02/01/2021 India (International Christian Concern) – According to the Union of Catholic Asian News (UCAN), nine Christians in India have been denied bail after being charged with violating India’s newest anti-conversion law. Lawyers representing the Christians have told the media they plan to appeal the court’s decision.
On January 27, a court in Indore, locating in Madhya Pradesh, denied nine Christians falsely accused of engaging in illegal religious conversions the opportunity to post bail. Judge Yatindra Kumar Guru said, “It does not seem appropriate to grant bail to the accused, looking into the facts and circumstances.”
The charges against the nine Christians originate from a January 26 incident in which radical Hindu nationalists stormed a routine prayer service being held at a Catholic media center in Indore. After police were called to the center to protect the Christians, the nationalists falsely accused the Christians of conducting a mass religious conversion service.
Later, a 25-year-old woman claimed her parents tricked her into coming to the prayer service where she was forced to change her religion. Acting upon this complaint, police charged 11 individuals with violating Madhya Pradesh’s anti-conversion law and arrested nine.
Local Christians fear the 25-year-old’s complaint is motivated in bad faith. Some claim she was planted in the crowd by nationalists to set up the Christians who had gathered for worship.
“I have no idea how she came for the services and what her real motive was,” Pastor Patras Savil, who is providing legal help to the arrested Christians, told UCAN. “We will have to fight the case legally as much as possible and leave the rest to God to decide. The truth will triumph.”
On January 9, Madhya Pradesh’s state government enacted what many consider to be India’s most stringent anti-conversion law. According to this law, religious conversions must be approved by the state government and forced religious conversions are criminalized.
In states where similar anti-conversion laws are currently enacted, including Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttrakhand, they are widely abused. Nationalists falsely accuse Christians of forcefully converting individuals to Christianity to justify harassment and assault. Local police often overlook violence perpetrated against Christians due to false accusations of forced conversion.
To date, no individual has been convicted of forced conversions in India. This is in spite of the fact that some of the anti-conversion laws have been on the books since 1967.
For interviews please contact Alison Garcia at firstname.lastname@example.org.