With the winter session of the Karnataka Assembly scheduled to commence at Suvarna Saudha in Belagavi in the month of December, the Police reportedly have issued friendly advise to many Pastors across the district to not hold any religious prayers and events till the end of the session.
According to the reports first brought out by the news portal TheNewsminute.com the Police have approached at least 25 pastors and have asked them to avoid prayer meetings.
Pastor Thomas Johnson is said to have informed The News Minute that ” A few pastors were called and told not to conduct prayers saying right-wing groups may attack them and the police will not be able to give them protection. It is not banned because they have not given anything in writing, but they say it is to maintain communal harmony. In Camp and Tilakwadi police station jurisdictions, where Pastor Cherian was attacked, the police told the pastors that if you have your own church buildings, you can conduct prayer meetings but do not hold them in rented buildings or private houses,”.
“They (rightwing activists) barge into churches, break things, attack people, but finally cases are booked against pastors accusing them of forced conversion. Many are now conducting prayer meetings on Zoom calls. We do not want to give them a chance,” said Pastor Thomas. “Belagavi is being focussed on these activities because the Winter Session will be held here and they want to push for an anti-conversion Bill in the Assembly session,” he added.
The report by thenewsminute has further stated that Pastor Johnson stated that most of the owners of the buildings that used to be rented for prayer meetings have been told to not give space for prayer meetings. A few were threatened by the right-wing groups and others were ‘advised’ by the police.
The report also stated that Pastor Bennu Paul Saturi informed the news portal that in some cases the police came to the places of worship and private residences where prayer meetings were being held and in some pastors were called to the police station and were advised to not hold prayer meetings till the winter session is over because they would not know when the right-wing groups would create problems. He also has stated that around 30-40 pastors from across the district affiliated with the Full Gospel Church who were earlier conducting their prayer meetings in rented halls are now mostly conducting prayers online.
He said that in order to avoid any such troubles, people have now decided to use smartphones and computers to hold online religious events.
Meanwhile, it is learned that several priests including Reverend Nandu Kumar, Reverend Derek Fernandez and other Christian leaders have met Belagavi Police Commissioner seeking protection.
It may be noted that since the past few months, some outfits affiliated with Sangh Parivar and the BJP have been holding protests in several parts of the State accusing some Christian priests of being involved in religious conversions, thereby creating an environment wherein the need for an anti-conversion law is legitimized.
An earlier report by thenewsminute.com has also unearthed how these protests are part of a broader plan to bring in anti-conversion law in the State.