On January 26, 2021, Hindu nationalists stormed a Catholic church in Indore. Church members were accused of conducting a mass religious conversion service and nine people were arrested. Today, all have been denied bail and remain in jail.
The prohibition of religious conversions in Indore stems from a January 9 law which states religious conversions must be approved by the state government. According to authorities, a woman attending the service told authorities she was being forced to convert from Hindu to Christianity. Church members say the woman has never attended their services before and believe she was planted by Hindu nationalists in order to trap the church through the state’s rigid Anti-Conversion laws.
In Indian states where similar anti-conversion laws are currently enacted, including Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttrakhand, they are widely abused. Locals say Hindu nationalists falsely accuse Christians of forcefully converting individuals to Christianity to justify harassment and assault. They say police often overlook violence perpetrated against Christians due to false accusations of forced conversion.
For over 40 years, India has implemented a series of forced-conversion laws under the guise of “freedom of religion”. For instance, the Hindu-controlled Indian state of Himachal Pradesh recently approved The Freedom of Religion Act 2019. Under the title of “religious freedom”, the bill raises the maximum punishment for violating the forced religious conversion law from three years in prison to seven.