Police in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh arrested a Christian pastor on charges of making derogatory videos about Hindu deities more than seven years ago. The pastor said he is being targeted.
Pastor Praveen Chakravarthy from Kakinada city in Andhra Pradesh was arrested on Jan. 12 for allegedly “promoting disharmony, enmity or feelings of hatred between different groups on the grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language,” under Section 153(a) of the Indian Penal Code, according to UCA News.
R. Vijaya Paul, the area’s superintendent of police, said that Chakravarthy was arrested after a complaint was filed against him. “Although the case is from 2013, there was no complaint filed at the time. It was filed recently and we cross-checked the matter and apprehended the pastor and added it is not a suo motu case.”
The officer claimed that the pastor had admitted that the voice in the video is his. “Though it is an old video, it is inflammatory in nature and we are investigating the case.”
In the video, the pastor allegedly admitted he had kicked images of Hindu gods.
“There are some fanatic groups who are trying to create hatred among different faiths by dividing people in the name of caste, creed and religion and trying to push their propaganda,” Pastor Joseph Benjamin Gootam of Kakinada Church of Christ was quoted as saying.
“There is a trend in the state where vested interest people are even targeting the chief minister (Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy), accusing him of favoring minority groups, especially Christians since he is himself a Christian. I’m very surprised about the arrest of Pastor Chakravarthy as the case is very old, but we are sure that some people may have complained to the police recently. We have full faith in the judiciary and hope the pastor will come clean in the investigation,” Gootam added.
Sunil Deodhar, of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, has alleged that Pastor Chakravarthy had converted 699 villages and that over 3,600 pastors were working under him.
John Prabhudoss, chairman of the Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations of North America, previously told The Christian Post that the victory of the BJP in the national election in 2014 and its reelection in 2019 “brought about a sense of confidence among the Hindu radical party cadre that now they can attack Christians and other religious minorities with impunity and they do not have to worry about the law enforcement.”
“Since the current ruling party took power in 2014, incidents against Christians have increased, and Hindu radicals often attack Christians with little to no consequences,” noted Open Doors in its World Watch List, which ranked India as the 10th worst country for Christians in 2020.
“The view of the Hindu nationalists is that to be Indian is to be Hindu, so any other faith—including Christianity—is viewed as non-Indian. Also, converts to Christianity from Hindu backgrounds or tribal religions are often extremely persecuted by their family members and communities,” Open Doors added.
Christians in India witnessed at least 13 attacks in the first 15 days of the year 2021, according to the Evangelical Fellowship of India’s Religious Liberty Commission, which also said it recorded at least 327 incidents of hate and targeted violence against Christians in 2020.