16 held for attempting religious conversions

Sixteen members of an organisation with alleged links to Christian missionaries have been arrested for allegedly trying “religious conversions” in Jharkhand’s Dumka district, a senior police officer said on Sunday.

The arrests were made on Saturday, two days after 25 “preachers”, including the 16 accused, were rescued by the police from the clutches of “enraged” tribal villagers in the area and detained for questioning, Superintendent of Police Kishore Kaushal said.

All 25 of them were held hostage on Thursday night by locals in the Shikaripara police station area of the district for alleged derogatory remarks against tribal places of worship, he said.

Based on a complaint registered by Phoolpahari village gram pradhan Ramesh Hembrom, 16 of the 25 “preachers”, detained on Friday, were arrested and sent to jail, Mr. Kaushal said, adding that seven of those arrested were women.

Asked about the organisation they were working for, Mr. Kaushal said they were “associated” with Christian missionaries.

“We are investigating into the allegations. It is a sensitive issue. Mr. Hembrom, in his complaint, had said he had been objecting to the attempt of these missionaries to convince villagers to embrace Christianity over the past few months,” he explained. The SP also said that posters and copies of religious texts have been seized from the accused.

In violation of Act

Manoj Kumar Thakur, the officer-in-charge of Shikaripara police station, said the police were trying to unearth the “channel” behind the conversion attempts, in violation of the Jharkhand Freedom of Religion Act, which came into force in the State in September 2017.

It is the first major arrest made by the police since the Act was implemented last year, he added.

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