SIX VILLAGERS ARRESTED FOR TONSURING CHRISTIANS IN ORISSA. PCP B.Cheif Khalid Mansoor Soomro
12 May 2004
May 19 (PCP ) — Six people were arrested on May 3 in connection with a February 10 incident regarding residents of Kilipala village in Orissa state shaving the heads of a local pastor and eight Christian women. Tonsuring, or shaving the crown of the head, is seen as the mark of a Hindu convert and caused great humiliation for the Christians concerned. The arrests were made after a Public Interest Litigation was filed on behalf of the victims. The villagers had previously accused Pastor Samal of forcibly converting two girls in the village; “forced conversion” is banned under the Orissa Freedom of Religion Act. Pastor Samal denied the charges, and the two girls signed an affidavit saying they had converted of their own free will. Despite this evidence, an arrest warrant was issued against Pastor Samal just a few days after the villagers responsible for tonsuring him were arrested. Concerned Christian and secular organizations in India are proceeding with further appeals on behalf of Pastor Samal and the eight women, who remain in sheltered housing in the state capital.