Police in southern India’s Tamil Nadu state rushed to a slum where Christians were providing food and other aid earlier this month and detained them on false charges of forcible conversion, sources said.
Marakkanam police in Viluppuram District humiliated the Christians, including the presbyter of the Viluppuram Church of South India, accusing them in the coarse language of trying to fraudulently convert the poor in the guise of providing basic necessities, said the church’s pastor, the Rev. Perumal Kanagaraj.
Shortly after Pastor Kanagaraj and about 30 young adults from the church arrived from Viluppuram to the nearby slum area of Anumandai village on March 8, a member of the Hindu Munnani extremist group showed up and began uttering obscenities at them, the church leader said.
“The Hindu Munnani activist soon lost his cool and started beating the youth missionaries while he continued abusing them in extremely foul language,” Pastor Kanagaraj said. “Within no time the crowd started gathering, and he held us up there and was not letting us move.”
When the Christians began to call police, the Hindu nationalist told them he had already filed a police complaint against them, and that he would put them behind bars at any cost, he said.
“We told the person, ‘Brother, you don’t like it that we are coming here. It is fine. We will leave,’” but he threatened us, that if we left from the place we would be burnt alive,” Pastor Kanagaraj told Morning Star News. “He was getting more and more aggressive.”
The Christians were shocked when police arrived and took them into custody, he said.
“They spoke ill about Christianity and slapped us as we stood there in the police station helplessly,” Pastor Kanagaraj said. “We requested that the police not lodge any cases against the [Christian] youths, fearing police cases would affect their careers.”
Marakkanam Inspector of Police Senthil Vinayagam spoke abusively to the Christians, telling them, “Instead of doing this work, send your wives to someone and earn money,’” according to an eyewitness who requested anonymity.
“The inspector was trying hard to incite the youths that they would respond equally aggressively to his words, but by God’s grace we did not fall into it,” Pastor Kanagaraj said.
Police released them with a warning that they should not be seen again attempting to convert people in the area, he said.