Date:  August 10, 2021

A pastor in the village of Tichkiya, Madhya Pradesh, was badly beaten by extremists who broke into a prayer meeting in a private home and accused him of trying to unlawfully convert tribal people to Christianity.

Pastor Bharat, from the Bhilala tribe, was praying with three other Christians when the group of radical Hindutva nationalists broke in. After a heated argument they attacked Bharat and vandalised the house.

Sajan K. George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), denied that Pastor Bharat was engaged in converting people to Christianity by fraud or bribery.

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Pastor Bharat was accused of conducting unlawful conversions and violently attacked, simply for praying with other Christians [Image credit: AsiaNews]

Explaining that Pastor Bharat is an impoverished man who would be unable to bribe anybody, George said that, “The only thing he has is the Good News, which he freely gives to anyone who is ready to listen to him, and for this reason he has been targeted.”

The GCIC argued that Christians are increasingly being targeted by Hindutva extremists due to anti-conversion legislation which has been passed in Madhya Pradesh and several other states.

In March 2021 Madhya Pradesh adopted new anti-conversion provisions into law, including a prison term of three to ten years and fines of between 25,000 and 50,000 rupees (£250-£500; $340-$680; €290-€580) for anybody convicted of converting or attempting to convert a person “by use of misrepresentation, allurement, use of threat of force, undue influence, coercion or marriage or by any other fraudulent means.”

Later that month the extremist group Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) pledged to identify Christian missionaries in Madhya Pradesh, arguing that, “Religious conversion is a type of violence that needs to be stopped.”

Experts have argued that anti-conversion laws exacerbate persecution of Christians and effectively nullify India’s constitutional commitment to freedom of religion.