Christians living in fear in India, says British daily The Guardian.

Untold India October 4, 2021

TA report in British daily The Guardian picked holes in the administration of Congress-ruled state of Chhattisgarh where Christians are being targeted for their alleged involvement in converting the poor and tribal Hindus to Christianity. Hannah Ellis-Petersen in the report titled, India’s Christians living in fear as claims of ‘forced conversions’ swirl writes that the members of the community “become a political target”. According to the report, the “Hindu nationalist BJP has revived claims to tarnish reputation of rival Congress”. Notably, the issue of conversion has been one of the major poll planks of the BJP with the saffron outfit since its inception accusing the Christians and Muslims of coercing or forcing Hindus to convert to their religions. Of late, they have also “smelt foreign conspiracy” to change India’s demography – an allegation which largely applies to the Muslims. As a result, the BJP-ruled governments promulgated anti-conversion laws arguably to stop conversion into the two religions. Nine states, including Chhattisgarh, have the “draconian laws”. According to the law, those wishing to change their religion are required to gain permission from the local district magistrate. The article says, “Many in the Christian community allege that they have become a political target, saying that the conversion claims has been revived by the BJP as a way to tarnish the reputation of the Congress party, which rules the Chhattisgarh state government.” Several rightwing groups in Chhattisgarh attacked Christians clerics accusing them of luring Hindus into churches, “offering cash payments, free medical assistance and foreign trips, funded by foreign donors”. However, no evidence has been presented for these claims. The report says, “Speeches, rallies and press statements in recent months have openly attacked Christian pastors and activists for allegedly converting, through force and coercion, tens of thousands of people from tribal communities and poor, lower-caste Hindu families.” The article quoting Rishi Mishra, the state coordinator for Bajrang Dal, says, “Religious conversions is “the biggest problem in Chhattisgarh and the top of our agenda. Until recently, this problem was limited to rural areas and the tribal belt. But of late they have started their work of religious conversions in urban areas, in an open and fearless manner.” Mahendra Chhabda, a member of Chhattisgarh government and chair of the minority commission, refuted it saying it was not a problem in the state. However, he said, “The BJP and other groups are talking about forced conversions but I have never been presented with evidence for a single case where a person says they have been forced to convert or given benefits to come to church,” said Chhabda. “All over India the BJP have been targeting Muslims to win votes. Now in Chhattisgarh they have decided to come for the Christians.”