Christians are being arrested and sent to jail in India over charges of forced conversions, said a report released by rights group International Christian Concern (ICC).
The most recent case cited by the organization is the arrest of nine Christians on July 18 for alleged violations of Uttar Pradesh’s new anti-conversion law.
ICC claimed that it has documented a surge in false anti-conversion accusations in India’s Uttar Pradesh state in recent weeks.
The report quoted one of the arrested Christians, Sadhu Srinivas Gautham, who said about 25 radical Hindu nationalists stormed a prayer meeting he attended in Gangapur town.
He said the men accused the Christians of illegally luring Hindus into converting to Christianity.
“They raged against me,” Gautham was quoted by the ICC report. “It was as if they wanted to kill me on the spot. However, police arrived and escorted us to the police station.”
Gautham and six other Christians were taken to a police station and charged with violating the anti-conversion law.
He said police officers and officials “demonized us,” saying that the Christians deserted India’s traditional religion of Hinduism and have accepted a foreign religion.
“They told us we should deny our Christian faith and go back to Hinduism,” said Gautham.
Also on July 18, a Christian pastor, Dinesh Kumar, was taken with another Christian from a private home where a prayer meeting was taking place.
They were also accused of violating Uttar Pradesh’s anti-conversion law.
On July 21, three more Christians were arrested in the city of Padrauna, said the ICC report.
Pastor Jeyawant, his wife, and his brother, who oversee an orphanage, were arrested after state government officials raided the orphanage.
Police arrested the three Christians and took the 24 orphans they cared for into custody.
The ICC said that the number of arrests this month has already risen to 30.
“It is unfortunate that religion becomes handy for politics,” Dinanath, a Christian leader from Uttar Pradesh, told the ICC.
“Politicians need an issue for their upcoming election and the media need a sensational story. Both benefit but the innocent people must pay the price, whether it be Muslims or Christians,” added Dinanath.