12 arrested for attempting to ‘convert’ Hindus to Christianity

Indore: Twelve people, including a visually-impaired couple were arrested on charges of trying to convert Hindus to Christianity in Dhar district, police said on Monday.

They were booked under relevant sections of IPC and Madhya Pradesh’s tough anti-conversion law but later released on bail. They have denied the conversion charge.

These people, including the blind couple – Balu Saste and his wife Bhuri – were arrested on January 14 on the eve of Makar Sankranti and sent to jail, Kukshi Police Station In- charge Inspector Umesh Chandra Tiwari told PTI on Monday.

All the accused, six of them women, were given bail by a local court on January 15 and subsequently released from jail, he added.

12 arrested for attempting to

“The child of the blind couple was not arrested. The couple might have taken the infant along with them to the jail. Balu is an already accused in another three-year-old conversion case,” Tiwari said.

They had been booked under IPC Section 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc, and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony) and also the MP Freedom of Religion Act for trying to convert Hindus to Christianity allegedly through allurement, police said.

One of the accused, Janu Bai told the media yesterday there was no conversion attempt. The 35-year-old said he and others had just gathered at the home of one Shanker Singh for a meal on the eve of Makar Sankranti at Pipripura village under Kukshi tehsil of the district, around 250 km from here.

“We were sitting when some right-wing activists came to my place along with police and claimed we were involved in conversion. They arrested my guests. I said ‘arrest me as well as I am the host’ but they didn’t do so,” Singh (40) told PTI by phone. Our meeting had nothing to do with religious conversion, Singh claimed.

Catholic Church in the State denounced the arrest.

“Christians and their friends are being targeted by right-wing activists. Local authorities should protect them. Such incidents will lead to disunity in the country and impede its progress,” Madhya Pradesh Catholic Church Spokesman Father Maria Stephen said.

“Our Churches and houses are being attacked. The Constitution gives us religious freedom. We participate in functions of other religions whenever we are invited.”

MP Dharma Swatantrya Adhiniyam (Freedom of Religion Act) bans religious conversion through force, allurement and fraudulent means. Besides, changing religion without informing authorities too attracts jail term under the Act.