Government Schemes in India
As an anti-Christian narrative sweeps across India, Christians are put into dangerous situations.
This story was originally published in the February issue of ICC’s Persecution magazine.
02/10/2021 India (International Christian Concern) – It was a typical day at the bustling train station in Madhya Pradesh in May 2018. A group of 60 children was being corralled through the station by eight adults. The group was on its way to a summer Bible camp. Without warning, police apprehended the group and arrested the adults. Though all of the children came from Christian families with parents who had given consent for their children to travel to and attend the camp, they were still arrested.
The eight Christian group leaders were arrested and accused of kidnapping and attempting to forcefully convert 60 children to Christianity. For the next two and a half years, these believers fought a prolonged legal battle from inside of their jail cells, desperate to prove their innocence and reunite with their families. They were charged with attempted forced conversions under Madhya Pradesh’s Freedom of Religion Act 1968.
“It was a life-threatening situation for me and my family during this prolonged trial,” Lallu Babor, one of the eight Christians, recently told ICC. “Apart from the struggles I went through in jail for three months, my wife and two kids had no hope of survival without me around.”
A conspiracy is simmering under the surface in India. Despite demographic data that indicates that Christians compose a mere 2.3% of the population, the government of India claims that Christian conversions are happening en masse. Officially called the Freedom of Religion Act, anti-conversion laws have been enacted in eight of India’s 29 states as a result, including Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, and Uttarakhand.
When an anti-conversion law is passed in India, usually the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has something to do with it. BJP-led governments in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and Karnataka have all publicly called for anti-conversion laws to be enacted. They claim that Christians are leading mass conversion efforts across India. Jharkhand, a state located in India’s northeast, adopted an anti-conversion law soon after the state government was taken over by the BJP in 2017.
Within a year, ICC documented the arrest of at least 63 Christians on false, forced conversion charges in Jharkhand alone. False accusations of forced conversions continue to be reported against Christians in India today. On September 23, 2020, the Christian community of an entire village was arrested by police after radical Hindu nationalists falsely accused them of engaging in forced conversions.
“There is still tension in Gagari village,” Pastor Majendra Nayak told ICC. “The anti-conversion law is the easiest weapon that Hindu radicals use against us. It is the most dangerous.”
“Even when the Christians gather and pray as a group, it is portrayed as a conversion ceremony by radicals,” Pastor Nayak said. “The police immediately accept the mere accusation as evidence and make arrests.” The Christians of Gagari village were eventually released after police could not gather adequate evidence to support the charges.
On February 18, 2020, the eight victims of the Freedom of Religion Act were finally acquitted of all charges. Two years had been stolen from them, but they still had the rest of their lives. “All I know is that we did survive,” Babor shared. “The false charges were proven to be false. We thank God for that. The people who beat us and framed these false charges against us knew eventually the charges would be proven false.”
As India’s small, stalwart group of believers continues to fight for their freedom of religion, let us pray that they will be safe from the schemes of the government to repress Christianity.