The police in Shahjahanpur district book him, four others under anti-conversion law brought by CM Yogi Adityanath
NEW DELHI — A Christian pastor was thrashed by a gang of Bajrang Dal men in Shahjahanpur district of Uttar Pradesh during Sunday prayer meet.
According to The Hindu, David, who hails from Tirunelveli in Kerala and a group of local people including women and Children had gathered in a garden for prayer to mark the first Sunday of the New Year on January 3 when the men stormed the premises and disrupted the proceedings.
The police booked the pastor and four others under the new anti-conversion law on a complaint by Bajrang Dal workers.
“They beat us with lathis while dragging us on the street, where they also made us squat in the murga (rooster) position,” David was quoted by The Hindu.
Murga punishment is a corporal stress position in which a person holds his ears through the legs.
David said that Bajrang Dal men forced them to shout slogans like “Jai Shri Ram” and insult Jesus. “They said if we don’t say it, they would kill us and they started hitting us. And later they called the police,” he said.
Two women including a minor suffered injuries due to beating.
The gang then hauled David and four others to police who filed a case against them under Sections 3 and 5 (1) of the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020 at Kotwali police station, the report said adding that the complaint was lodged by Ram Lakhan Verma, city convenor of the Bajrang Dal.
The complainant alleges that the accused were holding the prayer meeting “to lure the attendants into converting to Christianity in promise of jobs and free education for their children”.
The report said that David, his associate Jagan, who had come to visit him from Kanyakumari, and three local persons — Rajat and Ajay, who are Dalits, and Shyamji Gupta, on whose property in a residential colony the event was going on — were named in the FIR.
David has refuted the allegation of luring people into conversion allegations saying the people attended the prayer services voluntarily.
“I myself live in a Kanshiram Colony (meant for the urban poor). Whom can I provide with a job? When I myself live in a state of poverty, how can I pay someone else,” said David, who has two minor children to feed.
According to the report, Verma admitted that the Bajrang Dal workers had assaulted those attending the event. “Jab hum log gaye toh hum logo ne unhe mara thoda bahut…do chaar haath mare thay unko (when we reached the venue we did beat them up),” he said.
David alleged that the Bajrang Dal workers threatened him with “Ghar Wapasi”. Literally meaning ‘Back to Home’, the term is used by right-wing organisations to forcefully convert religious minorities to Hinduism.
The police claimed to have seized religious books and sound systems from the spot.
SHO, Shahjahanpur Kotwali, Parvesh Singh, as per the report, said an investigation was on. “The arrests would be made on the basis of evidence,” he said. “This case also has three Hindus named in it. We are investigating them, if they are Hindus or not.”
On Tuesday, David and eight others approached SP, Shahjahanpur, for registration of a case against Verma and two other Bajrang Dal leaders Shyam Mishra and Rajesh Awasthi for the alleged assault, abuse and insulting their holy books.