ICC Note: A Christian couple to be married on May 28 was falsely charged with forced conversions in India’s Jharkhand state. The bride’s father, who opposed the marriage, filed the false complaint against the couple. False accusations of forced conversion against Christians in India are common. Often these accusations are used to harass Christian leaders or justify physical assaults.
06/13/2018 India (Morning Star News) – Two weeks ago a Christian couple in eastern India was about to get married, not knowing the bride’s father had filed a false complaint of forcible conversion against them, relatives said.
As they were preparing for the wedding on May 28, police in Jharkhand state arrived at the site of the ceremony and arrested the bride and groom, along with pastor Sudarshan Manjhi, who was to officiate, and a Christian woman invited to attend, they said.
In his complaint, the bride’s father, Somaru Manjhi, alleged that Christians beat him and threatened to kill him if he did not convert to Christianity, allegations which his 18-year-old daughter, Tripti, said were false.
Bolba police in Simdega District registered a First Information Report on May 30, charging the Christians with forcible conversion under Jharkhand state’s new anti-conversion act.
“My father was drugged with alcohol that day, and the Sarna tribals, including the village president, abetted him to submit the false complaint in the police station pending the wedding so there won’t be a Christian wedding in the village,” Tripti told Morning Star News.
“He [Somaru Manjhi] is now repentant for what he has done, but it is too late.”
Everybody in her family of six (four children) put their faith in Christ except her father, she said. Her sister, Sumanti Kumari, the bride, was baptized in 2012 and could never think of marrying a non-Christian in the Sarna tradition, Tripti said.
Though her father wanted Sumanti Kumari to marry a tribal Sarna, she refused, and the rest of the family supported her, Tripti said. Her marriage to 28-year-old Rupesh Manjhi was decided after discussions with elders in the family and church in the presence of Pastor Manjhi, she said.
The pastor’s wife, Biyari Devi, told Morning Star News that the wedding was decided according to the bride and groom’s wishes.
“They both come from Sarna families but have accepted Christ, and it is obvious that they would want a holy matrimony,” Devi said. “Somaru Manjhi is my uncle also in relation. He has always been against Christ and the church since the house church was established in 2008. But he never became violent or aggressive with us until the question was about his daughter’s marriage.”
Rupesh Manjhi, the groom, was ostracized by his family after he came to Christ, Devi told Morning Star News.
Tripti said her family has been pleading with her father to drop the charges.
“We have been pleading with my father to testify in the court that he was instigated by the Sarnas, and that the allegations are false,” she said. “My younger brother and I keep asking him, ‘How can you go against your own daughter? She is in jail because of you. Why are you doing this?’”
Her father responded that he had filed the complaint on the command of the village president and elders, and that he would ask them for help to free only his daughter, Tripti said. Completely in their control, he had only signed the complaint they wrote, she said.
“They have used him to falsely frame the pastor and the couple,” Tripti told Morning Star News.
An attorney representing the Christians told Morning Star News that a family dispute has turned into a nonbailable offense by the “draconian” anti-conversion act.
For interviews with William Stark, ICC’s Regional Manager, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: email@example.com