Six people, belonging to the Christian community, were arrested for allegedly illegal religious conversions in Fatehpur district, Uttar Pradesh.
The FIR seen by The Citizen shows a case was filed on September 13 charging them under Section 188 (willful and malicious acts, intended to outrage the religious feelings of any class by insulting their religion or religious beliefs ), 504 (Intentional insult with intent to cause breach of the peace), 508 (Act caused by inducing a person to believe that he will become the object of divine displeasure) Indian Penal Code and Sections 3 and 5 (1) Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Acts Religion Conversion Act 2021.
Speaking to The Citizen, Kishan, the lawyer for the six defendants, said the fake cases were slapped on people who were just praying. “There were 8 to 10 people praying on private property, and some members of right-wing organizations complained to the police that illegal conversions were taking place. The police then arrested six people. [Christians] and slapped them with the anti-conversion law as well as other sections,” he said.
According to the lawyer, one of the arrested, named Vinay, had only come to look for money at home and was waiting for it. “He wasn’t even praying,” Kishan added.
However, the FIR said Ram Lal, who was named as the main defendant, along with Vinay and many others, “force people to accept Christianity and threaten them if they don’t”.
“They were also handing out books to people,” FIR reads. The FIR was filed by Fatehpur resident Satya Prakash and alleged that they were also mistreated when he went to confront them with other people.
Speaking about the arrest, AP Saini from Khaga Police Station in Fatehpur told The Citizen that they had received photos and videos of some ‘elements’ forcibly converting people. “We got evidence from local people in front of photos and videos that showed this, that’s why they were arrested. Still, the court will decide,” he said.
While the Fatehpur Magistrate’s Court refused to grant bail to the accused, Kishan said the next hearing will take place during the court sessions, for which they have not yet secured a date.
“These people are just praying and praying themselves. Anyone feeling sick and desperate can just come and pray, but these people are saying conversion is happening here. In 2022 alone, we saw over 300 cases,” did he declare.
As many as 302 attacks on Christians took place in the first seven months of 2022 according to the United Christian Forum, which collected data based on the distress calls it received on its helpline numbers. The number only increased after July.
One of the members associated with the organization, who did not want to be named, said the numbers were only increasing. “We receive distress calls every day and may have logged over 300 calls so far. That is until July. We still have a few months ahead of us. months of November and December,” the MP said.
Meanwhile, Pastor David, who is associated with a church in Fatehpur, said on Saturday they received two more calls. “We were already dealing with Fatehpur’s case when we received two more calls. We are really disturbed and have to deal with one new case or the other every day,” he said.
On August 28, three people were arrested in a small village of Harchandpur, Rae Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh, over allegations that they attempted to forcibly convert people.
A petition, filed on behalf of the Archbishop of Bengaluru, Peter Machado, the National Solidarity Forum and the Evangelical Fellowship of India, is currently being heard by the Supreme Court, demanding an independent inquiry into the atrocities against Christians.
The petition says the state has failed to take immediate and necessary action against groups that have caused widespread violence and used hate speech against the Christian community, including attacks on their places of worship and disruption of meetings. of prayer.
The petitioners claimed that 505 attacks took place against the community from January to December 2021 and that the frequency increased in 2022.
The attacks listed include the demolition of churches, complaints based on an allegation of forced conversions, physical violence, arrests, destruction of statues, destruction of property, desecration of prayer rooms, burning Bibles and anti-Christian insults.
Last week, a Supreme Court bench headed by Justice DY Chandrachud ordered the Ministry of Interior to obtain information from the states on the registration of FIRs, the status of the investigation, arrests and indictments filed in incidents which the petitioners claim are attacks on the Christian community. and establishments.
The MHA was asked to request reports from eight states mentioned in the petition: Bihar, Haryana, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. This was said to verify the claims made in the petition.
The Union government told the Supreme Court that the allegations in the petition were “lies” and “private interests”.
“There seems to be an oblique agenda hidden in the filing of such misleading petitions, creating turmoil throughout the country and perhaps getting help from outside the country to meddle in the internal affairs of our nation” , the Union Home Office said in an affidavit.
Karnataka passes anti-conversion bill
The anti-conversion bill was passed by Karnataka’s upper house on Saturday, despite opposition from Congress and HD Kumaraswamy’s Janata Dal Secular. The opposition argued that such a law would undermine the freedom of religion granted by the Constitution.
However, the government countered that the law would only protect people from forced conversion, saying it was becoming more common.
The Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Bill, 2021, better known as the Anti-Conversion Bill, was passed by the Karnataka Legislative Assembly in December 2021. But it did not was taken to the Council, where the ruling BJP did not have a majority. Instead, the government passed an executive order or decree to stop the forced conversions.
The bill, spearheaded by Interior Minister Araga Jnanendra, prohibits “illegal” religious conversion. Under the new law, illegal conversion will be by misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, seduction or any other fraudulent means.
Those who violate the law will face a jail term of three to five years and a fine of ₹25,000. In case of conversion of a minor, the penalty can extend up to ten years and the fine will be ₹50,000. In case of mass conversion, a fine of ₹1 lakh may be imposed. A repeat offender can be fined up to ₹2 lakh and imprisoned for at least five years.
“It is an unconstitutional bill and contrary to Articles 25, 26, 15 and 29 of the Constitution,” said BK Hariprasad, the leader of the opposition in the Legislative Council. “The government says it’s not against any community. But most of the members who spoke from the Treasury bench were spitting venom against the minority community,” he added.
Similar laws have also been passed by Madhya Pradesh, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh. Previously, Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Gujarat had passed similar laws. The Uttarakhand Religious Freedom Act 2018 prohibits forced conversion for the purpose of marriage.
Photograph of the cover file