In a case of alleged religious conversion, Madhya Pradesh Police on Sunday, 26 December, arrested three people including a catholic priest and a pastor in Jhabua district, while another Javed Khan was booked in Ashok Nagar district under MP's Freedom of Religion Act 2021.
Jhabua, a predominantly tribal-dominated district, has in recent times seen a surge in cases and incidents of alleged religious conversions and police action against Christian missionaries.
In a separate incident, Ashok Nagar district police lodged an FIR against one Javed Khan for allegedly forcibly converting a tribal woman.
The police took action after a 26-year-old tribal named Tetiya Bariya, in his complaint to the Kalyanpura police station, alleged religious conversion taking place under the promises of medical facilities in missionary run hospitals and education by Father Jam Singh Dindore, pastor Ansingh Ninama and a person named Mangu Mehtab Bhuriya.
“On 26 December, at around 8 am, Father Jam Singh Dindore called me and Surti Bai (another villager) to their prayer room and made us sit in a weekly meeting called for conversion. They sprinkled water on us and read the Bible to us,” Tetiya said in his complaint.
He further alleged that the three accused offered free education and medical benefits to their families if they accepted Christianity as their religion.
Both he and Surti Bai denied the conversion and left the place and later informed the police about the matter, Tetiya said.
Confirming the complaint and police action that followed, Dinesh Rawat, PS in charge, Kalyanpura, Jhabua told The Quint:
“There was a complaint filed by one Tetiya Bariya and Surti Bai in which they named three people including one catholic priest and one pastor. Tetiya has claimed that he was being asked to convert to Christianity by the three with a promise of free education and health facilities. An FIR has been registered under the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act 2021. The FIR has been filed under sections 3, 5, 10 (2) of the Act and all three have been sent to jail by the court’s order.”
In another incident, Ashok Nagar district police lodged an FIR against one Javed Khan on 25 December for allegedly forcing a tribal woman with whom he was in a relationship to convert her religion.
In a complaint to the police station in Ashok Nagar, the victim claimed that Javed Khan was living with her, identifying himself as Rakesh Kushwaha. She further alleged that she got to know that his real name was Javed only after the birth of their son and that Javed had been pressuring her to change her faith ever since.
Ashok Nagar police, taking cognizance of the complaint, lodged an FIR against Javed Khan under the sections of SC/ST Atrocities Act, 1989 and Section 5 of MP’s Freedom of Religion Act 2021.
Surge in Cases
Jhabua has in recent times seen a surge in cases and incidents of alleged religious conversions.
Earlier in November 2021, one Azad Prem Singh Damor, convenor of Adivasi Samaj Sudharak Sangh, under the umbrella of Vishwa Hindu Parishad, wrote to district officials seeking actions against 56 Christian missionaries and to bar them from availing constitutionally vetted benefits reserved for the tribal community.
Till 15 December, Madhya Pradesh police has registered 62 cases of which 8 were against Christians under the recently passed MP Freedom of Religion Act 2021.