Updated: August 28, 2014 10:40 PM GMT
Christian leaders on Friday accused Hindus in northern India’s Uttar Pradesh state of carrying out forced conversions following media reports that 72 local Seventh Day Adventist converted to Hinduism this week.
Media reports on Thursday said the 72 Christians from Asroi, in Aligarh district, converted to Hinduism on Tuesday. They also said they were originally Hindus who converted to Christianity in 1995.
Several Christian leaders pointed the finger at the pro-Hindu group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) of forcing the conversions and demanded the state government take action.
Forced conversion is outlawed in India.
“It is the right of an individual to convert to any religion of his choice but such mass conversions imply political, social and physical coercion and threat of violence,” John Dayal, member of the National Integration Council, told ucanews.com.
News of the conversions prompted the Seventh Day Adventist pastor in Asroi to lock the church out of fears that hardline Hindus might try and seize the building. The pastor, Habil Gyan, said several Hindus held a prayer ceremony outside the church shortly after the conversions.
“The church is still in our possession. We have locked it,” Seventh Day Adventists leader Pastor E Lakra, told ucanews.com in New Delhi.
He refuted media reports that the church’s cross was removed and the building made into a temple.
“No such thing has happened,” he said.
The RSS denied the forced conversion allegations, saying the Christians converted of their own free will.
“We welcome them. They left by choice and now they have realized their mistake and want to come back,” said Khem Chandra, an RSS member in Aligarh district.