IT Raids On Two Pastors In Punjab: Probe Launched Into Tax Evasion, Foreign Funding, And Donations By Churches
The Income Tax Department conducted raids on Tuesday (31 January) at multiple locations connected to two pastors in Punjab.
The two pastors, Bajinder Singh from Jalandhar and Harpreet Deol from Kapurthala, run prominent churches, with Singh leading the ‘Church of Glory and Wisdom’ in Tajpur village, Jalandhar and Deol managing the Open Door Church in Khojewala village.
Approximately 50 IT sleuths conducted simultaneous raids in various cities, including Jalandhar, Kapurthala, Amritsar, New Chandigarh, Mohali and Kurali.
As per reports, the department seized documents, assets, and Rs 2 crore from the pastors' properties in Kapurthala and Jalandhar. The investigation is looking into tax evasion, foreign funding, and the use of donations by the churches.
Pastor Singh comes from a Jat family in Haryana. It is said he embraced Christianity while he was in a jail for a murder case.
Today, he leads a large ministry with 15 branches, eight of which are located in Punjab and seven in other places, including Canada, the US, the UK, Dubai, Bihar, Mumbai and Kolkata.
The church claims to have lakhs of followers, mostly belonging to Scheduled Caste Hindu and Sikh communities.
Pastor Deol, from a Jat Sikh family, leads a similar large-scale ministry with several branches. He is a second generation pastor.
In recent years, there has been a rise in missionary activity in Punjab. A number of young, charismatic individuals claiming to be pastors, apostles, and prophets are engaged in 'miracle healing'.
These individuals, such as Pastor Singh, assert that they can cure cancer, banish evil spirits, heal disabilities, and even bring the dead back to life.
In their prayer meetings, they perform 'miracles' in the name of Jesus Christ that are videotaped and posted on social media. They have gathered a huge following on digital platforms too.
In 2022, when Pastor Singh, visited Mumbai to conduct a prayer meeting at the MMRD Grounds, his event was endorsed by Bollywood celebrities such as Johnny Lever and Rakhi Sawant.
However, these 'miracle men' are not without controversy. For example, Pastor Singh was accused of rape by a woman from Zirakpur, Punjab in 2018.
In addition, a family in Mumbai has accused him of falsely claiming to cure their 17-year-old daughter's cancer, which resulted in her health declining, and ultimately led to her death.
The family also alleged that Pastor Singh demanded they pay him Rs 80,000 to bring her back to life.
Despite rampant conversions, instead of putting a halt to missionary activities, the Punjab's political class is seen attending their congregational events. During the Punjab election campaign, Congress leaders and ministers flocked to these events.
The current AAP government in the state, too, does not seem bothered by the conversions being done through coercion and enticements.
(With inputs from PTI)
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