Police have arrested a pastor in eastern India accused of raping two women on the pretext of driving out evil spirits, an official said on Wednesday.

Chandrama Raj, the pastor with the Indian Mission Church in Bihar state, was arrested after one of the victims filed a complaint in September.

“We conducted a preliminary inquiry and have arrested the priest. He has been sent to judicial custody,” Manu Maharaj, the senior police superintendent of the state capital Patna, told AFP.

The women accused the pastor of inviting them to his home where he promised to drive away their evil spirits through prayer. It was there that he raped them, police said.

India has a grim record of sexual assaults, with 34,651 cases reported in 2015, according to government data.

It strengthened laws against sexual violence after the fatal gang-rape of a Delhi student in 2012 caused global outrage, but attacks are still widespread.

It is not the first time the church in India has faced accusations of sexual abuse.

Two high-profile exposes by former Catholic nuns have in recent years revealed the scale of sexual exploitation by priests and the prevalence of same-sex relations in Indian convents.

Last year an Indian priest was sentenced to 40 years in prison for raping a 12-year-old girl in 2014.

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