A Christian Priest, his wife, and an associate were taken into custody on charges of allegedly conducting “forced conversions” and hurting religious sentiments in India on May 22nd.
Pastor V A Anthony and his wife, Prabha, had invited three villagers, Rambhan Adivasi, Hemraj Varma, and Prashant Gupta, to their weekly prayer meeting in Aber.
They were taken into custody after the villagers filed a written complaint that they were promised jobs if they came and converted to Christianity, according to the police. The three were also asked to tear images of Hindu gods in the halls during the Sunday prayer meetings.
“We have arrested them under section 295 A (deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs) of IPC and (sections) 3 and 4 of Religious Conversion Act,” Mahendra Jagat, the police station In-charge told The New Indian Express.
Gupta told The New India Express, “I was in touch with the priest A B Anthony for quite some time and he had offered me and my two friends job at the church and money. Later, he forced me to embrace Christianity.”
The three were present for court on the 22nd and were sent to judicial custody after their applications for bail were denied.
Madhya Pradesh State Backward Classes Commission member Laxmi Yadav told the Indian Express, “I will ensure that the sedition charge is invoked against Pastor Anthony because it’s clear from the complaint that he spoke out against the nation.”
The majority of India's population identifies as Hindu, and persecution of Christians throughout Indian communities is often reported.
Richard James, spokesman of the state’s Rashtriya Isai Mahsangh (National Christian Forum) stated that the arrests contributed to the intimidation campaign against Christians by Hindu extremists.
On April 28th, a similar event occurred when Yadav, Bajrang Dal activists, and police entered a church in Kogavan during a wedding ceremony to arrest the bride, groom, parents of the couple, as well as the pastors who were present.
According to The Indian Express, the police were told that “conversion was taking place” and the couple had not informed them about their conversion which is mandatory under law.