Pastor Chander Khanna of the Church of All Saints was arrested by The Grand Mufti because he allegedly forced seven Muslims to convert to Christianity by offering them money and gifts.
The Grand Mufti called Rev. Khanna on Nov. 8 to answer the allegations. Khanna was released after he gave his statement denying that he forced Muslims to convert.
Bishop Pradeep Kumar Samantaroy, head of the Diocese of Amritsar for the Church of North India, fearing for the safety and well being of Rev. Khanna, came out in defense of him.
“These allegations are fabricated as we neither have the money nor do we have any material benefits to offer anyone desirous of Baptism,” said Samantaroy.
A letter was sent from The Grand Mufti to Rev. Khanna explaining that he will be held personally responsible for the forced conversions of young Muslims.
“I will take all necessary measures to exercise the powers vested in me by Islamic Sharia. It is a matter of grave concerns that Christian missionaries active here should be running an organized and integrated campaign to convert young Kashmiri Muslims to Christianity… having failed to do what we asked you to do, we are forced to take measures based on the Sharia, read the letter.
The Grand Mufti has videotape that shows Rev. Khanna converting young Muslims. The video was posted on YouTube, and it brought furious objections from Muslim conservatives who said it was proof of a forced conversion.
However, those who are involved with the church have a different account of the events.
“I have verified that these people used to come to the Church for more than one year and they expressed their desire for baptism,” said Bishop Samantaroy.
He has also said that the converts in detention have denied to the police the allegation of them being forced to convert which some Muslim groups have brought out.
President of the Global Council of Indian Christians Sajan K. George, in a letter to Chief Minister of Kashmir, said: “Given the recent serious developments in Kashmir, which could endanger the life of an innocent Christian pastor, and put at risk the harmony between the communities in the country, we demand immediate action to take the necessary measures to protect the life of the unfairly targeted person, Rev. C.M. Khanna.”
There is no anti-conversion law in Kashmir. Police arrested Rev. Khanna under Article 153A that states the accused promoted enmity between different groups of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., which is detrimental to the maintenance of harmony. In addition, article 295A explains the deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs.
These charges were based on the Indian Penal Code, as reported by AsiaNews.
When asked what he thought about the charges against Rev. Khanna, George replied: “It is uncalled for, unconstitutional and also very much humiliating the very constitution of our country.”