Indian police arrest Christian priest after complaint by Hindu group

Three Crosses

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Indian police arrested a Christian priest and were questioning members of a seminary after a hardline Hindu group accused them of trying to convert villagers to Christianity by distributing Bibles and singing carols, police said on Saturday.

The priest was arrested 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 distributing the Bible, photos of Jesus Christ and singing carols in a village in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.

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

The Bajrang Dal has direct links with Modi’s ruling Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Madhya Pradesh, governed by the BJP, has strict religious conversion laws. People must give formal notice to local administrators in order to change religion.

“We have arrested the priest but have not booked him under the anti-conversion law because the probe into the allegations is still on,” said Rajesh Hingankar, the investigating official in Satna district, where the incident occurred.

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,” said Anish Emmanuel, a member of the St. Ephrem’s Theological College in Satna.

Two senior police officials in Bhopal said they had detained six members of the Bajrang Dal who had allegedly torched a car owned by a Christian priest in Satna, 480 km (300 miles) northeast of Bhopal.

Religious conversion is a sensitive issue in India, with Hindu groups often accusing Christian missionaries of using cash, kind and marriage to lure poor villagers to convert to their faith.

Modi’s government has been criticized for failing to do enough to stop attacks on minority Christians and Muslims by hardline Hindu groups.

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

(Reporting by Rupam Jain; Editing by Paul Tait)

Kansas man curt as he faces charges over Indian engineer’s murder

Adam Purinton, 51, accused of killing Srinivas Kuchibhotla, 32, and wounding Alok Madasani, 32, as well as an American who tried to intervene, appears via video conference from jail during his initial court appearance in Olathe, Kansas, U.S.,

By Karen Dillon

OLATHE, Kan (Reuters) – A white U.S. Navy veteran charged with murdering an Indian software engineer at a Kansas bar gazed at a camera from jail and gave curt answers to a judge by video during his initial court appearance on Monday over the shooting, which federal authorities are probing as a possible hate crime.

Adam Purinton, 51, is accused of killing Srinivas Kuchibhotla, 32, and wounding Alok Madasani, also 32, as well as an American who tried to intervene during Wednesday evening’s incident at Austins Bar and Grill in Olathe, a Kansas City suburb.

At least one bystander told the Kansas City Star he shouted “get out of my country” before shooting. The incident led news bulletins in India, where some suggested on social media that a climate of intolerance in the United States had been fueled by President Donald Trump’s rhetoric on immigration.

Purinton, appearing via video conference from jail, asked the court to appoint him an attorney and waived the reading of the formal charges against him of one count of premeditated first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder during the five-minute hearing in the Johnson County District Court in downtown Olathe.

Purinton, who could only be seen from the chest up on the court’s television screen, is being held on $2 million bond in the adjacent Johnson County Jail. In clear language, he replied to a handful of questions from the judge, mostly with curt answers.

Michael McCulloch, who was named by the court to be Purinton’s attorney, declined to comment after the hearing.

Purinton wore an Army green, sleeveless suicide-prevention smock and stared straight at the camera the whole time. His reddish-brown hair was short on the side and spiked on top. He had sideburns to his jawbone and the shadow of a beard.

His next hearing is set for March 9.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer on Monday called reports about the shooting and more acts of vandalism at Jewish cemeteries “disturbing.” On Friday, he said any loss of life in the shooting was tragic, but it was absurd to link the killing to Trump’s “America First” stance.

The Indian Embassy in Washington has expressed India’s deep concern over the incident to the U.S. government and requested a “thorough and speedy investigation.”

Purinton was arrested hours after the shooting at an Applebee’s restaurant in Clinton, Missouri, about 80 miles (130 km) south of Olathe.

According to a recording of a 911 call made by a female bartender at the Applebee’s, Purinton said he needed to hide because he had killed two Iranian men, local NBC affiliate KSHB-TV reported.

“He wouldn’t tell me what he did. I kept asking him and he said he would tell me if I agreed to let him stay with me. I finally got him to tell me,” the bartender tells a dispatcher, according to the tape obtained by KSHB-TV. “He said he shot and killed two Iranian people in Olathe.”

Both the gunman’s Indian victims worked as engineers with navigation device maker Garmin Ltd.

(Additional reporting and writing by Gina Cherelus in New York and Tim Ahmann in Washington; Editing by Daniel Wallis, Andrew Hay and David Gregorio)