Father Babu Francis from Allahabad diocese and others are charged with violating the sweeping anti-conversion law
Yogi Adityanath, chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, with Italian rider Marco Bezzecchi at the Indian MotoGP Grand Prix, held in Greater Noida on the outskirts of capital New Delhi, on Sept. 24. Under Adityanath, Uttar Pradesh enacted the draconian anti-conversion law. (Photo: AFP)
A court in a northern Indian state has remanded four Catholics, including a priest, to judicial custody under the stringent anti-conversion law.
The court in Prayagaraj district in northern Uttar Pradesh on Oct. 2 sent Father Babu Francis, director of social work of Allahabad diocese, and three other Catholics to jail, a day after their arrest.
“The priest was arrested when he visited the police station to inquire about the detention of other three Catholics,” Father Isidore D’Sousa, chancellor of the diocese, told UCA News on Oct. 3.
A pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Vibhavnath Bharati in his complaint to the Naini police station in the district accused the priest and others of attempting to convert villagers.
The BJP under the leadership of monk-turned-politician Yogi Adityanath is ruling Uttar Pradesh since 2017 and enacted the draconian anti-conversion law in 2021.
The complainant charged the priests and others with attempts to defame Hindu gods and physical assault.
“The police complaint is based on totally fake charges,” noted D’Souza.
Bharati, according to the chancellor, on Oct. 1 visited a Sunday prayer service by a Protestant pastor in the district after accusing him of religious conversion.
“When the BJP leader and his supporters created a ruckus and sought police help, the pastor ran away,” D’Souza said.
However, police detained the pastor’s brother who is a Catholic, employed with the diocesan social work department.
Later, two of his colleagues reached the station. However, they, too, were detained.
Subsequently, Francis reached the station to inquire about the illegal detentions.
“The police arrested the priest and accused all of them of violating the anti-conversion law,” D’Souza added.
In the complaint, the police have listed nine persons, including some women, as accused.
The diocese will file bail applications for their release, said the chancellor.
Christians in Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state in the country, face serious hurdles to practicing their faith as right-wing Hindu activists disrupt prayer meetings.
Christian leaders said that Christians are often charged with false conversion cases under the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Religious Conversion law.
The gross misuse of the anti-conversion law has made life miserable for Christians in the state, they added.
Christians make up a mere 0.18 percent of Uttar Pradesh's more than 200 million people, who are mostly Hindus.
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