INDIA: Pastor and wife arrested as Karnataka’s anti-conversion law signed


On the day Karnataka state’s new anti-conversion law was signed into effect, members of militant Hindutva organisation Bajrang Dal accused a pastor and his wife in Karnataka’s Kodagu district of forcible conversion and had them arrested.

Members of the organisation filed a written complaint with police saying they had caught Pastor V. Kuriyachan (62) and his wife Selenamma (57) trying to convert Paniyaravara Mutha, an Adivasi (tribal) labourer and his family in Manchahalli village. 

Indian media reported that the pastor and his wife, originally from Mananthavady in Kerala state, were also accused of forcing more than one thousand Adivasis working in the coffee estates of Kodagu district to convert to Christianity. 

Police arrived at the scene and arrested the two Christians, who were sentenced to 14 days’ judicial custody. News of the arrests spread the following day, when a video of Bajrang Dal members forcing Paniyaravara Mutha to file a complaint against the pastor for conversion was shared widely on social media. In his complaint, Mutha claimed that the pastor and his wife attempted to convert them to Christianity in the same way that they had previously converted his nephew and niece-in-law. 

In the video, Bajrang Dal members can be seen confronting the couple and an unidentified person, who appears to be the group leader, asks the pastor, “Tell us how many people have you converted… what (money) have you collected” before threatening to beat him up. 

Group members can be seen demanding that those who were converted go to the police station and file complaints stating that they were converted after being lured with monetary rewards. Group leaders who accompanied Paniyaravara Mutha to the police station can be heard telling police that the anti-conversion bill should be applied to the pastor and his wife.

International Christian Concern reports that a mob attacked the couple before handing them over to police and quoted a local pastor, who commented: “My congregation and I… were left and right attacked and physically assaulted when there was no anti-conversion law in this state. Now that it is passed, this law gives them a reason to beat us and attack us. The Christians in our state are scared. We see the trend and the worst is yet to come.” 

(International Christian Concern, Hindustan Times, OpIndia, The New Indian Express)