Police stopped a church event attended by more than 150 people, including ten American tourists, in Maharajganj, Uttar Pradesh after the right-wing organisation Hindu Yuva Vahini alleged that religious conversion was being carried out.
The event was stopped after the youth brigade, set up in 2002 by Yogi Adityanath, now the Uttar Pradesh chief minister, filed a complaint against Yohannan Adam, the pastor of the church, accusing him of converting Hindus to Christianity, a charge the pastor denied.
SHO, Dathauli, Anand Kumar Gupta said no prior permission was taken for the meeting, which was held ahead of Good Friday.
“We stopped the prayer meeting after a complaint was registered. A probe is underway and appropriate action will be taken if the charges are found to be correct,” he said.
Dathauli falls in Maharajganj district in eastern Uttar Pradesh. It borders Gorakhpur, the Lok Sabha constituency represented five times by Adityanath before he took over the reins of Uttar Pradesh.
Gupta said mass was held there quite often but as this time foreigners were involved, the Hindu Yuva Vahini suspected that conversion was going on.
The US tourists, including a few women, were let off after police checked their travel documents.
A US embassy spokesperson said, “We are aware of the news reports concerning this incident. The protection of American citizens overseas is our highest priority.”
The spokesperson didn’t elaborate due to “privacy concerns”.
Hindu Yuva Vahini leader Krishna Nandan, who surrounded the church with his supporters yesterday afternoon, said that the “presence of US nationals indicates that innocent and illiterate Hindus were being converted by missionaries who lured them with money to change their religion”.
The Hindu Yuva Vahini members dispersed after police promised a probe and adequate action even as the church authorities dismissed allegations of conversion.
“The charges are absolutely baseless. The people were attending a prayer meeting voluntarily. We prayed. Nothing else was done,” pastor Adam said.
The Hindu right wing has been at loggerheads with Christian missionaries, accusing them of converting people through coercion and allurement.
Earlier this year, Hindu Yuva Vahini activists had attacked the Full Gospel Church in Gorakhpur, accusing it of indulging in religious conversion.
At Christmas last year, the Hindu Yuva Vahini had warned Christian priests from holding any religious function outside churches.
The organisation, which has a widespread network in eastern Uttar Pradesh, has alleged that Hindus are lured to Christianity through religious functions. “We have received several inputs that Christian preachers and priests hold such religious ceremonies in rural areas and secret locations in which Hindus are brought and motivated to join Christianity, through allurements including cash. We will not let this happen,” Hindu Yuva Vahini president Sunil Singh alleged.
“They can hold their prayers inside churches or their homes but not any place outside. We have alerted the district administration in various places about such ceremonies slated to be held and if such functions do happen, churches would not be safe,” he warned.
Singh said Hindu Yuva Vahini has a youth member in each village in various districts of eastern Uttar Pardesh and keeps getting inputs about such “happenings”.