ASIA/INDIA - Christians accused of "forced conversions": the government of Madhya Pradesh backtracks

Thursday, 24 January 2019 human rights   religious freedom   religious minorities  

Hindustan Times via Getty Images

Bhopal (Agenzia Fides) - Kamal Nath, Prime Minister of the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, a big state in central India, has assured Christian leaders that he will cancel the accusations of alleged "fraudulent conversions" initiated against Christians in the state. As Agenzia Fides learns, the government of Madhya Pradesh, led by the Congress Party, has declared that it will withdraw the "politically motivated" cases filed during the previous Hindu nationalist government of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the state.
"We will review the cases of false accusations of conversion against Christians", said the minister of justice, P. C. Sharma. BJP spokesperson Rajneesh Agrawal said the government's move "will encourage Christian missionaries to engage in forced conversions," announcing his party's opposition.
The national coordinator of the "Rashtriya Isai Maha Sangh" network, ("National Christian Federation"), Catholic priest Fr. Anand Muttungal, in recent weeks had invited the minister of justice to withdraw the trials based on "false accusations of forced conversions" against Christians, initiated during the BJP government in Madhya Pradesh. "Despite the complaints, no incidents were demonstrated in court", he told Fides. On January 18, Fr. Muttungal, former spokesman for the regional episcopal Conference of Madhya Pradesh, met Minister Sharma, highlighting the matter and the minister reassured him. "We informed the minister that the complaints were totally unfounded and that the government led by the BJP promoted them in order to take revenge, believing that Christians were supporters of the Congress", said Fr. Muttangal to Fides.
Spokesman for the network, Christian Richard James, said: "264 legal complaints were filed against Christians in the state, during the 15 years of the BJP's governance in Madhya Pradesh. The police and the administration acted in concert to harm the Christians who work in the field of social work, education and religious activities, accusing them of forced conversions. They used their power to defame Christians and stop social work in favor of the poor. We hope all this will finally be unmasked". (SD) (Agenzia Fides, 24/1/2018)