This month, over 70 Christian children were taken into custody in India’s Madhya Pradesh state after authorities claimed the children were actually Hindus. These children, whose parents are all practicing Christians, were taken in by authorities while traveling to a Christian summer camp with Christian chaperones. The argument over the religious identity of the children stems from Madhya Pradesh’s law regulating religious conversion. Essentially, an individual must file a written application with district collector to change their religion. The parents of the children taken into custody did not go through the official process. In many cases, openly indicating one is changing their religion away from Hinduism leads to a loss of government benefits, discrimination, and, in extreme cases, outright persecution.
05/30/2017 India (Crux) – In two separate incidents, groups of Christians in central India were taken into custody, charged with trying to convert Hindus to Christianity.
Both incidents took place in Madhya Pradesh state, which is over 90 percent Hindu and less than 1 percent Christian, and ruled by the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, which also controls the national government.
On May 21, 60 children between the ages of 13 and 15 were travelling to a Christian summer camp in Nagpur. They were being accompanied by nine chaperones.
Police detained the children, and charged the men with “attempted conversion,” despite the fact the children came from Christian families. The children were later released to their parents.
The second incident took place on May 22, when two men were arrested on similar charges for trying to take 11 children to the same camp.
Authorities claimed their parents had not followed proper procedures in order to convert to Christianity, and therefore the children were to be considered Hindus under the law.
“For changing to another religion, one needs to submit a written application to the district collector and only after the stipulated process, a person can change religious identity, which didn’t happen in the case of any of the parents claiming to be Christians,” said Krishnaveni Desavatu, the police superintendent.
“This is why, the children and their parents will be officially treated as Hindu tribals and not Christians,” he said, quoted in The Indian Express.