02/07/2021 India (International Christian Concern) – According to the Union of Catholic Asian News (UCAN), a village court in India has ordered three families accused of illegally converting to Christianity to be caned, fined, and excommunicated from the village.
The incident reportedly took place on January 22 in Dhurki village, located in the Garhwa District of Jharkhand. The three families come from the Korwa tribal group, officially categorized as a “particularly vulnerable tribal group” in India.
In Jharkhand, religious conversions are regulated by the state government. Individuals seeking to convert to a new religion must notify the top district official of their intention to convert and provide the reasons and place of their conversation.
Forcible religious conversions are criminalized in Jharkhand and can be punished by a jail sentence of up to three years’ imprisonment and a fine of 50,000 rupees.
Radical Hindu nationalists use the specter of mass religious conversions to Christianity and Islam as justification to pass anti-conversion 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 regards to Christianity, India’s own population data does not support this conspiracy. 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.
In states where anti-conversion laws are currently enacted, including Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttrakhand, 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.