India: 36 calls from family for help to the police for protection, now they are dead

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF INDIA’S HINDUSTAN TIMES)

 

Before car crash, Unnao rape survivor’s family sent 36 SOS messages in 15 months

Family members claim they approached the police and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) but were forced to finally write to the Chief Justice of India on July 12, demanding action ‘against people who were threatening the victim’s family.”

INDIA Updated: Aug 01, 2019 09:45 IST

Chandan Kumar
Chandan Kumar

Hindustan Times, Lucknow
On Sunday, the Unnao rape survivor , her family and lawyer were travelling in a car which was hit by an overspeeding truck in Raebareli, killing two members and leaving the survivor and the advocate critically injured.
On Sunday, the Unnao rape survivor , her family and lawyer were travelling in a car which was hit by an overspeeding truck in Raebareli, killing two members and leaving the survivor and the advocate critically injured. (PTI file photo)

Over the past year, family members of the 19-year-old rape survivor from Unnao, Uttar Pradesh, wrote letters to top government officials, politicians and police officers seeking protection and help.

A majority of these missives — 36 since April 2018– were pleas for protection against four-time Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislator, Kuldeep Singh Sengar, who is accused of raping the teenager. But the family says that most of the letters elicited no response from any of the authorities addressed.

“No one helped us. Police turned down our requests to take action against the MLA’s henchmen who had been harassing and threatening us,” said the woman’s maternal uncle.

Family members claim they approached the police and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) but were forced to finally write to the Chief Justice of India on July 12, demanding action ‘against people who were threatening the victim’s family.”

Also read: What Unnao rape survivor has been through since June 2017

Watch | CJI to take up Unnao rape survivor’s letter on threats; CBI books accused MLA

CJI to take up Unnao rape survivor’s letter on threats; CBI books accused MLA
The Supreme Court took cognizance of a letter written by Unnao rape survivor alleging threat to her life. CJI Ranjan Gogoi said that he would take up the letter on Thursday.
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In August 2018, the family wrote to the CBI, which was probing the rape case, saying they were getting threats from Sengar’s associates. After receiving the letter, the CBI shifted Senger from Unnao jail to Sitapur jail.

In a letter to then principal secretary (home) of Uttar Pradesh Arvind Kumar on July 12 , the victim’s mother said the family was receiving threats from a man called as Manoj Singh, who is Sengar’s brother.

Also read: From village chief to MLA, Unnao rape accused Sengar’s clout grew quickly

“Manoj with one Kannu Singh and two other unidentified men drove down to my house and said that they have fixed the judge and arranged for release of Kuldeep Singh,” she wrote.

In another letter to the director general police (DGP) OP Singh on July 11, the mother claimed a threat by Haripal Singh, husband of Sashi Singh, one of the accused in the rape case. Sashi Singh is currently lodged in Unnao district jail.

Madhaw Prasad Verma, the Unnao superintendent of police, acknowledged that ”several” letters were written to the SP’s office by the family. “Most of the letter was about threat for which security was already provided to the victim. Officers here tell me that the security details of the victim were alerted on many occasions in response to these letters.”

Also read: Unnao rape survivor is critical but stable, continues to battle for life

First Published: Jul 31, 2019 23:51 IST

India: Unnao rape survivor’s ‘accident’: BJP MLA booked for murder

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

Unnao rape survivor’s ‘accident’: BJP MLA booked for murder

The CBI is currently investigating the rape (the survivor was a minor at the time), and the murder of her father. The survivor and the aunt are also primary witnesses in the rape case.

INDIA Updated: Jul 29, 2019 23:41 IST

HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent

Hindustan Times, Lucknow
Kuldeep Singh Sengar, a four-time MLA who represents Bangarmau in the Uttar Pradesh assembly, was arrested in 2018 for allegedly raping the teenage girl at his residence in 2017. That case too was registered on a complaint by the survivor’s uncle, and the family battled for the one-year period in between.
Kuldeep Singh Sengar, a four-time MLA who represents Bangarmau in the Uttar Pradesh assembly, was arrested in 2018 for allegedly raping the teenage girl at his residence in 2017. That case too was registered on a complaint by the survivor’s uncle, and the family battled for the one-year period in between. (PTI)

A day after the Unnao rape survivor and her lawyer were critically injured and two others (aunts of the survivor) killed in a road accident in Rae Bareli, resulting in widespread outrage, the Uttar Pradesh police on Monday booked Bharatiya Janata Party MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar (currently in jail; he is the main accused in the rape case), his brother and around two dozen others for murder, attempted murder and criminal conspiracy.

