Hundreds of Christians staged a demonstration on 25 October in the city of Hubballi, Karnataka state, India in protest at the state’s proposed anti-conversion law and a recent attack on a church.
Hindutva extremists had forcibly entered Bairidevarkoppa Church on Sunday 17 October to protest against alleged forced religious conversions. Several members of the congregation, including the pastor, sustained injuries in the incident.
The march by Christians began at St Peter’s Church, Gadag Road and culminated at the Kittur Chennamma Circle, a well-known landmark and roundabout in the city centre, where a demonstration was held. Finally, the protesters proceeded to demonstrate outside government buildings.
Sunil Mahade, president of the Dharwad District Christian Pastors and Leaders’ Alliance for Peace March, addressed the gathering, saying that there was no evidence to support unfounded accusations of forced conversions levelled at Christians. It is common in India for Christians involved in legitimate evangelism to be falsely accused of forcing individuals to convert to Christianity.
“We are Indians and we lead our lives according to the Constitution. Don’t make baseless allegations against us and victimise us,” he affirmed. He also challenged the validity of a survey announced by the government of Kanataka into Christian activity designed to prevent allegedly forced conversions to Christianity.
Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai confirmed last month that the state government intends to introduce a new anti-conversion law. If such a law is passed, Karnataka would be the tenth Indian state to criminalise conversions carried out through force, fraud or allurement.