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ICC Note: Fifteen Christians in India’s eastern state of Jharkhand have been charged with forced conversions under the state’s new anti-forced conversion law. According to reports, the bases of these charges are false and center around a wedding ceremony that was opposed by local Hindus as well as a prayer meeting. Anti-forced conversion laws are often abused by Hindu radicals in India seeking to harass or justify physical assaults on Christians.  

06/10/2018 India (World Watch Monitor) – Police in the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand have arrested four and are investigating 11 other Christians on charges of conversion, reported Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).

The arrest of the four in the village of Podkher, Simdega district, on 29 May is the first reported case since Jharkhand introduced anti-conversion legislation in September 2017.

A Christian couple, who were due to be married on 30 May, faced opposition from local villagers and some members of surrounding villages who took offence at the proposed Christian ceremony.

When the couple reported the matter to the police, they and their pastor and his assistant were taken into custody and “charged under section 4 of the Jharkhand Freedom of Religion Act 2017, which criminalizes religious conversion”, according to CSW.

The four have been put in detention and if found guilty can be sentenced to three years in prison or a fine of 50,000 rupees (US$ 742).

Meanwhile Jharkhand police are investigating another case involving 11 Christians in neighboring West Singhbum district who have also been accused of conversion in their local community in Manoharpur.

According to the religious freedom advocacy organization International Christian Concern (ICC), they were charged with engaging in forced conversions after they had met for prayer at someone’s home in Medhasai village, in the Chaibasa district of Jharkhand.

The men have not been imprisoned, pending the police investigation, but have fled their homes for fear of arrest, says ICC.

It appears that the complainant is an organization that is closely associated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the militant wing of the governing Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

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For interviews with William Stark, ICC’s Regional Manager, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: press@persecution.org