With many people dwelling on the convenient accident — the survivor’s father was murdered, allegedly by Sengar’s brother — the state police, which initially seemed to be leaning towards the theory that there was no foul play in the accident, said it would hand over this case too to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) if there was a demand to do so. Later on Monday, the police forwarded the family’s request for a CBI investigation into the accident to the state government, which will now write to the Centre.

The CBI is currently investigating the rape (the survivor was a minor at the time), and the murder of her father. The survivor and the aunt are also primary witnesses in the rape case.

Scrambling to contain the damage, the Yogi Adityanath-led UP government said it will bear all expenses for the treatment of the rape survivor and her lawyer, Mahendra Singh.

Both are on ventilator support at the trauma unit at King George’s Medical University (KGMU) hospital in Lucknow, doctors said.

“The woman was in shock, apart from the fracture in the leg and collar bone, besides head and chest injury. Hence we have shifted her to ventilator support. Her condition is critical but stable,” said Dr Samir Misra, senior faculty, trauma surgery, at KGMU.

The case of murder, attempt to murder and criminal conspiracy against the MLA and the others was filed at the Gurbakshganj police station in Rae Bareli on the basis of a complaint by the rape survivor’s uncle who is in Rae Bareli jail in connection with a case filed under the Arms Act.

“MLA Kuldeep Sengar and his aides use to often threaten my family members to force them to withdraw the (rape) case against him. My wife and others were coming to meet me with papers related to the cases when their vehicle was hit by a truck, on the direction of the MLA,” reads the complaint lodged by the uncle.

On Monday, the mother of the victim too claimed Sengar was behind the accident. “This accident was a conspiracy by the BJP MLA to kill my daughter and family. I want CBI to probe the case,” she said. A person familiar with the matter said the mother had informed Unnao police on July 13 about threats from unidentified people.

“We have lodged an FIR under sections 302(murder), 307(attempt to murder), 506(criminal intimidation) and 120B(criminal conspiracy) of IPC against Sengar, his brother Mahesh Singh Sengar and others,” said superintendent of police(SP), Rae Bareli, Sunil Kumar Singh.

Beside the brother, police have booked Sengar’s aides Vinod Mishra, Haripal Singh, Naveen Singh, Komal Singh, Arun Singh, Gyanendra Singh, Rinku Singh and Avdhesh Singh along with “15-20 unidentified persons” in the matter.

The uncle sought parole to attend the funeral of his wife but Unnao district magistrate Devesh Pandey rejected the application on technical grounds.

Kuldeep Singh Sengar, a four-time MLA who represents Bangarmau in the Uttar Pradesh assembly, was arrested in 2018 for allegedly raping the teenage girl at his residence in 2017. That case too was registered on a complaint by the survivor’s uncle, and the family battled for the one-year period in between.

The woman had attempted to immolate herself outside the chief minister’s residence on April 8, 2018 to draw attention to the case. Her father died in police custody shortly after, following an assault by Sengar’s brother and a delay by police to take him to a hospital.

Director general of police (DGP), UP, OP Singh claimed “prima facie, it is a road accident” but added that an investigation is on and that the police are open to the CBI taking over. The driver of the truck was detained from the spot, while the owner was summoned to join investigations. Police are going through their mobile phone records to determine if they were in touch with a third person before the collision. Both are residents of Fatehpur.

Earlier, additional director general (ADG) of Lucknow Zone, Rajeev Krishna told reporters that the bodyguards assigned to the survivor were not with her because she “herself had asked the security personnel not to accompany her.”

The mother of the survivor said, “My daughter asked the police not to accompany her because there was no space in the car.”

The National Commission for Women took cognizance of the incident and wrote a letter to Uttar Pradesh Police requesting them to ensure a speedy investigation into the matter and take action deemed appropriate for the crime committed.

Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra tweeted: “The accident of the rape victim is shocking. What is the status of the CBI probe? Why is the accused legislator still in the BJP? Can we expect justice from the BJP government without getting answers to these questions first?”

BSP leader Mayawati tweeted: “The accident of the Unnao rape victim in Rae Bareli seems to be a conspiracy to kill her. The Supreme Court should take note of it and punish all the culprits.”

