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Indian police arrest Muslims in religious conversion case

Archbishop D'Souza suspects the case in Uttar Pradesh is a government attempt to 'hide its failure'

Indian police arrest Muslims in religious conversion case

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath (center) waves to supporters as he arrives to address a gathering in his home constituency of Gorakhpur in March 2017. (Photo: UCA News/IANS)

Police in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh claim to have busted a nationwide mass religious conversion racket after arresting two Muslim men on June 21.

The Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) of state police told media that Umar Gautam and Jahangir Alam, both from national capital New Delhi, were engaged in converting more than 1,000 people from other faiths to Islam.

They claimed the men received funding from overseas organizations and targeted disabled children and other vulnerable groups.

Archbishop Emeritus Albert D’Souza of Agra was skeptical about the case.

“As expected, reports of religious conversion, hate crime and communal harmony will intensify in the near future as the government has to hide its failure and prepare for the assembly election,” he told UCA News.

“Most of the governments in Utter Pradesh, especially the government run by the Bharatiya Janata Party, never took heed of minorities and never bothered to listen to the plight of poor and downtrodden people, who are always treated as second-class citizens.

It is because the government has nothing else to give to the people — it is a complete failure

“Now, when the state is due for an assembly election early next year, it has nothing to offer the people except the communal card. Divide people in the name of caste and creed as usual.”

Archbishop D’Souza said the anti-conversion law passed in Uttar Pradesh in February could be misused for political gain.

Prasant Kumar, additional director general of police in Lucknow, told media that the two arrested men were involved in the illegal religious conversion of people of different faiths to Islam in Uttar Pradesh in other parts of the country.

“Our teams investigating the case are working to identify other members of the group and their supporters,” Kumar told a press conference.

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Police claimed that they came to know about the case in early June following the arrest of two Muslim men who tried to enter a temple complex in Dasna in Ghaziabad district pretending to be Hindus.

“Further interrogation of the two men led us to Gautam and Alam. We summoned Gautam and Alam for questioning on several occasions and they were arrested after we had gathered enough evidence against them,” said Kumar.

Muhammad Arif, chairman of the Centre for Harmony and Peace, told UCA News that “many more such reports will come in future as the state election come closer. It is because the government has nothing else to give to the people — it is a complete failure.”

Arif, whose organization is based in Uttar Pradesh's Varanasi, said that all are against religious conversion through allurement for political or religious gain but nobody can stop a person embracing any faith with his free will.

“The government should constitute a team of experts who can check religious conversion as many times it blames only minorities,” the Muslim leader said.

The case was registered along with relevant sections of the state’s new anti-conversion law

Meanwhile, the ATS has lodged a first information report in state capital Lucknow against the Muslim men and the Islamic Da’wah Centre under the Indian penal code — cheating and dishonesty, criminal conspiracy, promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration, injuring or defiling places of worship and attempting to commit offenses.

The case was registered along with relevant sections of the state’s new anti-conversion law, the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Act, police said.

The new law states that no person shall convert or attempt to convert, either directly or otherwise, any other person from one religion to another by use or practice of misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means or by marriage, nor shall any person abet, convince or conspire such conversion.

If any person reconverts to their immediate previous religion, the same shall not be deemed to be a conversion under the ordinance.

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