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Dalit Christian Facing Charges Of Conversion Demands Inquiry

New Delhi, September 12 (ICC) – Jagdish Bharti, a poor Dalit Christian from Ujjain district in Madhya Pradesh state who is facing charges of forcible conversion of Dalit Hindus, has demanded an impartial inquiry alleging that a conspiracy is underway against him.

“Please order an impartial and independent inquiry into the allegation of forcible conversion levied on me and free me from this false accusation,” Bharti said in a letter to the district collector on August 31.

He alleged that the police complaint was lodged against him (on August 23) after he refused to give money to some local extortionists, who are drug-addicts.

“My name is being defamed through false allegation and publication of false stories about me and my family in local dailies. The Raj Express on August 31 newspaper reported that I had threatened one Naresh Chauhan that I would kill him, which is absolutely false and baseless,” he said.

Bharti said he had received threats and warnings from the extortionists several times and had been falsely accused of conversion on two occasions.

Defending himself, he said: “I and my family live below poverty line. All my close relatives are laborers. If I was getting money to convert people, wouldn’t I first give some money to my poor relatives?

“Besides, I am a Dalit from the Vorna people group. According to the Constitution, I have the right to choose a religion, and I believe in Jesus Christ.”

Bharti also said that if anything distressing happened because of the allegations, the district administration would be responsible.

“Bharti has been systematically persecuted by the authorities – which is commonplace in this state which is ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party,” Sajan K. George, national president of the Global Council of Indian Christians who reported the incident, told ICC.

Madhya Pradesh government on July 25 passed a bill to make the anti-conversion law more stringent by making it mandatory for prospective converts and the priests to send intimation to the state administration prior to conversion. The bill is yet to be signed by the governor, Balram Jakhar.

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, in September 17 issue of the Organiser, RSS’ mouthpiece, said: “Much to my chagrin, my government has been picketed and questioned and still receiving many brickbats over a thin amendment, introduced in the assembly on July 21 that requires clergy and ‘prospective converts’ to notify authorities of the intent to change religion one month before a ‘conversion ceremony’.

“I believe in a democratic nation, the government authorities should be empowered to know whether the conversion was ‘forced’ or ‘by allurement’.