India

India told to scrap anti-conversion laws after polls

The law prevents Christians from sharing their faith with others, UK-based Release International said

Bijay Kumar Minj

Updated: April 17, 2024 10:58 AM GMT

Catholics take part in the feast of Christ the King in New Delhi on Nov. 20, 2017. (Photo: Bijay Kumar Minj)

A UK-based Christian advocacy group has urged India to repeal the sweeping anti-conversion laws enacted by about a dozen states after the national polls.

Release International, which supports persecuted Churches worldwide, said: We have seen a dramatic rise in intolerance towards Christians since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) first came to power in 2014.

Eleven Indian states, most of them ruled by the BJP of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, have in place anti-conversion laws. Polls to the Indian parliament's lower house (Lok Sabha) are being conducted in seven phases, starting April 19. The results will be declared on June 4.

Paul Robinson, chief executive officer of Release International, urged India to act immediately to halt the spread of intolerance and repeal anti-conversion laws after the polls.

The anti-conversion laws prohibit change of religion or any attempt to convert from one religion to another through misrepresentation, use of threat or force, fraud, undue influence, coercion, allurement, or marriage. 

These laws fly in the face of India's constitution, which guarantees freedom of religion, Robinson noted on April 15.

These laws prevent Christians from sharing their faith with others, he said.

Quoting a report compiled by the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI), a protestant group, Release International said pastors are beaten up, churches are attacked and prayer meetings are disrupted by hardline Hindu groups.

According to the EFI report, published on March 21, violence against Christians increased from 413 in 2022 to 601 in 2023.

The rapidly deteriorating situation in India is a matter of grave concern, said Vijayesh Lal, EFI general secretary.

Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state ruled by Modi's party, emerged at the top with 279 cases and Chhattisgarh in central India witnessed 132 cases, while Haryana, the northern Indian state, recorded 43 incidents.  The anti-conversion law is in full force in these three states.

  What we're seeing in India is the rise in right-wing militancy, underpinned by intolerance from the state, added Robinson.

Release International has a presence in 25 countries across the globe.

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