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ICC Note:

Two Christian women in India have been falsely accused of kidnapping and attempting to forcefully convert seven children by Hindu radicals in Madhya Pradesh. These false accusations were made when the two women were accompanying seven Christian children to a Bible camp. The children’s parents, who are also Christians, had given permission to the two women to accompany their children and for them to participate in the Bible camp. False accusations of crimes, especially forced conversions, have become a common tool for Hindu radicals to harass Christians. These accusations both directly effect the Christians accused as well as effect the reputation of Christians to the broader Hindu community as people that cannot be trusted. 

11/18/2017 India (Gospel Herald) – Two Christians face charges of kidnapping and forcible conversion in India after Hindu extremists attacked them and children on their way to a youth Bible conference by train, sources said.

The Hindu extremists later savagely beat Christian parents trying to regain custody of their children at a police station, the sources said. The extremists had police detain the Christian children for a week, while the two Christians charged were held longer.

“I am shocked at the way the Hindu extremists take law into their hands with impunity knowing that the government is theirs,” one of those facing charges, Amrit Kumar Matera, told Morning Star News.

Christians Anita Francis and her daughter, 19-year-old Sophia Francis, on Oct. 23 boarded the Avantika Express bound for Mumbai from a railway station in Indore, Madhya Pradesh, with seven children – four boys ages 5, 13, 17 and 17, and three girls ages 5, 12 and 13. Having secured permission from the children’s Christian parents, the women were taking the children to a Bible study program for youth from throughout India.

They had boarded the train and were settled in their seats when a throng of Hindu extremists from the Hindu nationalist Hindu Jagran Manch, an affiliate of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological parent of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, barged into their compartment and forced them off the train, sources said.

They began to interrogate Anita Francis, asking why they were going to Mumbai and how much money they had received to convert the children to Christianity, said her nephew, Alex Matera, 19, who along with his father, Amrit Kumar Matera, had come to see her and Sophia Francis off.

Having boarded the train to help settle the women and children, Alex Matera and his 53-year-old father also became targets of the Hindu extremist assault, with the latter detained along with Anita Francis and the seven children.

“They interrogated us as if they were from the Crime Branch and recorded the entire episode on their mobile phones,” Alex Matera told Morning Star News. “They gathered the children from where they were seated and collected them all at one place, interrogating and intimidating Anita without even giving her the chance to reply. The children were pushed and pulled in the most ruthless manner.”

He tried explaining to them that all the passengers were baptized Christians going to a Bible study conference as they do every year, he said.

“We were astonished,” Alex Matera said. “We don’t know how these people got to know about the travel plans. They alleged we convert children forcibly.”

Local media have published false reports that he, his father and aunt were taking the children to Kerala state to carry out conversions, he said.

“The tickets were pre-booked for return journey on Oct. 26 from Mumbai to Indore,” he said. “That was not enough to convince them.”

Anita Francis immediately telephoned the children’s parents, who hurriedly headed for the railway station.

Amrit Kumar Matera said that all seven children were relatives and neighbors of Anita Francis who live in the same colony as she does.

“Three men caught me from behind and started to hit me with their legs and boots,” he told Morning Star News. “I could not even see who was holding me and what they were beating me with. They beat me all the way through, while they dragged me to the GRP [Government Railway Police] police station from the platform.”

The Hindu extremists man-handled the children, beating some of them, and they had called media to witness the Christians’ purported “kidnapping” of the children, Amrit Kumar Matera said.

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