The Christian community in the cities of Agra and Mathura in Uttar Pradesh have alleged police highhandedness after seven people were arrested in Mathura district on charges related to forcible conversion.
The seven arrested have been placed in judicial custody for the past 14 days. Some lawyers’ groups reportedly mounted pressure when the bail application for the accused was presented for hearing which led to adjournment till Tuesday.
The accused were arrested from a house in a village after local residents complained that “outsiders” were resorting to forced conversion.
Outsiders Interfering In Private Family Matter
The accused have denied the charges stating that it was a private family matter involving relatives.
A local activist has alleged that the police had been forced to take action under pressure from “Hindutva groups.”
According to the Christian community, the police’s actions was hurting their religious sentiments by arresting people on flimsy grounds without any investigation.
- Michael, a community leader, has said that he is trying to mobilise necessary support and inform police officials and the local minister regarding the facts of the case. He pointed out that two of the seven arrested were Hindus, which raised questions on the filed charges of religious conversion.
According to the complaints filed, the accused were conducting religious ceremonies and abusing Hindu gods. “Hindutva groups” have claimed that there have been repeated attempts to covert poor Hindus to Christianity in areas like Hathras, Mathura, and Etmadpur .
‘Christians Living In Fear’
Michael also alleged that the community was “living in fear in Agra and Mathura, ahead of Xmas”. He however added that the community was putting its faith in the judiciary and was getting support including from lawyers. He said that outsiders had “interfered in a family program.”
An unidentified Christian leader in Mathura said that the community might need to approach the Chief Justice of India to provide anticipatory bail so as to not get arrested while singing carols.
A press conference to address the situation the day after the arrests was cancelled after supporters withdrew feared police action.
Superintendent of Police Aditya Shukla stated that it was now the court’s responsibility to decide on the “merits of the charges”, adding that the police have no role and “should not be accused of acting unfairly.”
Deliberate Attempt To Tarnish Image
A Lawyers’ group led by Mathura Bar Association President Braj Gopal Sharma and Secretary Trilok Chandra Sharma urged the District Court ascertain the sources of funding for “such religious activities”.
Christian community leaders have asserted that their activities are limited to health care and operating schools. A Christian community leader said that some “vested interests” were deliberately trying to “tarnish our image” .
The bail application hearing for the seven accused will be held on Tuesday.