Delhi Commission for Women chairperson Swati Maliwal visited KGMU trauma centre and assured the victim’s mother of providing better medical treatment if she agreed to shift her to Delhi. After Maliwal, Samajwadi Party leader Juhi Singh, Congress MLAs Aradhana Mishra and Aditi Singh too visited the trauma centre and demanded that the government ensure a free and fair probe, besides security for the family.

UP minister of state for Women and Child Development, Swati Singh, additional chief secretary Avnish Awasthi, chief minister Yogi Adityanath’s advisor Mrityunjay Kumar too visited the trauma centre. The government later announced it would foot the bill for the treatment of the victim and her lawyer.

A CBI team also went to the trauma centre, although agency spokesperson RK Gaur said this was to meet the survivor’s family, not to begin investigation.

First Published: Jul 29, 2019 23:40 IST

india: 67 Dead In Flood Affected North-East Bihar And Uttar Pradesh

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

67 dead as IMD sounds red alert in flood affected North-East, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh

Close to nine million people in the flood affected regions of North-East, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh have been affected with nearly 300,000 living in relief camps.

INDIA Updated: Jul 17, 2019 00:26 IST

HT Correspondents
HT Correspondents
Hindustan Times, Guwahati/Patna/Lucknow/Chandigarh
North-East,Bihar,Uttar Pradesh
Residents wade through a flooded street following heavy monsoon rains, in Guwahati, Tuesday, July 16, 2019. The water level of River Brahmaputra has risen above the danger level causing flood like situation in many areas.(Photo: PTI)

The death toll in floods in North-East, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh rose to 67 on Tuesday from 45 on Monday, even as the India Meteorological Department (IMD) has predicted more rains in these regions.

Close to nine million people in the flood affected regions have been affected with nearly 300,000 living in relief camps.

Union water resources minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat who met chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal on Tuesday, announced the release of Rs 251 crore as first installment to the state disaster response fund, the Assam’s disaster management authority said.

“The floods in Assam are a concern for the entire country. I would like to assure that the Centre will extend all help to the state to tackle the situation effectively,” Shekhawat said.

Till Tuesday, 22 people have died in floods, including two in landslides in Guwahati, and five deaths were reported from Barpeta, Dhubri, Morigaon and Nagaon. There are 5.25 million people affected in 30 of the state’s 33 districts. Around with 147,000 displaced persons are taking shelter in 695 relief camps, the state disaster management authority said.

The ongoing floods have taken a toll on the animals residing within the Kaziranga National Park, the biggest habitat of one horned rhinos in the world. Four rhinos and an elephant died in the past 24 hours due to floods, according to divisional forest officer RB Saikia, taking the total animal death toll in the park till Tuesday to 30.

In Bihar where 12 of the state’s 38 districts are facing a deluge, chief minister Nitish Kumar told the state assembly that Rs 6000 will be given as relief to six lakh families affected by the floods, through direct benefit transfer Friday onwards.

“Bihar is hit by disasters, like floods or drought every year, but we don’t get adequate funds. The state only received Rs 500 crore (from the Centre) in the 2017 floods,” he said.

With recovery of nine more bodies on Tuesday, the death toll has reached 33 in Bihar.

In eastern Uttar Pradesh, six deaths were reported due to floods in rivers originating in Nepal. Hundreds of villages in Balrampur, Shravastri and Lakhimpur districts remained under water as Rapti and Sharda rivers continued to flow over the danger mark, the state’s irrigation department said.

Punjab’s Bathinda received 178 mm rainfall in eight hours on Tuesday morning — the city receives 375 mm in a year.

The IMD also issued a red alert (over 240 mm in 24 hours) for Kerala’s six districts, including Idukki, Wayanad, Kannur, Ernakulam and Thrissur, from July 18 onwards. These were some of the most affected districts in the 2018 floods, which were the worst that the state had experienced in a century.

Meanwhile, in Nepal, at least 78 people have died and 40 injured, with around 17,500 displaced due to floods and landslides, authorities said Tuesday.

(With agency inputs)

First Published: Jul 16, 2019 23:55 IST

India: 5 fold hike in rape of kids from 1994 to 2016

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

5 fold hike in rape of kids from 1994 to 2016: Report

With a score of 297 out of 360, Puducherry emerged as the best performer in terms of child rights, according to the report.

