05/11/2016, 18.40
INDIA

Chhattisgarh: Evangelical Christian arrested for handing out brochures on Gospel

by Nirmala Carvalho

Police arrested and took into custody Umesh Patel in Dhamtari, a city south of Raipur, where he is still held. For Christian leader, the Evangelical did not break any law. However, the Hindu nationalist BJP runs the state. Nationalist extremists benefit from political and police complicity.

Raipur (AsiaNews) – Police arrested an evangelical Christian in Chhattisgarh for distributing brochures with excerpts from the Gospel, Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), told AsiaNews.

Umesh Patel was arrested yesterday in Dhamtari (about 70 km south of Raipur). He did not engage in any illegal activity, George said. Under India’s constitution, “there is nothing coercive or fraudulent about handing out brochures. This [the arrest] is in effect a violation of the law and of human rights."

Police charged Patel with forced conversion. However, “people could freely choose to take or not the brochures he was handing out,” the GCIC president noted.

In the State of Chhattisgarh, Hindus are the majority (94.7 percent), whilst Christians constitute a tiny minority (1.9 per cent).

This and the fact that the state government is controlled by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) have led “to violence against Christians.”

“Hindutva-inspired extremist groups use BJP policy and police complicity to intimidate and threaten Christians”.

The most commonly used tool is the state’s so-called Freedom of Religion Act of 2006, an anti-conversion law that prevents conversion from Hinduism to other religions, but not the other way around.

What is more, in many areas local councils (panchayat) have passed by-laws under the Chhattisgarh Panchayat Raj Act, which bans all forms of non-Hindu propaganda, prayer and religious speech in villages.

 

Nirmala Carvalho

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