Indian Pastor Beaten, Arrested for 'Forcibly Converting' Hindus

An Indian pastor was beaten and arrested during a baptism ceremony by a Hindu fundamentalist group for allegedly forcing Hindus to convert, according to the head of the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI).

Pastor Masih Das Rai was arrested in Palari, Chattisgarh on Nov.10 by the Indian government for violation of the Freedom of Religion Act, according to EFI’s general secretary, the Rev. Richard Howell. Although, the Freedom of Religion act is meant to protect religious freedom in India, religious freedom bills issued in five states of India prohibit the conversion of Dalit Hindus to Christians.

According to EFI, Rai was accused by the Dharam Raksha Sena (DRS), a Hindu fundamentalist group, of forcibly converting Hindus. The DRS is a wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the armed wing of the Hindu nationalist party, Bharatiya Janata Part (BJP).

The fellowship reported that the DRS “brutally” attacked Raj and those present as he led worship after the baptism ceremony. Moreover, the new converts were coerced to state that they were forcibly converted to Christianity.

It is believed the DRS received information about the baptism ceremony from a young man who befriended Rai on the pretext of following Christ, the report further stated. The man had expressed his desire to be baptized with the other eight new converts but said that he would come to the baptism site later instead of walking with them to the location. When the young man arrived, he brought with him Hindu extremists and began beating Rai and the new believers, handing them over to the local police afterwards. The police interrogated both Rai and the new believers.

Rai is currently in Baloadabazar Jail, Chattisgarh after being brought to court on Nov. 11 and again on Nov. 12 for bail. The bail application was rejected and his case was sent to the lower sessions court.

Efforts are in progress to file a bail application in the session court.

“Please pray for his early release,” Howell wrote.