Date:  October 25, 2021

A pastor in the Indian state of Karnataka sustained injuries that required hospital treatment after a mob of Hindutva nationalists invaded his church on Sunday, October 17.

The extremists, belonging to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council) and its youth wing, the Bajrang Dal, forcibly entered Bairidevarkoppa Church, Hubbali at 11 a.m., singing bhajans (Hindu religious songs). They were protesting against forced religious conversions allegedly carried out at the church.

Pastor Somu Avaradhi and some of his congregation reportedly suffered minor injuries when they tried to stop the disturbance.

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Hindutva extremists sing bhajans at Bairidevarkoppa Church, Karnataka state, in protest against alleged forced conversions. [Image credit: Sabrang]

Arvind Bellad, a local member of the legislative assembly belonging to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), organized a blockage of the road to demand the pastor’s arrest.

Pastor Avaradhi was detained by police following a complaint filed by an individual named as Vishvanath, who alleges that he was taken to the church to be converted. He also claims to be the victim of “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings.”

The pastor was released after questioning, and the church also registered its own complaint against the intrusion on October 18, denying any conversion activity had taken place.

“Chanting bhajans in a church offends our religious feelings,” said Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians. “The rising number of such incidents is more and more alarming.”

The incident happened days after the decision by the government of Karnataka on October 13 to launch an investigation into Christian activity within the state in an attempt to prevent allegedly forced conversions to Christianity. Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai announced last month the intention to introduce a new anti-conversion law. If passed, such a law would make Karnataka the 10th Indian state with legislation criminalizing conversions carried out through force, fraud or allurement.