02/14/2020 India (International Christian Concern) – On Tuesday, February 11, five Christians from India’s Uttar Pradesh state were taken into police custody after being falsely accused of engaging in forced religious conversions. According to local Christians, police eventually released all five, but only after three were kept in police custody overnight.
The incident took place in Udaypatty village, located in the Jaunpur district, at approximately 12 noon as local Christians were gathered for a prayer service. According to Sunder Bhardwaj, one of the Christians arrested, a mob of radical Hindu nationalists accompanied by two police officers from the Barasti Police Station arrived and disrupted the prayer service shortly after it had started.
Police and members of the mob then took Gopi Patel, Dukhiram Maurya, Sunder Bhardwaj, Umesh Kumhar, and Surender Prasad Kashyap into custody. All five were taken to the Barasti Police Station after radicals accused these men of engaging in forced religious conversions.
Bhardwaj and Kumhar were released on the same day of the arrest while the other three Christians remained in police lock up overnight. These Christians were released the next day, February 12, after local Christian leaders negotiated with high ranking police officials.
“We have been harassed several times in the past,” Bhardwaj told International Christian Concern (ICC). “However, this time the Hindu radicals came with the police to arrest us.”
“We were terrified by the ferocity of the mob and the believers were scattered,” Bhardwaj continued. “It is very sad that this is going on. We don’t interrupt or disturb anyone when we gather for worship.”
False allegations of forced religious conversions or blasphemy are often used by radical Hindu nationalists against India’s Christians. These false accusations are used to harass Christians by getting them in trouble with police or to justify physical assaults on Christian individuals and communities.