INDIA – Is taking Christian children on a summer camp now a crime in India?
In two separate incidents in Madhya Pradesh state on the night of 21-22 May, at least ten Christian church workers and at least 70 Christian children (aged between 6 and 15) in their care were detained by police as they travelled to a Vacation Bible School summer camp.
On the evening of Sunday 21 May, a mob of about 400 Hindu extremists demanded that the Christian church workers, held by railway police at Ratlam station, be booked on charges relating to kidnapping and forceful conversion. Although the children and their parents were all Christians, the authorities claimed that the parents had not submitted the necessary paperwork when they converted to Christianity and therefore their children were still officially Hindu – hence the accusation of forceful conversion of the children being taken to the Christian camp. The approximately 59 children were later released to their parents.
In the early hours of Monday 22 May, police held a further at least eleven Christian children and two Christian church workers caring for them in Chhoti Gwaltoli, in Indore. The church workers were charged on suspicion of kidnapping the children and trying to convert them to Christianity by force, allurement or fraudulent means.
Posts on social media have accused the police of harassing the children, their parents and the wider minority Christian community.