Police arrested 10 people under the stringent anti-conversion law after a raid on a Christian prayer gathering in a central Indian state.
Some 70 Christians had gathered at a private residence in Kotwali in the Shahdol district of Madhya Pradesh state on May 13 when a police team arrived and stopped their prayer meeting alleging “religious conversion activity.”
“Our people were arrested after branding the routine prayer meeting as a conversion activity,” a pastor speaking to UCA News on condition of anonymity said on May 15.
Police also seized copies of the Bible and other documents from the residence. The 10 people who were arrested were produced before a court and remanded in judicial custody.
“We are confident our innocence will be proved in the court of law and our people will be released from prison,” the pastor said, adding such raids on prayer gatherings inside houses and arrests of the Christians had become a trend in Madhya Pradesh.
The state government is run by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The raid and arrests were initiated by the police on the basis of a complaint filed by Ashram Baiga, who is from a local indigenous community.
Baiga alleged that the arrested people had offered him 100,000 rupees (US$820) to convert him to Christianity.
The police arrested those they believed to be the leaders of the group and also filed cases against 12 others for violating various provisions of the state’s sweeping anti-conversion law passed in 2021.
The Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2021, prohibits unlawful conversion from one religion to another by use of misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, any other fraudulent means, and allurement. Violators face a prison term of up to 10 years.
The law is often used to target Christians and their prayer gatherings held in remote parts of the state.
The law also criminalizes inter-religious marriages, especially between Christians and Muslim men marrying Hindu girls, without prior approval from the government.
India’s Supreme Court is hearing a batch of petitions that challenge the constitutional validity of anti-conversion laws, passed mainly by pro-Hindu state governments like Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, and Karnataka…
This story was originally published in ucanews.com. Read the full story here