Priest & 9 Others Arrested for Alleged Conversion, What Happened in Barabanki?

"It's a large-scale conspiracy, they get foreign funding," says VHP leader. However, he refused to explain further.

3 min read

Sixteen people have booked and ten have been arrested, including a church priest Dominic Pinto for allegedly attempting to 'forcefully convert' a crowd of hundreds of people that had gathered in Barabanki on Monday, 5 February.

The session took place at Navintha Prayer Centre and Church near St Matthew's College, where over 150-200 locals from underprivileged backgrounds had gathered to listen to the talk by priest Dominic Pinto and others.

The FIR, as accessed by The Quint, reads, "Some of the people had come from Ayodhya and along with the priests, they were influencing poor women, men and children, distributing Bibles, diaries, books and through these, they were trying to convert them from Hinduism to Christianity. It was a planned move through this gathering."

Now, the Dewa Barabanki police has filed a case against 16 people including Father Pinto, Suraj Prasad Gautam, Pavan Kumar, Sunil Pasi, among others under The Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Act, 2021.

  • Sections 3 (Prohibition of conversion from one religion to another by misrepresentation, force, fraud, undue influence, coercion, allurement or marriage).

  • Section 5 (1) (Punishment for violating section 3).


'Luring Poor People With Money' Allege VHP

Rajesh Kumar Singh, a senior member of Vishwa Hindu Parishad who heads all the districts in and around Lucknow spoke to The Quint and said, "They were luring poor people, pacifying and convincing them and it is illegal to convert anyone by luring them with money or goods."

He added, "They give money to the poor, spread rumours between them to create divide among Hindus, telling them Hindus don't let you enter in their temples, so they provoke them this way."

Under the anti-conversion law, the assumption is that individuals do not convert out of free will, but are converted via bad actors, using coercion or deceit.

Rajesh termed it a large-scale conspiracy, but doesn't elaborate much.

"It's a large-scale conspiracy, they get foreign funding and they want the Hindu society to be divided among different castes, breaking the nation, and big names are most probably involved, it will all come out," he said.

However, on being asked to elaborate on the funding allegations, he got furious and seemed to be offended over the telephonic conversation.

Meanwhile, Manoj Kumar Sonkar, Inspector from Dewa Barabanki police station confirmed the incident to The Quint and stated that it was "forceful religious conversion."

"They were forcefully converting the poor people hence, the case has been filed against them. Whatever is written in the FIR, we stand by that. As for the ones arrested, we are still investigating how many of them are Christians and who all were from Ayodhya," he noted.

Karyakartas, The 'Messengers'

Another right-wing member of Bajrang Dal, Akhand Pratap Singh, district President is mentioned among the complainants in the FIR.

Talking to The Quint, he said, "Around 300-350 people had gathered and 20-25 Christians had come and they were trying to religiously convert them. We have stopped it before but this time, it was on a a larger scale so we intervened."

Akhand noted that they did it because they have to see to the anti-conversion law in Uttar Pradesh.

The law allows "any aggrieved person, his/her parents, brother, sister, or any other person who is related to him, her by blood, marriage or adoption may lodge a First Information Report of such conversion which contravenes the provisions of section 3.

"We have our workers in all of these districts in all of these areas. They inform us from the ground and then we promptly take action. Our mechanism on the ground is very solid, we get to know what's happening mostly."
Akhand Pratap Singh, Bajrang Dal to The Quint

In one of the videos sent to The Quint by Brijesh Kumar who also filed the FIR, one of the attendees at the gathering said, "I am poor and I'm not well, I have come from Kanpur only to pray, please let u such attempt at forceful conversion was taking place."

In another video, one of the pastors is being asked by the VHP members as to what their main work is. To this, the pastor responded, "Our job is to take care of Christians, nothing else. In terms of having Sunday prayers or 'poojas' as you call them. Like yesterday was Sunday, so had a prayer. We also run a school. People come, pray and then they go. That's it."

  • One of the pastors talking to VHP members. The Quint hasn't verified their names independently yet.

    (Photo: Screenshot from video sent by VHP)

Earlier on Monday, Additional Superintendent of Police (ASP) CN Sinha had stated that in the afternoon more than "100 people from Ayodhya area came to Barabanki's Deva area for conversion under the supervision of priest Dominic Pinto at the Navinta Prayer Centre and Church located near St Matthew's College," as per PTI.

Based on a tip-off about the alleged conversion attempt, "a police team reached the spot and found that the people were brought in buses by luring them with money and food," said Sinha.

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