Radical Hindu Nationalists Abuse Anti-Conversion Law as Legal Cover to Persecute Christians
04/19/2021 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) reports that an Indian pastor and his wife were arrested and imprisoned after being falsely accused of engaging in fraudulent religious conversions by radical Hindu nationalists. The arrests, which took place on Easter Sunday, mark the latest example of an attack on Christians being justified under one of India’s new anti-conversion laws.
On April 4, Pastor Manu Damor and his wife, Asha Damor, were leading Easter morning service in Rangvasa village, located in India’s Madhya Pradesh state, when they were attacked by a mob of 50 radical Hindu nationalists. The mob surrounded the house where the service was taking place and attempted to break down the door. Several church members resisted the attack and were severely beaten.
Pastor Damor and his wife were taken into custody and falsely accused of violating the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act 2021. Since the charges were filed, Asha was granted bail by the district court, but Pastor Damor was denied bail and remains in jail.
“Across Madhya Pradesh ICC has documented numerous cases of anti-Christian attacks being justified by unsubstantiated claims of forced conversions,” William Stark, ICC’s Regional Manager, said. “If this continues, radical Hindu nationalists will know they have absolute impunity to harass Christians and close down their places of worship.”
ICC is currently conducting an online petition at www.persecution.org that calls upon India’s Prime Minister Modi to remove the discrimination laws against Christians in nine states in India, including Madhya Pradesh.
“India has been home to Christians for almost two millennia, but recent trends within India have created a reality filled with persecution, discrimination, oppression, and violence for Christians,” said Jeff King, President of International Christian Concern. “Through ICC’s petition, we demand Modi do his part to put an end to these blatantly discriminatory laws.”
Indian pastors and faith leaders in India are voicing their concerns over the discriminatory law that took effect in March. “Things have become increasingly difficult for pastors and Christians in the state,” said Pastor Basu, a pastor in the same region. “There has been a trend of increased hostility after the new anti-conversion law was enacted by the government. Hindu radicals are using the law to harass us, but none of the incidents will stand up to legal scrutiny.”
According to the law, individuals seeking to change their religion must apply to the district administration 60 days in advance. Religious leaders facilitating religious conversions also need to inform the district administration 60 days in advance. If the previsions of the ordinance are not followed individuals could face a sentence of three to five years in jail and a financial penalty of 50,000 rupees.