INDIA Updated: Jul 04, 2019 07:35 IST

Anonna Dutt
Anonna Dutt
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Child Fund India,Plan India,Save the Children India
In 2016, 106,958 crimes against children were reported. Of these, 52% related to abduction and 34% to sexual offences, including rape. (HTFile)

There was a fivefold increase in rapes of children from 1994 to 2016 even as under-five mortality has reduced and the access to education has increased significantly, according to a new report of an alliance of six child rights organisations.

Child Fund India, Plan India, Save the Children India, SOS Children’s Villages India, Terre Des Homes, and World Vision India released the report on Wednesday under the banner of Joining Forces.

The report titled Child Rights in India – an unfinished agenda also evaluated the performances via-a-vis child rights of states and Union territories on 15 parameters like under-five mortality, sex ratio, access to education, play and recreation, protection from violence and child marriages among others.

With a score of 297 out of 360, Puducherry emerged as the best performer in terms of child rights, according to the report. The worst performers are Rajasthan (116), Uttar Pradesh (105) and Jharkhand (100). The report cited the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data and said the rapes increased from 3,986 in 1994 to 19,765 in 2016.

In 2016, 106,958 crimes against children were reported. Of these, 52% related to abduction and 34% to sexual offences, including rape.

“A large number of children are trafficked not only for sex trade but also for other forms of non-sex based exploitation that includes domestic labour, industrial labour, agricultural labour, begging, organ trade, and false marriage,” the report said.

Declining child sex ratio is another cause of concern. The progress has also been slow in combating malnutrition.

Plan India executive director Anuja Bansal underlined the need for the children to feel protected and safe.

Save The Children India CEO Bidisha Pillai said: “…we shine a light on the parameters that need to be improved further. Ensuring that the child rights reach the most marginalised will take double the effort now.”

Government think-tank NITI Aayog special secretary Yaduvendra Mathur said there is a need to invest more in the social sector to improve such parameters.

First Published: Jul 04, 2019 07:31 IST

India staring at longest heatwave in 3 decades (48c or 118.4f)

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF INDIA’S HINDUSTAN TIMES)

 

India staring at longest heatwave in 3 decades, monsoon relief unlikely soon

The Capital, which sweltered on its hottest June day in history on Monday (48 degrees Celsius) recorded as maximum temperature of 45.4 degrees Celsius at Palam in spite of a spell of light rain in the morning.

INDIA Updated: Jun 12, 2019 11:10 IST

Chetan Chauhan
Chetan Chauhan
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
heatwave,heatwave conditions,longest heatwave
Noida, India – June 10, 2019: Boys on a two-wheeler cover themselves with a cloth to beat the heat on a summer day, in Noida, India, on Monday, June 10, 2019. (Photo by / Hindustan Times)(Sunil Ghosh /HT Photo/Representative Image )

Nearly two-thirds of India sizzled on Tuesday under a spell of a heatwave that is on course to becoming the longest ever as scalding temperatures killed four train passengers, drained water supplies, and drove thousands of tourists to hill stations already bursting at the seams.

Across large swathes of northern, central and peninsular India, the mercury breached the 45 degree mark, including in Jhansi in Uttar Pradesh, Churu and Bikaner in Rajasthan, Hisar and Bhiwani in Haryana, Patiala in Punjab, and Gwalior and Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh.

The Capital, which sweltered on its hottest June day in history on Monday (48 degrees Celsius) recorded as maximum temperature of 45.4 degrees Celsius at Palam in spite of a spell of light rain in the morning.

Experts warned that monsoon relief was still some time away with the severe cyclonic storm, Vayu, barrelling towards the Gujarat coast and drawing rain clouds from over the sea.

With a heatwave spell stretching 32 days, 2019 has already seen the second-longest spell of scorching temperature ever recorded. If the mercury doesn’t dramatically drop in the next two days, 2019 will become the year with the longest heatwave spell in recorded history — with three weeks to go in June.

In 1988, there were 33 such days, and in 2016, there were 32 such days. A heatwave is defined as when the maximum temperature is at least 40 degree C (plains) and 30 degree C (hills), according to the India Meteorological Department (IMD).

