.