SP injured, church vandalised as violence over religious conversion hits Narayanpur again

Violence erupted after a mob ransacked a church following a meeting called by tribal groups

Published - January 02, 2023 10:08 pm IST - BHOPAL

Nearly half a dozen policemen, including a District Superintendent of Police, were injured and a church vandalised after a “protest meeting over purported religious conversions” called by tribal groups turned violent in Chhattisgarh’s Narayanpur district on Monday.

Narayanpur Collector Ajeet Vasant told The Hindu that the meeting was called by the tribal groups to raise “their grievances regarding religious conversions in the district”.

Also read: Several injured in attacks on Christians in Chhattisgarh

Inspector General of Police (Bastar Range) P. Sundarraj added some 2,000 people, led by (BJP district president) Rupsay Salam and others, had attended the meeting. He said Narayanpur Superintendent of Police Sadanand Kumar and fellow policemen were injured while trying to prevent an armed mob from vandalising the church built on the premises of Vishwa Deepti High School.  

Describing the sequence of events, Mr. Kumar said that the protesters were counselled by him and the Collector to maintain peace, but a section of the mob still resorted to violence.

“The tribal community had called a meeting. Some of the members were called to the Collector’s chamber and instructed that they keep their protest peaceful. However, a leaderless group headed towards the church to vandalise it. I, along with the police force reached there and started counselling the members of the mob. We had managed to pacify them, but someone standing behind attacked me,” an injured Mr. Kumar told the media.  

Videos of angry tribals, both men and women, vandalising the church emerged later.

Also read: Tribal Christians from Bastar villages refuse to return home following recent spate of attacks

This is the second time in two days that clashes over the sensitive issue of religious conversions have erupted in the district, while late last month tribal Christian families in over a dozen Narayanpur villages were driven out of their homes following coordinated attacks on them.

The ruling Congress and the Opposition BJP, meanwhile, traded charges over the issue.

“For a long time, the BJP and the RSS have been poisoning the forested areas and tribal society of Chhattisgarh, which has led to mutual hatred,” said Congress spokesperson Sushil Anand Shukla.

Blaming the State government for the violence, BJP State president Arun Sao accused it of providing protection to those indulging in religious conversions. “The morale of the converts is so high because of the patronage of the Congress government that they have now become violent,” said Mr. Sao, blaming the Christian community for the violence. The party also alleged that Sunday’s violence in Gorra village was instigated by the Christians.

Meanwhile, the situation continues to remain tense in Narayanpur with heavy police deployment, said local sources.

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