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Catholics singing Christmas carols detained, accused of trying to convert people

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Police detained dozens of Catholics singing Christmas carols for allegedly trying to convert people, officials said Friday, as fears grow over religious freedom in India.

Police said 32 people were detained for trying to convert people to Christianity in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh late Thursday, with a leading Catholic association condemning the accusations as “laughable”.

When a group of priests went to the police station to enquire about the detentions, their parked car was torched, allegedly by a mob belonging to a right-wing Hindu group, said Theodore Mascarenhas, secretary general of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India.

The news comes as India’s Christian minority sounds the alarm over a recent rise in attacks on churches and members of the faith, blaming the violence on Hindu hardliners, who they say have become emboldened since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s right-wing government swept to power in 2014.

Mascarenhas said 32 Catholics, including two priests, were detained while “conducting a routine Christmas carol singing programme.

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