04/08/2021 India (International Christian Concern) – According to Asia News, a Christian in India’s Madhya Pradesh state was arrested and charged with hurting religious sentiments on Easter Sunday. Local Christian leaders claim this is just to most recent case of religiously motivated arrests and harassment in the state.
On Sunday, April 4, Rajendra Dwivedi, the coordinator of the Education Commission of the Archdiocese of Bhopal, was arrested after he compared the salvation of Jesus to the revelations in the Vedas and Upanishads, both sacred Hindu texts. Dwivedi was taken to the Narayanpur Police Station in Mandsaur and the court ordered that he be remanded to police custody pending further investigation.
“Rajendra Dwivedi embraced Jesus as his savior 15 years ago,” Sajan K. George, President of the Global Council of Indian Christians, told Asia News. “Police arrested him on charges of hurting religious sentiments and seized his computer and phone.”
“The accusation of hurting religious sentiments is the new mantra for right-wing nationalist forces,” George explained. “These groups seek any pretext in their offensive against religious minorities.”
In January, Madhya Pradesh’s state government, led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), promulgated a new, stricter, anti-conversion ordinance. This ordinance was later passed into law by the state’s legislative assembly.
“India’s tiny Christian community was under constant surveillance, even before Madhya Pradesh passed the new anti-conversion law, but now it has become easier to arrest and harass people on flimsy charges,” George told Asia News. “We live in a secular India and respect and tolerance must also be guaranteed for Christians. Instead, under these new laws, Christians are often threatened and arrested on fabricated evidence of forced conversion.”
“This is a new sign of religious intolerance,” Father Maria Stephen, head of public relations at the Archdiocese of Bhopal, told Asia News. “More and more arrests of this kind are taking place after the latest laws; and fundamentalists are taking full advantage of them.”