New Wave of Persecution Sweeps Across India’s Uttar Pradesh State
At Least 30 Christians Arrested on False Charges in Last Month
07/23/2021 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that at least 30 Christians in India’s Uttar Pradesh state have been falsely accused of engaging in forced religious conversions and arrested in the last month. This new wave of persecution was triggered in late June after two Muslim men were arrested and charged under the state’s new anti-conversion law.
Hindu nationalists, including members of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), claimed that the two Muslim men were involved in the forceful conversion of more than 1,000 people. Using the incident as an opportunity for political gain, BJP politicians publicly lauded the arrests and warned against fraudulent conversions of Hindus to non-Hindu faiths.
Since then, ICC has documented at least 30 Christians in Uttar Pradesh being attacked by radical Hindu nationalists. In each of these incidents, perpetrators justified their attacks by falsely accusing their Christian victims of engaging in fraudulent conversions.
“This is a grave situation for Christians in the state,” a church leader, who requested anonymity, told ICC. “There is zero response from the Yogi administration, which empowers the attackers to do more.”
“The number of incidents and arrests in recent weeks shows increased persecution in Uttar Pradesh,” the church leader continued. “The attacks are mainly perpetrated by the hardcore Hindutva activists who enjoy the support of the politicians.”
On June 27, Ram Keval and three other Christians were arrested as they attended a Sunday worship service in the Ambedkarnagar district. The four Christians spent 11 days in jail.
“We gathered with nearly 20 other people for Sunday worship,” Keval told ICC. “We were forcibly taken to the police station and later sent to jail for no crime.”
In a similar incident, Pastor Shiva Kumar and three other Christians were arrested by police on June 28 while attending a house dedication ceremony in Dhawrara. According to local reports, an unknown person called the police and claimed religious conversions were taking place at the ceremony.
Another nine Christians were arrested in two separate incidents on July 18. Sadhu Srinivas Gautham, one of the Christians arrested, reported that a mob of 25 radical Hindu nationalists stormed a prayer meeting he attended in Gangapur. The mob accused the Christians of illegally luring Hindus into converting to Christianity.
“They raged against me,” Gautham told ICC. “It was as if they wanted to kill me on the spot. However, police arrived and escorted us to the police station.”
“The police officer and officials from the district administration demonized us, saying we have deserted India’s traditional religion of Hinduism and have accepted a foreign religion,” Gautham continued. “They told us we should deny our Christian faith and go back to Hinduism.”
In states where similar anti-conversion laws are enacted, including Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttarakhand, they are widely abused. Radical 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 despite the fact that some of the anti-conversion laws have been in force since 1967.
William Stark, ICC’s Regional Manager for South Asia, said, “We here at International Christian Concern are deeply concerned by the surge in persecution being reported in Uttar Pradesh. In the last month alone, at least 30 Christians have been arrested after being falsely accused of violating the state’s anti-conversion law. Like we have seen in other states, Uttar Pradesh’s anti-conversion laws provides a legal cover for radical Hindu nationalists seeking to persecute Christians. If the government of Uttar Pradesh allows this to continue, radical Hindu nationalists will know they have absolute impunity to harass Christians and close down their places of worship.”