Also Read | In scorching sun, UP villages without a drop to drink

The searing heat is already leaving people withered. Four elderly passengers on board the Kerala Express died apparently of suffocation and heat at Jhansi, where the mercury has hovered around the 45 degree mark since the beginning of the month. The four people, three of whom died on Monday evening, were part of a 67-member group returning to Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu after visiting Agra and were travelling in non-AC sleeper coaches.

“A team of doctors examined them on board the train at Jhansi; three of them had passed away by then and one passenger was rushed to hospital [who died on Tuesday],” said railway spokesperson Manoj Kumar Singh. He said the cause of death appeared to be heat but the exact cause would be known after a post-mortem examination.

The blazing heatwave is in line with predictions made by a number of scientific studies based on IMD data that show that the intensity of heatwaves is rising. DS Pai, a scientist at IMD, Pune, said their study of long-term heatwave data of 35 meteorological subdivisions showed a threefold increase in heatwaves every year since 1991. “Our observation indicates that the increase was steeper in the last two decades,” he said.

An Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pune study added that another impact of long spells of heat was an increase in the number of hot days and nights. An analysis of daily maximum and minimum temperatures of 121 IMD stations distributed across India between 1970 and 2015 showed the frequency of hot days and nights showed a big jump whereas that of cold days and nights dropped sharply. “With climate change, the frequency and intensity of heat waves in India will increase,” S Krishnan, a senior scientist at IITM, said.

In its heatwave bulletins, IMD has pointed out that this year’s hot spell has been amplified by the absence of pre-monsoon showers, the presence of hot and dry winds from western dry zones. However, the heatwave spell is likely to cool down this weekend, the IMD heat forecast on Tuesday said.

In major cities across northern India, the demand for power and water surged even as many sources of water – such as rivers and reservoirs – ran dry. The peak power demand in Delhi broke all records of this season on Monday and touched a high of 6,686 MW, reported the discoms. In the hinterlands, where there are often no secondary sources of water such as tanks and pipes, the situation is worse.

In Sonbhadra district on the eastern tip of Uttar Pradesh, for example, the scorching sun has forced many villagers to dig pits in the riverbed and wait for groundwater to ooze out. As the temperatures rise, the pits will go dry and villagers will have to trek kilometres for a pot of water. Hand pumps often don’t work in these regions because in many pockets, the water level has dipped below 300 feet.

The sweltering heat has driven tens of thousands of people into hill stations that are ill-equipped to handle a rush of such magnitude. Uttarakhand’s Nainital has seen an average of 15,000 to 20,000 tourists arrive daily in a city with a capacity of just 8,000 rooms. Mussoorie, which has 2,000 rooms, has seen 190,030 tourists flood the town since May.

As many as 15,000 vehicles have entered Manali and Shimla on weekends this month, translating to roughly 60,000 people — about a third of the population of these towns. The tourist influx is repeatedly choking all approach roads to the small Himalayan hill stations and causing massive traffic snarls in the mountains. Moreover, the hills have received no respite from the blistering sun — Monday’s maximum temperature for Mussoorie was six degrees above normal at 30.5 degrees Celsius while Dharamsala recording a maximum of 33.8 degrees Celsius.

First Published: Jun 12, 2019 07:16 IST

19 of India’s 25 dirtiest cities are in West Bengal

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

19 of India’s 25 dirtiest cities are in West Bengal, Darjeeling on the list

The cities, which include Darjeeling, Siliguri, Serampore, Madhyamgram, North Barrackpore, Bankura, fared abysmally on all sanitation indicators such as waste collection, open defecation, solid waste processing and disposal

INDIA Updated: Jun 24, 2018 17:56 IST

HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
A man cleans garbage along the banks of the river Ganges in Kolkata, India, April 9, 2017.
A man cleans garbage along the banks of the river Ganges in Kolkata, India, April 9, 2017. (REUTERS File Photo)

Nineteen out of the 25 dirtiest cities in India are from West Bengal, with Bhadreshwar in Gujarat at the bottom of the list of 500 cities with a population of over one lakh, a nationwide cleanliness survey by the union housing and urban affairs ministry has found.

The cities, which include Darjeeling, Siliguri, Serampore, Madhyamgram, North Barrackpore, Bankura, fared abysmally on all sanitation indicators such as waste collection, open defecation, solid waste processing and disposal, the survey found.

Three cities each from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh are also among the dirtiest, figuring in the bottom of the list.

In all, 4203 urban local bodies were surveyed between January and March and ranked under different categories, based on their population. Besides, for the first time all the cantonment boards, run by the army, were also included in the survey.

