Hindustan Times Friday 15 April 2011
A police circular in BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh seeking detailed profiles of Christians and churches in the state has been withdrawn after protests from members of the minority community. State chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan on Thursday sought a report on the circular issued on March 23. This is the first time such a circular was issued in Madhya Pradesh. The controversy caused by the circular surfaced at Ashtra town in Sehore district when a police official allegedly threatened a Christian priest who declined to give information sought through the circular. “The officer threatened to take me to the police station when I refused to provide details,” said Father Francis Scaria of the Ashtra parish.
The police top brass claimed ignorance about the circular even though the state police headquarters issued it to all police stations, seeking information on the financial status, political leanings and sources of funding of churches and their staff.Director general of police SK Rout reportedly did not know about the circular till Wednesday when a delegation of Christians brought it to his notice. Rout told HT, “All district police units have been directed not to collect any such information.” The circular had triggered alarm and anger among Christians, who viewed the order as a prelude to unleashing organised violence on the community.
Bhopal’s Archbishop Leo Cornelio, who heads the Catholic Church in the state, said, “It is a conspiracy against Christians in Madhya Pradesh.” He said similar profiling was done in Gujarat, where Christians were targeted in religious violence in some districts between 1999-2000.Father Anand Muttungal, spokesperson of Catholic Church, Madhya Pradesh, said the circular violated the community’s fundamental rights. It betrayed the anti-Christian bias of the state government, he said.