Punjab: Pastor's car set on fire after 'forced conversions' claims
In a jarring incident, a pastor's car was set on fire in Punjab's Tarn Taran district on Tuesday. Local men reportedly entered a local church forcefully and vandalized a Jesus and Mary statue, hours after the Akal Takht Jathedar, the highest seat of the Sikh temporal authority in Amritsar, spoke against alleged forced conversions by Christian missionaries. CCTV cameras recorded both instances of vandalism.
Why does this story matter?
- About 150 Nihang Sikhs, members of the Sikh warrior clan, were booked earlier this week for disrupting an event in Amritsar.
- The event had been organized by Christian missionaries in Daduana village and the men were booked under serious Indian Penal Code (IPC) charges.
- Speaking in support of the Nihangs, the Jathedar announced a meeting on 'forced conversions' at Anandpur Sahib on September 5.
What exactly happened in Tarn Taran?
In a Facebook live stream on Tuesday afternoon, the Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh denounced forced conversions by Christians. Later in the day, videos showed a man entering a local church in Takarpur village, Tarn Taran, and destroying the statue of Jesus and Mary located at its entrance. Another video showed the car of a pastor set ablaze.
Watch: Pastor's car set on fire
A car belonging to church pastor sat on fire and statue of Mariam vandalised in a village of Punjab’s Tarantaran district, according to Punjabi Media. pic.twitter.com/LcvZyPDzlZ— Sandeep Singh (@PunYaab) August 31, 2022
What did the 'Jathedar' say?
According to NDTV, Singh said, "So-called Christian missionaries have been forcibly converting Sikhs through fraudulent practices...This is happening right under the government's nose...No government is ready to act against them (missionaries) due to vote bank politics." He further claimed that foreign funding from across the border is helping missionaries run such religious campaigns, and requested the central government to control it immediately.
Watch: Man vandalizes local church in Punjab
What did the police say?
According to Tarn Taran SSP RS Dhillon, four men committed the act. "Few notorious elements tried to vandalize idol of Jesus & set ablaze a car at Chruch in Patti. We're investigating the matter & have vital clues," he told ANI. Meanwhile, church officials said the men threatened their security guard at gunpoint and spent 25 minutes on the premises.
Sikh leaders speak against forced conversions
Several Sikh leaders have spoken against 'forced conversions' by Christian missionaries in Punjab. In April, Manjinder Singh Sirsa, who joined the BJP in 2021, said mass conversions keep happening because pastors "lure people with dramatic acts'. In the absence of a law against forced conversions, AAP Chief Arvind Kejriwal said in January, "We need a law but it must not be misused."