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Tuesday 22 November 2011

Jammu and Kashmir priest arrested for foreign funded religious conversions

Jammu and Kashmir priest arrested for foreign funded religious conversions
Randeep Singh Nandal, TNN | Nov 21, 2011, 05.34AM IST
SRINAGAR: All Saints church pastor C M Khanna, accused of converting young Muslim boys and girls, was arrested by the Jammu & Kashmir police late on Saturday and charged under Section 153-A and 295-A, with "deliberately hurting the religious sentiments of the people to disturb peace".
J&K does not have laws against religious conversions through allurement, etc. Fr Khanna's criminality was established by a grainy cellphone video showing him baptising some Kashmiri Muslim men.
This video (on youtube) surfaced a few weeks ago and caused a stir. The head of the Sharia court in Kashmir, Mufti Mohd Bashiruddin, "summoned" Fr Khanna. There, the pastor is said to have "confessed" to his crime. The grand mufti later told local reporters that the reverend's activities would not be tolerated. "There will be serious consequences of this. We will implement our part and the government should implement its," the Mufti said. Less than 24 hours later, the priest was in the lockup.
On Sunday, at the All Saints church, fear was palpable. Khanna's flock huddled around as cops stood guard. A CID team rummaged through his office documents. The allegation against him is that 15 boys and girls converted by Khanna were lured by money, a charge denied by Fr Khanna and other church officials.
The police, too, have several different versions. While senior officers said they are investigating the case, others allege they have sworn statements from two converts that they indeed did accept money to convert. The FIR against the priest, however, makes no mention of these statements.
The FIR was lodged by the cops themselves late on Saturday; there's no complainant. "We took suo motu notice and booked the priest," said IGP Kashmir S M Sahai. Meanwhile, Srinagar's Christians allege that some of those converted shown in the video were picked up by the police.
It does appear that the administration's action against the priest is in response to street protests triggered by the news of conversions as well as a recent Facebook page containing blasphemous photographs on Islam. Even Kashmir University students came out and raised slogans against conversions. But the government was left without an option after a public display of unity by separatist leaders.
Strangely, the pastor's arrest has been met with complete silence from human rights groups.

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