Family Dispute Over Funeral Rites Escalates to Forced Conversion Accusation in India
06/10/2021 India (International Christian Concern) – According to Asia News, a family dispute over the burial rites of a deceased relative has escalated to a criminal investigation of a Christian under one of India’s most stringent anti-conversion laws.
Dharmendra Pratap Singh, who converted to Christianity, attempted to bury his deceased mother in a cemetery in Madhya Pradesh on June 2. Singh’s niece, Shweta Suman, stopped Singh from burying his mother and instead cremated the remains in accordance with Hindu custom.
Suman then lodged a complaint with police in Gwalior claiming her uncle attempted to forcefully convert his mother to Christianity. Suman equated the attempt of burying her relative’s remains with an attempt to forcefully convert the remains to Christianity.
Earlier this year, the BJP-led government of Madhya Pradesh enacted a new anti-conversion law which it touted as the “most stringent” in India. This law allows the state government to regulate religious conversions and criminalizes forced religious conversions. Similar laws across India are often abused by radical Hindu nationalists to harass Christians and justify religiously motivated violence.
Due to growing religious intolerance and the normalization of religiously motivated violence, many radical Hindu nationalists view all religious conversions to non-Hindu faiths as forced. In an increasing number of cases, radical Hindu nationalists equate all non-Hindu religious activity with forced or fraudulent conversions.
“In the absence of explicit written will, the choice of funeral rites concerns the nearest relative, who in this case is the son,” Father Babu Joseph told Asia News. “It should also be remembered that not all Hindus practice cremation, there are some who have their loved ones buried.”
“Above all, however, it seems inappropriate and mischievous that after still being able to perform her grandmother’s funeral rites as wanted, this woman turned to the police,” Father Joseph continued. “The conversion of her uncle is not a matter for her.”
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