10/13/2020 India (International Christian Concern) – On October 4, two Christian pastors in India’s Uttar Pradesh state were jailed on false forced conversion charges. The arrests happened after radical Hindu nationalists disrupted a worship service taking place in the home of one of the pastors.
On October 4, Pastor Harilal and Pastor Kalicharan were leading a worship service in Pastor Harilal’s home, located in the Mau district of Uttar Pradesh. Six members of the Hindu Vahini group, led by Chandan Singh, disrupted the service and began taking pictures and videos of the Christians that had gathered for worship.
“After a few minutes, police arrived at my house and asked why we were involved in conversions,” Pastor Harilal told International Christian Concern (ICC). “We told them we were not involved in conversion and only pray with those who want prayer.”
“Despite our explanation, we were taken into custody,” Pastor Harilal continued. “At the police station, we were further harassed by the police before they put us in lock up.”
At the police station, officers told the two pastors that India was a Hindu nation and their conversions to Christianity brought shame on the country. The officers went on to ask why the pastors converted others away from Hinduism.
When the pastors were taken before a local judge, they were again questioned about their involvement in conversions to Christianity. After a brief hearing, the pastors were sent to the district jail in Mau. On October 6, both pastors posted bail and were released.
“After this incident, it has been very hard to have a worship service,” Pastor Harilal told ICC. “We have had worship with half of the church members and have changed the timing and duration as well.”
False accusations of forced conversions are often used by radical Hindu nationalists to harass Christian communities across India. Due to growing religious intolerance and the normalization of religiously motivated violence, many non-Hindu religious activities are wrongly perceived by nationalists as conversion activities and are attacked or harassed.