UCA News
Contribute

10 people arrested on conversion charges in India

A local pastor said Christians in Madhya Pradesh state were being regularly harassed by police
Activists of the pro-Hindu Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) protest against Christian missionaries in Allahabad on Oct. 22, 2013. Ten people were arrested on suspicion of involvement in conversion activities by police in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh on May 13

Activists of the pro-Hindu Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) protest against Christian missionaries in Allahabad on Oct. 22, 2013. Ten people were arrested on suspicion of involvement in conversion activities by police in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh on May 13. (Photo: AFP/ UCAN files)

Published: May 15, 2023 12:07 PM GMT
Updated: May 18, 2023 05:16 AM GMT

Police arrested 10 people under the stringent anti-conversion law after a raid on a Christian prayer gathering in a central Indian state.

Some 70 Christians had gathered at a private residence in Kotwali in the Shahdol district of Madhya Pradesh state on May 13 when a police team arrived and stopped their prayer meeting alleging "religious conversion activity."

“Our people were arrested after branding the routine prayer meeting as a conversion activity,” a pastor speaking to UCA News on condition of anonymity said on May 15.

Police also seized copies of the Bible and other documents from the residence. The 10 people who were arrested were produced before a court and remanded in judicial custody.

“We are confident our innocence will be proved in the court of law and our people will be released from prison,” the pastor said, adding such raids on prayer gatherings inside houses and arrests of the Christians had become a trend in Madhya Pradesh.

The state government is run by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The raid and arrests were initiated by the police on the basis of a complaint filed by Ashram Baiga, who is from a local indigenous community.

Baiga alleged that the arrested people had offered him 100,000 rupees (US$820) to convert him to Christianity.

The police arrested those they believed to be the leaders of the group and also filed cases against 12 others for violating various provisions of the state's sweeping anti-conversion law passed in 2021.

The Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2021, prohibits unlawful conversion from one religion to another by use of misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, any other fraudulent means, and allurement. Violators face a prison term of up to 10 years.

The law is often used to target Christians and their prayer gatherings held in remote parts of the state. 

The law also criminalizes inter-religious marriages, especially between Christians and Muslim men marrying Hindu girls, without prior approval from the government.

India’s Supreme Court is hearing a batch of petitions that challenge the constitutional validity of anti-conversion laws, passed mainly by pro-Hindu state governments like Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, and Karnataka.

Madhya Pradesh is among the 11 provinces across the country where religious conversion has been criminalized, although India's constitution grants its citizens the right to "freely profess, practice, and propagate religion subject to public order, morality and health."

Help UCA News to be independent
Dear reader,
Trafficking is one of the largest criminal industries in the world, only outdone by drugs and arms trafficking, and is the fastest-growing crime today.
Victims come from every continent and are trafficked within and to every continent. Asia is notorious as a hotbed of trafficking.
In this series, UCA News introduces our readers to this problem, its victims, and the efforts of those who shine the light of the Gospel on what the Vatican calls “these varied and brutal denials of human dignity.”
Help us with your donations to bring such stories of faith that make a difference in the Church and society.
A small contribution of US$5 will support us continue our mission…
William J. Grimm
Publisher
UCA News
Asian Bishops
Latest News
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia