Image Courtesy: thewire.in
Local Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) units and its youth branch, Bajrang Dal, have long complained about these “conversion rackets” that are taking place in Uttar Pradesh, involving Christian organizations. In recent months, the police have responded to these complaints with an unparalleled zeal.
The police response is a result of allegations made by VHP or Bajrang Dal members claiming that these Christian organizations or individuals are attempting to convert Hindus through coercion, deceit, allurement, or a combination of these methods. As a result, the arrests of Christians in Uttar Pradesh’s Fatehpur district continue to take place over allegations of forced conversions.
The Hindutva outfit filed its initial complaint in April of this year, just before Easter. Maundy Thursday prayers were reportedly interrupted on April 14, 2022, just before Easter celebrations, by a group of Hindutva activists. Sixty to seventy VHP employees are accused of breaking into the church’s property and locking it from the outside.
The claims have led to the current detention of over ten individuals in Fatehpur jail, and additional arrest orders have been filed. As was reported by the Wire, these members of the Bajrang Dal and the VHP then started chanting the slogan of ‘Jai Shree Ram’. After the police came, the Aadhaar and identity cards of the residents were verified and the worshippers were told that we will be protected and taken safely to our homes. However, they were instead taken to the police station. After midnight, an FIR was registered by the police.
Six months later, Christians allege there has been an attempt to target the community with false allegations.
The FIR, which was accessed by the Wire, shows that the complaint was registered by the VHP leader Himanshu Dixit and the sections evoked against the worshippers are IPC sections 153A (Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion), 506 (Criminal intimidation), 420 (cheating), 467 and 468 (forgery and cheating), and Sections 3 and 5 (1) of the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Act, 2021. The FIR names 35 persons and 20 unknown persons, and claims that close to 90 Hindus were being forcefully converted to Christianity with the help of workers at the Broadwell hospital.
The law provides for imprisonment of one to five years with a minimum fine of Rs 15,000 for forced conversions, and three to ten years of jail time for the conversion of minors and women from the SC/ST community.
Dixit’s complaint further alleged that the forceful conversion of Hindus had been ongoing for 34 days – part of a 40-day process. As reported by the Wire, while Dixit has no idea what activities were taking place, the VHP acted on the basis of the inputs given by the people living in the vicinity.
In the immediate aftermath of the complaint, 26 people were arrested. As a result of the allegations, more than ten people are currently detained in Fatehpur jail, and additional arrest orders have been issued. As a result of the police allegedly discovering fake Aadhaar cards used in the alleged conversion attempt, more arrests are still being made.
Pattern of false allegation against Christians by the Hindutva Outfits
Hindutva organizations have long protested what they claim to be Christian conversions in Fatehpur, particularly in the rural areas, but in recent years, the tenor has become stronger.
Christian converts were “purified” with gangajal, or holy water from the Ganges, by SadhviNiranjanJyoti of the BharatiyaJanata Party (BJP), who arrived at Teesi hamlet in August 2013. She further attacked World Vision International, saying that its major objective is to convert people to Christianity. Since 2014, NiranjanJyoti has represented Fatehpur in the LokSabha and is now the Union’s state minister for rural development.
Workers from the VHP and Bajrang Dal have protested numerous times over the past few years, burned effigies of Christian groups, and locked up homes where prayer services were allegedly held.
According to Virendra Pandey, provincial secretary of the VHP’s Fatehpur unit, the police have started “cooperating” and clamping down on the “illegal activities” of Christian groups, as was reported by msn.
The state’s anti-conversion law — the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Religious Conversion Act — prohibits religious conversion through force, religious misrepresentation, and allurement.The punishment for ‘mass conversion’, which translates to two or more people, ranges from imprisonment for three to 10 years and a fine of Rs 50,000 or more.
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