J&K: Pastor accused of converting people, assaulted in Kathua

As a pastor, 40-year-old Chunglenlal Singsit visits the houses of people who ask him to pray for them, in sickness and in health.

But on Christmas Day, on his way back after praying for a family at Padyari village of Kathua district of Jammu and Kashmir, he stopped at a grocery store to purchase disposable items for the birthday of his son. Soon after, the shopkeepers and locals gathered in the area, threatening him and accusing him of trying to convert Dalit residents to Christianity by distributing money, he told The Indian Express.

Singsit, who belongs to Manipur, said the locals also directed him to chant “Jai Shri Ram”. When he refused, they slapped him.

Police intervened and defused the situation, but no complaint has been filed over the incident yet nor any arrests made.

Scarred by the incident, Singsit and his family — wife, and three children – who were living in Kathua’s Palli Morh for the last three years left for Manipur on December 27.

On Friday, while travelling back to his home-state, the pastor said over the phone: “I have done nothing wrong. I have never distributed any money or converted people forcefully. If anyone comes for prayers, I do it for them for it is my duty as a pastor.”

Kathua Police said that on December 25, they received information that some people in Nagri Parole area had gathered around a pastor, who was allegedly converting the poor to Christianity by distributing money.

To avoid any untoward incident, they went to the area and brought the pastor to the police post in Nagri, Kathua Superintendent of Police (SP) Ramesh Chander Kotwal said on Friday.

Police let Singsit go the next morning “after asking him to be careful as these are sensitive issues”, the SP said.

Sources said the pastor was let off after Peter Masih, who runs a gym at Palli Morh, gave an undertaking that he knew Singsit and that the pastor was not involved in any conversions.

A policeman at the station said they found no evidence of forceful conversion. “After his (Singsit’s) initial questioning, we even called a member of the family who he had visited… The latter too said that they had invited the pastor home for treatment of their son who was not well for past quite some time,” he said on the condition of anonymity.

“The pastor had only Rs 2,000 –2,200 in his pocket and this amount is normal for most people to carry,’’ he said, adding that “we left him as there was nothing against him”.

On Friday, Singsit appreciated timely intervention by the police, but alleged that the Kathua SP told him to leave the district within five days if the pastor wanted to avoid a complaint against him in the future.

“I am really glad that police arrived on time. I don’t know what could have happened if they didn’t show up as the crowd was growing in number,” Singsit said.

But the “experience was very painful, particularly when someone like the SP acted in a manner you don’t expect…. he should know better the fundamental rights of a citizen guaranteed by the Constitution of India. I am an Indian and as a Citizen of India I can live in any part of the country”, the pastor said.

When contacted, SP Kotwal denied the charge as baseless, saying: “Nothing of that sort had happened.”

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