Kaithal, Haryana: August 11, 2019. (PCP) An Indian Pastor who converted from Hinduism 5 years ago, seeking to build a community hall in Kaithal District, Haryana that would also serve to provide Sunday Church services, has received serious threats and blasphemy allegations from the local Hindu Community. Mobs in their thousands twice disrupted and delayed building work despite the Pastor having planning permission and local court approval.
In April 2019 Pastor Sunil (28 yrs) an affiliate of Ezra Academy Ministries bought a plot of land from his Hindu Neighbour in the village of Karsa by saving money from his small business of selling straw. After a few months after gaining planning permission he initiated the construction of a hall so that he can run local projects for Christians and hold Sunday worship services.
On 5th June 2019 building work for the community hall began, hover a Hindu neighbour named Pawan (32 yrs) complained to a local Police station stating that Pastor Sunil was constructing a church and asserting this was causing offence to local Hindus. On 6th June Police stopped the construction work and met with Pastor Sunil.
During an interview with local Police Pastor Sunil produced verified planning documents and demanded that they allow him to proceed with the construction, which was his right. At this point police complied with his wishes and allowed the building work to resume.
However the next day Pawan who it is believed wants to buy the same land, gathered many villagers and surrounded the construction work stating that they would not let a church be built because it would desecrate local land. The Hindu man was declaring that it was Pastor Sunil's intention to convert the whole of the village to Christianity in an attempt to foment hatred towards Pastor Sunil. The amassed villagers threatened Pastor Sunil with death if he continued to build his hall. Police were called to stop the civil disobedience and on arrival question were raised by the mob over the exact planning permission and ownership of the land.
At the behest of the Mob local police informed Pastor Sunil that he was required to terminate construction work until he had shown full Title Deeds and planning details and drawings at the local police station.
On 15th June Pastor Sunil attended Butana Village Police Station and submitted all relevant land ownership and planning documents related to the construction of the hall. On receipt of the documents the local police allowed him to continue working on the land, to build the hall.
Local villagers, were again incensed by the decision in favour of the now beleaguered Pastor. Once again under the leadership of Pavan a large mob of in excess of 300 people gathered around the construction site and refused to let Pastor Sunil resume building work.
Police were called and this time Pawan filed a flase case against Pastor Sunil stating that Pastor Sunil was offering to ensure Pawan who has five daughters that his next child would be a boy if he attended church. A bizarre allegation as Pastor Sunil has six daughters and one son. He also accused Pastor Sunil of distributing the bible and other Christian books and for offering a fiscal payment on his conversion.
Pastor Sunil was arrested on 22nd June and a First Incident Report (FIR) was registered at Butana Village Police station under the blasphemy laws of India section 295a and 298 of the Indian Penal code [This seems to be used by local police in absence of Anti-conversion laws which Haryana State has not adopted]. View the two legislation in red footnotes at end of post.
Even worse, in interviews with local media Pawan has repeated his false allegations which have resulted in significant angst towards Pastor Sunil. Already he has found that his business is reducing as local Hindus are refusing to buy straw from him because of the building of a hall and the blasphemy charges he is facing. Spending his own money on solicitors and bail fines he was able to secure anticipatory bail. Though initially in hiding Pastor Sunil and his family returned home so they could try to restore normal order.
Pastor Sunil asking for prayers as his next court date will be on 18th August and he is fearful that community tensions that have increased as a consequence of unfriendly media articles, will sway a decision against him.
Our local officer met with Pastor Sunil last week and has been counselling his family and providing moral support. Pastor Sunil, said: "In our local community I am viewed as a pariah as I converted out of the Hindu faith after experiencing a miracle healing of my father from Tetanus after a Pastor prayed for him.
"Soon after I began reading the bible and learned about God's love for me and the redemption that was mine to take.
"I committed my life to God and began to serve him by sharing the Gospel to bring hope and joy to the lives of others.
"I have not blasphemed and the hatred I have received is unfair - I pray for swift justice and the removal of these false charges.
Juliet Chowdhry, Trustee of the British Asian Christian Association, said: "The use of blasphemy laws without evidence of a blasphemy is a blight on India's reputation.
"Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi's regime the persecution of Christians and other minorities in India is palpably worse.
"Already the nation has risen to 10th on the Open Doors World Watch List and may rise further still.
She added: "Pastor Sunil must be acquitted of the ridiculous charges and allowed to complete his building works which already have planning consent.
"Moreover in the interests of justice Pavan and members of the mob who have fomented hatred towards Pastor Sunil and falsely alleged a blasphemy, must be prosecuted for hate crimes.
IPC 298: Section 298 of the Indian Penal Code
Uttering words, etc., with deliberate intent to wound religious feelings
Whoever, with the deliberate intention of wounding the religious feelings of any person, utters any word or makes any sound in the hearing of that person or makes any gesture in the sight of that person or places any object in the sight of that person, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both.
Section 295A in The Indian Penal Code
[295A. Deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs.—Whoever, with deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of any class of 273 [citizens of India], 274 [by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise], insults or attempts to insult the religion or the religious beliefs of that class, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to 4[four years], or with fine, or with both.]