Christian communities threatened in Northern India
According to Pastor Jitendra Singh, the general secretary of the Pastors' Association of Uttar Pradesh, almost 25 Christians, including pastors, were detained and arrested last week.
Twenty Christians were detained in Kanpur district on the 10th of September. Authorities later released them. In Azamgarh district, the police arrested Parmeshwar Ram, Brijesh Yadav and Poonam Yadav following allegations from local residents that they had been offering financial incentives for conversion to Christianity to a large number of people. Two other Christians were seized in Auraiya district on the 14th of September.
Police also confiscated copies of the Bible, pamphlets and identity cards from the pastors.
According to the New Delhi-based United Christian Forum (UCF), which tracks the persecution of Christians across the country, Uttar Pradesh has the highest number of attacks against Christians this year. It is the most densely populated state, regulated by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. There have been 211 reported incidents so far. This is one of the 11 Indian states that have passed an extreme law that bans religious conversion through allurement, force, and coercion.
Pastor Singh said that the state police had made several arrests in the previous six months on bogus charges. “The state police have arrested more than 100 people, including pastors in the last six months under the false allegation of religious conversion. Around ten churches in Kanpur, Fatehpur, Bareilly and other districts have been locked, affecting church activities and group prayers. We are living in constant fear and threat of hardline Hindu groups.”
A Christian activist said they “will apply for regular bail in the Azamgarh district court on the 15th of September, but there is little chance of the three arrested Christians being released today.”
The state’s anti-conversion law, The Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Act, 2021, criminalizes religious conversion by “force, undue influence, coercion, or allurement” and “marriage for the sake of religious conversion”.
There are 200 million people in Uttar Pradesh. Christians make up 0.18 per cent; most of the population are Hindus.