Christian Priest Arrested By Indian Police For Singing Christmas Carols And Distributing Bibles

A Christian priest was arrested by Indian police after he and his seminaries were handing out copies of The Bible and singing Christmas carols. Getty Images

Indian police arrested a Christian priest and questioned members of a seminary after a Hindu group accused the members of trying to convert villagers to Christianity.

The priest was arrested by authorities on Friday after a member of the Bajrang Dal, a powerful Hindu group associated with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ruling party, accused 50 members of a seminary of converting villagers to Christianity. The member said they were distributing photos of Jesus Christ, the Bible, and singing Christmas carols in a village in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, Reuters reported.

"Our members have registered a criminal case because we have proof to show how Christian priests were forcibly converting poor Hindus," Abhay Kumar Dhar, a senior member of the Bajrang Dal in Bhopal, the capital of Madhya Pradesh, told Reuters.

Madhya Pradesh is ruled by the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party and has strict religious conversion laws. The central Indian state is one of five Indian states where missionaries need permission to try and convert individuals. In order to change religions, citizens must give a formal notice to local administrators.

"We have arrested the priest but have not booked him under the anti-conversion law because the probe into the allegations is still on," Rajesh Hingankar, the investigating official in Satna district, told Reuters.

The Catholic Bishops' Conference of India said they were "shocked and pained at the unprovoked violence against Catholic priests and seminarians".

"We were only singing carols, but the hardline Hindus attacked us and said we were on a mission to make India a Christian nation ... that's not true," Anish Emmanuel, a member of the St. Ephrem's Theological College in Satna told Reuters.

There were six members detained by the Bajrang Dal who allegedly set a car on fire owned by a Christian priest in Satna, which is 300 miles northeast of Bhopal, two senior police officials said.

Religious conversion continues to be a sensitive topic in India. Hindu groups accuse Christian missionaries of using cash, kind and marriage to attract poor villagers to convert to their faith.

The government rejects the allegation and denies any bias against Christians or Muslims.