Date:  October 18, 2021

Seven Christians were arrested in Uttar Pradesh state, India on 10 October following accusations of attempting to carry out illegal religious conversions.

The seven believers were charged with organising an illegal assembly with a view to conducting conversions by allurement. They included the owner of the house at which a prayer meeting was held.

Fifty other attendees of the meeting were detained for questioning but subsequently released. Three women among those in custody were released on bail on 13 October but the bail applications of the remaining four, including Pastor Abraham Shakil, are waiting to be heard.

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Bhanu Pratap Singh, the local leader of the Hindutva nationalist group Hindu Jagran Manch, and other group members alerted the police of a prayer meeting being organised at a private house in Sahadatpura Colony in Mau district.

Residents had complained that the house was being used to lure people to receive prayers that would heal diseases.

“None of those allegations are true,” said one observer, Anand Mathew. “This is part of a planned strategy to attack Christians who have been facing increased hostility and persecution in the state ever since Yogi Adityanath came to power.”

He added that “the persecutions against us will continue at least until the next assembly elections,” which are scheduled for February or March 2022.

Adityanath, a member of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and Hindu spiritual teacher, has served as Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh since March 2017.

One pastor who did not wish to be named commented, “Police officials often don’t bother to record our complaints. This further emboldens our attackers and we have to bear the brunt.”

The Uttar Pradesh incident follows one week after a 200-strong mob of radical Hindutva nationalists attacked a church service in Roorkee in neighbouring Uttarakhand state, injuring five people. No arrests for this attack have been made to date.

Uttar Pradesh is one of nine Indian states to have enacted anti-conversion laws that criminalise any act of conversion using fraud, force, or allurement. A tenth, Karnataka, is already treating conversion activities as illegal and plans to introduce legislation soon.