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Indian police book Christians for alleged forced conversion

The case was made out against 10 people after surprise inspection at a Protestant Mission-run orphanage in Madhya Pradesh

A news item in a local Hindi language newspaper alleging religious conversion at an orphanage run by the Mid India Christian Service was shared by Priyank Kanoongo, chairperson of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights on his Twitter handle

A news item in a local Hindi language newspaper alleging religious conversion at an orphanage run by the Mid India Christian Service was shared by Priyank Kanoongo, chairperson of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights on his Twitter handle. (Photo: Twitter)

Published: November 16, 2022 10:12 AM GMT

Updated: November 16, 2022 10:29 AM GMT

Police in the Central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh have initiated a probe against 10 Protestant Christians for alleged violation of a state law that criminalizes religious conversion.

The complaint was filed by Priyank Kanoongo, chairman of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) after an inspection at an orphanage for children in Damoh district on Nov. 13

Makson Massey, manager of the Mid India Christian Service told UCA News on Nov. 16 that a team led by Kanoongo conducted a surprise search at their mission institutions including the orphanage and a Bible college.

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Close to 50 people including 30 police personnel took along a 17-year-old boy. Kanoongo later alleged that the boy was from the tribal-dominated Dindori district and was being trained to become a pastor at the facility.

He said the boy had been trafficked to Damoh and filed a case against 10 Christians working in the mission.

A senior police official told UCA News that the investigation is on but refused to divulge any further details, saying “please wait until its completion.”

Massey, however, denied the allegation. He said there is no such attempt to traffic or convert anyone. The boy was staying in a mission facility of his free will and also with the permission of his parents.

The parents of the boy had given an affidavit to the effect to the police team, exposing the false complaint by Kanoongo, he claimed.

The statutory body headed by Kanoongo is been used to target Christians and their institution engaged in taking care of orphans, the Christian leaders said.

Kanoongo had on Nov. 8, 2021, conducted a surprise inspection of a Catholic-run girls’ hostel in Intkheri village in Raisen district under the Sagar diocese.

The team, consisting solely of men, entered the girls’ dormitory and searched their belongings and charged the hostel authorities with promoting Christianity after finding copies of the Bible.

The hostel authorities though informed him that the Bible copies belonged to Christian students, but he refused to listen.

The search was carried out when the students were in school and the team did not even bother to take statements from them to verify if they were made to read the Bible and convert to Christianity.

He also later released a video of the inspection on social media and tried to generate unnecessary controversy.

“It is unfortunate that a statutory body meant to help us improve the conditions of orphan children is being used to frame us under the guise of religious conversion,” said a Christian leader who did not want to be named.

Meanwhile, a delegation of Christians from the Mid India Christian Service called on Damoh district Superintendent of Police D R Tenivaar and appealed for a fair probe.

Christians make up less than one percent of 71 million people in Madhya Pradesh.

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