Jharkhand, four Evangelicals arrested for 'forced conversions'
by Nirmala Carvalho

The complaint started with the father of a young tribal ethnic Sarna who wanted to marry a Christian. The girl, the future husband and two Christians allegedly tried convert even the elderly father. The anti-conversion law provides for severe penalties for those who force the conversion of minors and tribals.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - Four Evangelical Christians from Jharkhand have been arrested for alleged "forced conversions".

According to the Hindi-language daily Dainik Jagran, Pastor Sudarshan Manjhi, the Christian Neelam Devi, Sumanti Kumari and her fiancée Rupesh Manjhi were arrested following a complaint filed by the 65-year-old father of the bride Somaru Manjhi, a tribal from the village where the Christians reside.

He claimed the four arrested put pressure on him to convert to Christianity. Speaking to AsiaNews Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), condemns the "false arrest of four faithful on unfounded accusations of forced conversions".

The incident occurred on May 30 in the Bolba region, in the Simdega district, but it has only recently emerged. The Christians have been indicted under the new anti-conversion law in force in the State of Jharkhand since 2017.

Anyone who violates the law can be sentenced to three years in prison and 50,000 rupees [over 600 euros] in fines, or both. In the event that the forced conversion concerns underage girls and tribal women (scheduled tribes), the penalties increase: the perpetrator can be subjected to up to four years in prison and / or a fine of 100,000 rupees [over 1300 euros].

The leader of the GCIC reports that this rule "is a means of intimidating and harassing the vulnerable Christian community. Furthermore, a worrying trend has emerged in the Chotanagpur area: there are biased interests that want to divide the tribal population, pitting the Sarna tribes against other indigenous groups".

According to Sumaru, his daughter's future spouse - of Christian religion - would have convinced her to embrace her faith in Christ before marriage. In view of the wedding, the two young men would try to convince their father too, with the complicity of the pastor and the other woman. Sajan K George complains that "the diatribe broke out on the wedding day, when Sumaru thought that the wedding ceremony should be carried out according to the Sarna tradition".