09 July 2024

‘Revengeful drive’ following election behind spate of Christian arrests in India

Local believers and Open Doors partners believe a ‘revengeful drive’ following the BJP’s lost majority in the recent election is behind an increase in hostility against religious minorities in India, including a spate of Christian arrests in Uttar Pradesh in June.


The recent election in India has provoked further hostility against Christians in parts of the country

At least 14 Christians in Uttar Pradesh, India, were arrested last month for alleged forced conversions in what is believed to be a response to the BJP party losing its majority in the recent election.

The arrests took place between 7 and 23 June, with most happening during prayer meetings. Two pastors were among those detained. Police acted in response to complaints from local villagers.

“A revengeful drive”

Uttar Pradesh is one of India’s 11 states with an anti-conversion law, prohibiting any attempt to force someone to convert to another religion (than Hinduism) through misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by fraudulent means. These are the accusations often levelled at Christians, when all they are doing is freely expressing or sharing their faith, such as gathering for prayer or telling a friend about Jesus.

Whilst provisions in the law stipulate that only a person who has been forced to convert, or a blood relative of theirs, can register a FIR (First Information Report) with the police, research has shown that most police reports are based on complaints by Hindutva groups – who believe that to be Indian is to be Hindu – to target Christians.

According to local Christians and Open Doors partners, the reason for the increase in arrests is because the governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lost significantly in recent elections – something both the party and radical Hindu groups did not expect.

“The anti-conversion laws are misused and Christians are arrested on false charges”

Open Doors local partner

“A revengeful drive has led to increased atrocities against Christians and other religious minorities,” said one partner. “The anti-conversion laws are misused and Christians are arrested on false charges.”

Contradictory rulings

It comes as the Allahabad High Court in Uttar Pradesh ruled that religious conversion is unconstitutional. In a bail application for a man who allegedly took a mentally ill man to a Christian gathering and who then did not return home, the court said conversions had taken place at the event.

“If this process is allowed to be carried out, the majority population of this country would be in a minority one day,” the court said. “Such religious congregations should be immediately stopped where the conversion is taking place and changing the religion of citizens of India.”

However, the ruling appears to contradict Uttar Pradesh’s Supreme Court, which in May said the state might be violating people’s constitutional right to freedom of religion or belief with its anti-conversion law.

“The Supreme Court… orally commented that the Uttar Pradesh anti-conversion law in some parts may seem to be violative of the fundamental right to religion guaranteed under Article 25 of the Constitution,” it said.

Rajasthan could become the 12th state to adopt the anti-conversion law, with the government saying it plans to bring in an anti-conversion law. Local sources tell Open Doors that, with BJP leader Bhajan Lal Sharma as the state’s Chief Minister, the bill could be implemented soon.

Christians protest in Chhattisgarh

Meanwhile, tribal Christians in Chhattisgarh State took to the streets on 24 June to protest against violent attacks by militant Hindu groups. They walked in silence while holding placards that said, “We will not tolerate insults in the name of religion” and “Stop violence against Christians”.

Chhattisgarh has a sizable community of tribal Christians (some 30% of the population), and Hindu nationalist groups are pressurising them into converting back to Hinduism. In February, the state’s government announced its intention to tighten its anti-conversion law.

More than 1,000 tribal Christians were forced from their homes after a series of violent attacks on their villages in December 2022.


Please pray

 

  • For the safety, wellbeing and acquittal of all arrested believers
  • That the anti-conversion laws will be repealed or amended to stop them from being misused to target religious minorities
  • For wisdom, courage and discernment for Christians who are vulnerable to false accusations.
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  • Every £30 could provide emergency food aid to two believers in India affected by violent persecution
  • Every £47 could help a persecuted community establish their livelihood, giving them long-term financial security.

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