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Sumati Hansda | HENB | Dumka | July 8, 2018:: Sixteen suspected Christian missionaries, including a pastor and seven women, among 25 detained on Friday for questioning on conversion charges in Dumka, 450km from Ranchi, were formally arrested on Saturday, making these the first major arrests since the Jharkhand Freedom of Religion Act came into force last September.
Of the 16, most are from adjoining Siuri of Birbhum district in West Bengal and Pakur in Jharkhand, but police declined to reveal how many were from each place.
The 16 were sent to Dumka Central Jail while nine were released on personal bond.
The arrests were made yesterday, two days after 25 “preachers”, including the 16 accused, were rescued by police from the clutches of “enraged” tribal villagers in the area and detained for questioning, SP Kishore Kaushal said.
All 25 of them were held hostage on Thursday night by locals in the Shikaripara police station area of the district for alleged derogatory remarks against tribal places of worship, he said.
The Christian groups wanted to convert the tribal people of the Hindu roots of the areas after convincing them that “Jesus is the only saviour of Mankind and if anyone can take refuge on Jesus denouncing his/her non-christian faith, the Church will look after those new Christians in all means possible”, as alleged.
Based on a complaint registered by Ramesh Hembrom, the Gram Pradhan of Phoolpahari village here, 16 of the 25 “preachers”, detained on Friday, were arrested and sent to jail, Kaushal said.
Asked about the organisation they were working for, Kaushal said they were “associated” with Christian missionaries.
“We are investigating into the allegations. It is a sensitive issue. Hembrom, in his complaint, had said he had been objecting to the attempt of these missionaries to convince villagers to embrace Christianity over the past few months,” he explained.
The SP also said that posters and copies of religious texts have been seized from the possession of the accused.
Manoj Kumar Thakur, the officer-in-charge of Shikaripara police station, said police were trying to unearth the “channel” behind the conversion attempts, in violation of the Jharkhand Freedom of Religion Act, which came into force in the state in September 2017.
It is the first major arrest made by the police since the act was implemented last year, he added.
The police however, did not name the Christian organisation they were working for. “We are investigating into the allegations. It is a sensitive issue. Mr Hembrom, in his complaint, said he had been objecting to the attempt of these missionaries to convince villagers to embrace Christianity over the past few months,” said Mr Kaushal.
___inputs from PTI and ANI.
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