06/26/2018, 13.35
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Uttar Pradesh pastor arrested for 'forced conversions' freed on bail

by Nirmala Carvalho

The Rev. Dependra Prakash Maleywar was sentenced to 14 days in prison. Hindu extremists accused him of aggression. The pastor had to deliver documents proving that conversions are the result of free choice to the court.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - In Uttar Pradesh a Pentecostal pastor has been released on bail, after having been arrested on the false charge of having forcibly converted people to Christianity.

Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) reports that the Rev. Dependra Prakash Maleywar was released yesterday after being held in custody since last June 18, when a group of Hindu extremists blamed him for extorting the conversion of 16 people. In reality, complains Sajan K George, the Protestant Christian was stopped "while he was delivering a affidavit in court where the [neophytes] declared that the decision to change religion was their free choice".

The pastor's case broke out last week, when the police handcuffed him in the court yard of Sardhana Tehsil (district of Meerut) for alleged assault against some activists of the far-right Bajrang Dal Hindu group. The policemen acted following a complaint lodged by the local leader Milind Som. The latter said that he had been violently attacked by the Reverend after asking him for information on the documents he was to deliver. On the contrary, Sajan K George claims that the pastor Maleywar "was mistreated by angry extremists". In any case, the judges sentenced the Christian to 14 days in prison.

The affidavit is a mandatory document in the Indian states that have approved anti-conversion laws. This is a form filled out by the faithful who wishes to change their creed and countersigned by the priest, who certifies that the conversion was free, spontaneous and not induced. It is presented in court to the district tax collector, who examines and issues an opinion. "Even though in Uttar Pradesh the law does not exist - the president of the GCIC reports - the pastor was still filling out the forms". "Unfortunately - he concludes - in secular India, in order to obtain a legal affidavit, one risks incurring the wrath of extreme right-wing forces. The pastor was mistreated and interrogated ferociously, but the case was opened against him. The Christian community is vulnerable and feels increasingly targeted [by attacks] and intimidation ".

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