The missionary society has dismissed the charge that its members were offering Rs 1 lakh to the labourer to convert to Christianity, claiming the missionaries get a monthly stipend of only Rs 6,500 and that they cannot afford to offer such a large sum of money.
Seven people, including two women, from Mizoram had been held under the MP Freedom of Religion Act on September 12 for allegedly offering money to Sunil Prajapati to embrace Christianity in Badwah of Khargone district. While Badwah police claimed that Sunil was the complainant, others said local VHP and Bajrang Dal activists had taken up the matter with police.
The women were released on the same day, but five male members were taken into custody. They have been identified as Vanlalsawma (45), K Lalropluanga (35), Thangsangliana (22), R Laldinfela (21) and Zonunmawia (20).
Lalropluanga told The Indian Express over phone that there was no complainant and that police had reached the spot after being called by local Bajrang Dal workers. The society members were on way to hold a prayer meeting in the house of a villager, but even before they entered the house they were stopped by some people and handed over to police, Lalropluanga said.
In-charge of Badwah Police Station V S Parihar said the five Mizo missionaries were “only involved in evangelism” and that they had been active in Khandwa for a long time.
Nine years ago, three other Christian missionaries from Mizoram had been booked in a similar case in Betul district, but were acquitted seven years later. While defining its work as “direct evangelism”, or going door-to-door and talking about Christianity, the Aizawl-based society said its “core” work involves running Ebenezer English Medium School in MP’s Burhanpur district. It currently has 262 students and 17 teachers, most of them Korku and Rathia tribals as well as Dalits.
“BJP MPs, MLAs and sarpanches have always been supportive,” the society added. However, it described Khargone as a relatively “hostile” area where Catholics have borne the brunt of attacks.