Odisha district seals church over religious conversion allegations | Latest India News
BHUBANESWAR: The doors of a church in Odisha’s Bhadrak district were sealed on Wednesday following complaints of religious conversions by Bajrang Dal activists, police said.
The administration has also imposed a restraining order under Section 144 of the CrPC in Geltua village in Bhadrak, where the believer’s church is located, to ensure law and order.
Manoj Patra, sub-collector of Bhadrak, said officials had received a complaint from Bajrang Dal about tribal converts to Christianity in the church.
“Bhadrak Tahasildar and the tax inspector carried out investigations earlier this month which revealed that some people in a community used to gather at the church in Geltua and engage in improper activities. As such people from other communities react to it, there is every possibility of communal tension and clash between two communities. At any time they can take justice into their own hands for which there is every possibility of a breach of the peace which could lead to bloodshed, arson and community riots,” the sub-collector said.
Manas Mohanty, a Bajrang Dal activist, alleged that Hindu tribals were regularly attracted and converted to Christianity in the church. “Therefore, we immediately filed a written complaint with the district administration to end the practice,” Mohanty said.
Phulamani Munda, a local tribal Christian from Geltua, said they were not using loudspeakers. “We just pray peacefully in the Church. We believed in Jesus and followed the path of Jesus. I don’t understand why the church was sealed,” Munda said.
In September 2021, a Christian priest was arrested by a group of villagers over allegations of forced conversion in Tangardihi village of Sundargarh district of Odisha.
In accordance with the Orissa Freedom of Religion Act 1967, any person intending to convert must make a declaration before a first class magistrate, prior to such conversion, stating that he intends to do it on their own. The priest shall indicate the date, time and place of the ceremony where the conversion would take place, together with the names and addresses of the persons to be converted, to the district magistrate concerned 15 days before the said ceremony in a prescribed form. . The district magistrate must keep a register of conversion and enter particulars of the notice received by him. The district magistrate must, on the 10th of each month, send to the government a report on the denunciations relating to these conversions.
The penalty for violating the law carries a prison sentence of up to one year, with or without a fine, of up to ₹5,000. The law prohibited the conversion of anyone under the age of 18. For conversions involving persons under the age of 18, a woman, or a person from a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe, the penalty is two years and the fine is up to ₹10,000.