02/13/2021 India (International Christian Concern) – According to the Times of India, 23 cases were registered under India’s newest and strictest anti-conversion law in the first 23 days of its inception.
On January 9, the Madhya Pradesh state government enacted the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Ordinance, commonly referred to as an anti-conversion law. Since its enactment, 23 cases have been registered under this law against Muslims and Christians in Madhya Pradesh.
“Twenty-three cases were registered under the newly passed Freedom of Religion Ordinance 2020 in January in Madhya Pradesh,” Home Minister Narottam Mishra told the Times of India. “We maintain that this is a serious issue and such forces are active across the country. An effort has been taken in Madhya Pradesh to stop them.”
Among the people arrested under the new anti-conversion law is Chhatar Singh Katre, a teacher from a small village school in Madhya Pradesh. The Hindustan Times reports Katre organized a pray meeting on January 27 to celebrate the admission of his daughter to college.
Before the meeting began, however, police arrived and arrested Katre and two other Christians. All three were charged with violating the new anti-conversion law for luring and coercing people into changing their religion. All three Christians remain in jail and have had their bail petitions rejected by the Balaghat sessions court.
“My father organized the meeting for me and now he is in jail for no reason,” Kalyani Katre, Katre’s daughter, told the Hindustan Times. “The case was registered against him and two others on the complain of a person who was booked 10 years ago for assaulting and harassing my father and others for participating in a religious program.”
Radical Hindu nationalists use the specter of mass religious conversions to Christianity and Islam as justification to pass similar laws limiting religious freedom. According to these nationalists, Indian Christians and Muslims are accused of converting poor Hindus to Christianity and Islam in mass by fraudulent means.
In states where similar anti-conversion laws are currently enacted, including Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttarakhand, they are widely abused. Radical nationalists falsely accuse Christians of forcefully converting individuals to Christianity to justify harassment and assault. Local police often overlook violence perpetrated against Christians due to false accusations of forced conversion.
To date, no individual has been convicted of forced conversions in India. This is in spite of the fact that some of the anti-conversion laws have been on the books since 1967.