01/19/2016, 17.52
INDIA
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Madhya Pradesh: 12 people arrested for forced conversions to Christianity, but none is Christian

by Nirmala Carvalho

All those detained were taking part in a private dinner to mark a Hindu harvest festival. Police took the accused, including a blind married couple, to a police station. They were released the next day on bail. For the archbishop of Bhopal, “Sangh Parivar activists have taken advantage of” the state’s anti-conversion law, “making false and baseless allegations.”

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - Police in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh arrested 12 people, including a married couple both of whom are blind, on charges of forcibly converting Hindus to Christianity.

Those arrested had gathered at the house of one Shankar Singh, in the village of Dahar, to celebrate Makar Sankranti, a popular Hindu harvest festival. In fact, none of those taken into custody is Christian.

Reacting to the incident, Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), told AsiaNews, “The GCIC condemns the arrest of 12 people on charges of forced conversions.” For him, “Groups of radical right-wing extremists roam the streets in search of people to arrest based on the infamous anti-conversion Law, which facilitates the intimidation and harassment of the vulnerable Christian minority, even in the privacy of their homes.”

The incident in question occurred on 14 January, on the eve of the harvest festival, when the accused, half of them women, met at Singh’s home.  At some point, a group of men surrounded the house, called the police and waited for their arrival.

In violation of human and women’s rights, the latter took the hosts and guests into custody and drove them to a prison, including the blind couple, on the basis of false accusations. The accused were released on bail the following day.

Hindu radicals accused them of violating the state’s infamous anti-conversion law, which was recently amended to make it even more restrictive, in order to punish those who try to convert Hindus to Christianity.

The Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act of 1968 bans conversions obtained by force or money. However, it is primarily used to persecute Christians, by making false allegations of forced conversions, and those who decide to embrace religions other than Hinduism.

"Madhya Pradesh was the first Indian state to approve draconian anti-conversion legislation and then changed it to make it even more restrictive,” Mgr Leo Cornelius, archbishop of Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh), told AsiaNews.

“Sangh Parivar* activists have taken advantage of it, making false and baseless allegations. Because of the law, they rule undisturbed in the state and continue to violate constitutional guarantees of religious freedom in secular India."

* The Sangh Parivar, lit. family union, is a loose family of Hindu-nationalist groups.

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