Satna carolers: priest gets bail after daylong drama
By Matters India Reporter
New Delhi: A Catholic priest arrested for alleged forced conversion charge has been released on bail on Dec. 15, hours after he was arrested and produced before a trial court in Satna town, Madhya Pradesh state.
Father George Mangalapilly was among 30 seminarians and two priests police detained on December 14 night following allegation from right wing Hindu activists that they were involved in illegal religious conversion, a charge the priest and Church leaders deny. The priest is a professor at St Ephrem’s Theological College in Satna.
They were taken into police custody while singing carol in a village in the outskirts of Satna town, some 10 km from the seminary.
The police produced the priest before the court and opposed his bail. The court, however, granted him bail, says Father Rony Maruthummoottil, director of Satna diocese’s social work director department.
“Now everyone is back home,” he told Matters India later in the evening.
Meanwhile more groups joined in condemning the attack on carolers.
Archbishop Leo Cornelio of Bhopal, who heads the Catholic Church in Madhya Pradesh, expressed shoc at the violence against Catholic priests and seminarians.
Bishop Joseph Kodakallil of Satna expressed shock and said, Christians in Madhya Pradesh “are deeply saddened and urged the government to take immediate measures to prevent such undemocratic violence against minorities as Christmas coming closure, we expect more such un ethic and unacceptable violence against missionaries.
“Violent means will give violent freedom. That would be a menace to the world and to India herself. We have the power to build a peaceful, tolerant and prosperous India, the statement added.
Father Anish Emmanuel, a visiting professor who was among the detained, told Matters India December 15 that the seminary team has conducted Christmas program in a neighboring village since the inception of the seminary 25 years ago.
Father Emmanuel, pastor of Dewra mission station of Satna diocese, said the vehicle that the radicals torched belonged to Fransalian priests who went to the police station to enquire about the seminarians. The Hindu radicals assaulted the three Fransalians as well as another group of five priests from the Satna bishops’ house who had gone to the police station. “I was physically assaulted inside the station premises, but luckily a policeman saved me,” he added.
The police released the Church team around 2 am, but asked the ten priests and three seminarians to report to the station by 7 am. “We are still at the police station” Father Emmanuel said around 10:30 am.
The priest also said the Church was trying to file police complaint about the torching of the vehicle as well as attacks on them. The Hindu radicals on the other hand wanted to file a case against the Church team for alleged conversion. “They had also brought a man from the village who alleged the Church had given him 5,000 rupees for becoming a Catholic. There is no truth in it,” Father Emmanuel said.