07/01/2016 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – Madhya Pradesh, a state in central India, is becoming notorious for the persecution of religious minorities, especially Christians. International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that in the Satna district there have already been two incidents where radical Hindu nationalists have falsely accused and arrested Christians for “engaging” in forced conversions. These groups have even begun to accuse Christians of being disloyal to India and have tried to invoke sedition charges against them.
On April 27, the leaders of the Bajrangdal and RSS in the Satna district broke up a Christian wedding ceremony, claiming that the Christians conducting the wedding ceremony had conducted forced conversions. Reportedly, more than 100 Hindu radicals burst into the church and beat the Christians who were also attending the wedding.
The church’s pastor, Pastor Samuel, stated, “The most depressing part of the attack was to see Christians being beaten up in front of the police, while the police did nothing.”
According to local sources, the Bajrangdal activists then went door to door, telling residents to not attend the church. They also instructed the residents to inform the Bajrangdal if anybody went to the church.
A similar incident occurred less than a month later, on May 22, to a pastor and other Christians. Pastor Antony and his wife, Prabha, lived in the Satna district and conducted weekly prayer meetings in the nearby village of Aber. Unbeknownst to the couple, three people from Goraiya, another nearby village, sent in a written complaint alleging that the pastor and his wife had been converting people to Christianity under false pretenses.
As Pastor Antony, his wife, and another church member, Praveen Chaudhardy, traveled home from a prayer meeting, they were stopped in front of the Kotar police station. Pastor Antony stated, “A police officer pulled up in a jeep, accompanied by [a] Bajrangdal activists. He came up to me and slapped me. The leaders of the Hindu radicals then told us that we were anti-Nationals.”
Pastor Antony and the others then learned that they were being accused of promising money and jobs to Hindus who convert to Christianity. The pastor protested that the accusations were not based on reliable information. He said, “We have never even met the people who are making these allegations.”
However, in spite of the lack of evidence, the Christians were first beaten and then arrested for violating Section 295 A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Sections 3 and 4 of the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act.
While speaking to ICC, Pastor Antony stated, “I do not have the freedom here to practice the religion of my choice. Although our constitution claims to guarantee freedom of religion, in reality religious minorities are insulted and violently beaten by the Hindu radicals, just because we worship a different God.”
Although Prime Minister Narendra Modi has promised to guarantee the religious rights of all Indian citizens, his refusal to publicly condemn attacks on Christians, such as those in Madhya Pradesh, is sending a message of ‘tacit approval’ to radical Hindu nationalists.
Dr. Savio Pereira, a social activist, stated, “In the face of the growing religious intolerance, especially towards the Christian community, Prime Minister Modi’s recent remarks on religious freedom to the U.S. Congress seem hypocritical. Worse, the senior members of his own party oppress religious minorities and thereby violate the Indian constitution.” It remains to be seen if the Prime Minister will finally choose to protect the rights of all of his citizens.