07/14/2021 India (International Christian Concern) – According to a report by the New Indian Express, police in the Sukhma district of Chhattisgarh, located in central India, have been given strict instructions to maintain surveillance over the activities of Christians. Relying on misinformation often leveled against Indian Christians, the Sukhma Superintendent of Police claims the surveillance is meant to stop conversions to Christianity.
According to a circular accessed by the New Indian Express, police in the Sukhma district have been ordered to, “Maintain a consistent watch over the activities of Christian missionaries and converted tribals residing in the district and report if any of their acts are perceived as suspicions.”
Specifically, the Sukhma Superintendent of Police claimed this surveillance is meant to stop Christian missionaries who routinely venture into tribal areas to “coax” non-Christian tribals to convert to Christianity. The Superintendent justified this action by claiming the conversions created animosity and that the missionaries were using fraudulent tactics to entice tribals into converting.
Christians in Chhattisgarh are upset by the biased actions taken by the Sukhma police. According to Arun Pannalal, President of the Chhattisgarh Christian Forum, the orders rob Christians of their constitutional rights.
“The district officials are supposed to protect the constitutional right of citizens and not trample them,” Pannalal told OpIndia. “How could the ISP officer conclude that Christian missionaries are involved in religious conversions without any investigation? Every Indian has the right to move to any place and practice his or her faith.”
False narratives regarding fraudulent conversions are often used to radical Hindu nationalists to justify religiously motivated violence and policies that curtail religious freedom. Indian Christians are regularly accused of engaging in mass fraudulent conversions of low caste and tribal people. Similar false narratives have been used to justify the enactment of anti-conversion laws.
These laws and policies, however, violate the constitutional rights guaranteed to all Indian citizens. According to Article 25 of the Constitution of India, all citizens have the right to profess, practice, and propagate the religious of their choice.
Additionally, these laws and policies are not supported by facts. India’s population data does not support the conspiracy of mass conversions to Christianity. In 1951, the first census after independence, Christians made up 2.3% of India’s population. According to the 2011 census, the most recent census data available, Christians still make up 2.3% of the population.
To date, no individual, including any Christian, has been convicted of the crime of forced conversion. This is notable as some anti-conversion laws have been in force since the late 1960s.
Despite the lack of evidence, unsupported narratives about Christians and fraudulent mass conversions continue to be used to justify actions limiting the rights of Christians. In the Sukhma district of Chhattisgarh, these false narratives are being used to put an entire religious community under constant surveillance.