West Bengal also fared among the bottom four dirtiest states in the country, followed by Nagaland, Puducherry and Tripura.

Jharkhand is the cleanest state in India followed by Maharashtra and Chattisgarh, according to the report, which was released by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Indore on Saturday. Among the cities, Indore is the cleanest — second year in a row — followed by Bhopal and Chandigarh. The PM also gave away the award to the cleanest states and cities at a function. Varanasi, PM Modi’s parliamentary constituency, was ranked 29 among the list of 500 cities. Last year it was ranked 32.

Read: Indore the cleanest city, followed by Bhopal and Chandigarh: Swachh Bharat survey

Cities were ranked on the basis of their performance in six parameters including collection and transportation of municipal solid waste, their processing and disposal, sanitation related progress, innovation and best practices adapted by cities.

A senior ministry official said that West Bengal had not participated in the earlier two cleanliness survey conducted by the ministry in 2016 and 2017.

Subrata Gupta, West Bengal principal secretary (urban affairs and municipal affairs department) said, “I am not aware of any such survey. I have not seen the survey report and won’t be able to comment on it. The state, however, runs its own cleanliness program called Nirmal Bangla as part of which we rank our cities.”

Yamini Aiyar, president and chief executive, Centre for Policy Research, feels that while such data and ranking are useful and important exercise as they act as a periodic check and puts the spotlight on the issue, but the real devil lies in the detail.

“The biggest limitation of such survey is what we do after, to what extent the result is used as a diagnostic tool to address the problem cities are facing. Unfortunately, we have not been able to take the next step, to see to what degree our municipalities have the capacity and technology to process solid waste, etc.”

The urban affairs ministry had last month announced the winners of the 2018 Swachhata Sarvekshan but had not released the list of dirtiest city. A senior ministry official said that over 2700 assessors from Karvy Data management services Limited visited the 4203 Urban Local Bodies as part of the survey, which was completed in 66 days.

Read: Smaller cities better at waste management than bigger ones like Delhi

The methodology involved giving 35 % weightage to service level progress, which included checking if municipalities documents are physically verified to assess whether systems and processes are in place to implement Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban) in the most efficient way, 30% weightage was given to direct observation to ascertain general cleanliness in the cities by making random field visits in different parts of the city and public conveniences covering community/public toilets.

India: Cops Halt Church Prayer Because Hindu Group Alleges Conversion: Democracy, Really?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

In Uttar Pradesh, cops halt church prayer after Hindu group alleges conversion

INDIA Updated: Apr 08, 2017 07:49 IST

Abdul Jadid
Abdul Jadid
Gorakhpur, New Delhi
Yogi Adityanath

People inside the church on Friday. Eleven US nationals were also present in the church. (HT Photo)

Police stopped a prayer attended by more than 150 people, including 11 American tourists, at an Uttar Pradesh church on Friday after the right-wing Hindu Yuva Vahini complained that the event was a cover for religious conversion.The youth group, set up by chief minister Yogi Adityanath in 2002, filed a complaint against Yohannan Adam, the pastor of the church at Dathauli of Maharajganj district.

The organisation accused him of converting Hindus to Christianity, a charge the pastor denied.

“No prior permission was taken before the meeting. We stopped the meet after a complaint was registered. A probe is underway and appropriate action will be taken if the charges are correct,” said police officer Anand Kumar Gupta.

The US tourists were let off after police checked their visas and relevant documents.

“The presence of US nationals indicates that innocent and illiterate Hindus were being converted by the missionaries, who lured them with money to change their religion,” said Krishna Nandan, a Hindu Yuva Vahini leader who surrounded the church with his supporters in the afternoon.

They dispersed after police promised a probe and adequate action, though Nandan was not happy that the Americans were cleared.

The church authorities dismissed the conversion allegations.

“The charges are absolutely baseless. The people were attending a prayer meeting voluntarily. We prayed. Nothing else was done,” pastor Adam said.

The Hindu right wing has been at loggerheads with Christian missionaries, accusing them of converting people through coercion and allurement to their faith.

Several Hindu organisations have conducted ghar wapsi or homecoming of such people, which minority groups say is a couched term for re-conversion.

Earlier this year, Hindu Yuva Vahini activists attacked the Full Gospel Church in Gorakhpur, accusing it of religious conversion.