05/01/2021 India (International Christian Concern) – According to Morning Star News, the first Christians have been arrested under India’s newest state-based anti-conversion law in Uttar Pradesh. In November, Uttar Pradesh became the most recent state to enact a controversial anti-conversion law.
On December 19, a Korean Christian and three Indian nationals were arrested and charged under the newly enacted Prohibition of Unlawful Religious Conversion Ordinance in Greater Noida, located in the Gautam Buddh Nagar District of Uttar Pradesh. The individuals were arrested while distributing food and other aid to people in need due to the COVID-19 lockdown.
“We have proofs of our distribution and names and phone numbers of our beneficiaries, who can testify that we have not asked any of them to change their faith or religion,” Raj Kumar Masih, an organizer overseeing the distribution of aid, told Morning Star News. “All beneficiaries were distributed ration kits, but none were promised any kind of money.”
According to the police complaint, a local woman says she was approached by the individuals arrested and was invited to visit the local church to receive free rations offered during the pandemic. The complainant went on to report that the four began visiting her regularly and promised her money if she converted.
Based on this false complaint, local police arrested Mi Kyung Lee, a Korean Christian, Umesh Kumar, and two women helping with the distribution of aid named Seema and Sandhya. According to Morning Star News, Kumar and Sandhya are not Christians.
After the arrests, the four appeared in court on December 20 and were sent to jail. Police charged the four with violating Uttar Pradesh’s new anti-conversion law and blasphemy by outraging the religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs.
Speaking with Morning Star News, Masih claims the false accusation and arrests are part of a well-planned conspiracy by local Hindu nationalists.
“Nobody even bothered to ask the arrested their side of the story,” Masih told Morning Star News. “What is shocking is that the driver, Umesh Kumar, and Sandhya are not even Christians. The local media have falsely reported them all to be Christians.”
In states where similar anti-conversion laws are currently enacted, including Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttrakhand, they are widely abused. Radical nationalists abuse these laws by falsely accusing Christians of forcefully converting individuals to Christianity to justify harassment and assault. Local police often overlook violence perpetrated against Christians due to the false accusation of forced conversions.
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.