Pentecostal Church's Mass Conversion of Indian Dalits Sparks Hindu Protest

PATNA, India – A Pentecostal church in India that was recently accused of conducting mass conversions by promising money and jobs spurred angry Hindu nationalists to hold a demonstration against it in the Patna district.

Gopal Prasad and Kishori Sao, local leaders of Hindu organizations Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), alleged that the Pentecostal church brought about a hundred people, including women and children, to baptize them at a home in Nakipore Gorakh, in the city of Fatua.

They also insisted that the Dalits, one of the lowest rungs of India's complex social ladder, were lured with the promise of 5,000 rupees in cash and a job paying 8,000 per month.

Pentecostals claim the allegations against them by the Hindu nationalists are biased and perverted.

John Dayal, president of the All India Catholic Union, told AsiaNews that "there is no evidence whatsoever of forced or fraudulent conversion."

The charges are "illegitimate, false, mischievous and designed to create enmity between communities," he added.

Furthermore, in Dayal's view, they are "punishable under the law."

The men and women who gathered at the church this past Saturday have also denied the allegations and said they "didn't come with an intention of converting to Christianity."

Still, BJP local leader Prasad has called for a ban on religious conversions, claiming that the Pentecostals are closely involved in converting people through money and job promises.

Reacting to the statement, the Pentecostal minister, the Rev. Rudal Paswan, said the church was not involved in converting Dalits in such a way and dismissed the claims as false.

"We never engage in such activity," he said.

Last week, in the same district, a Pentecostal pastor was forcibly taken to a Hindu temple and made recite Hindu slogans by the Hindu radicals, reported the New Delhi-based Christian Today newspaper.

"We are looking into the matter," said B. Rajender, a divisional magistrate of Patna.

The official has asked his subordinates to investigate and submit a report on the incident.

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