Almost 40 Christians were arrested on Maundy Thursday in India's Fathepur District of Uttar Pradesh allegedly for illegal religious conversions.
The Evangelical Focus reported that a radical Hindu mob surrounded the building of an evangelical Christian congregation while they held celebrations for Maundy Thursday. The mob locked the doors of the building and left the 100 Christians inside.
Local police then arrived at the church and freed the Christians except 36 who they arrested for "illegal religious conversions of 90 people in the last 40 days in the district."
As per International Christian Concern, the arrest was based on the complaint of Himanshu Dixit, one of Vishwa Hindu Parishad's leaders. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad is a Hindu nationalist organization established in 1964 to serve and protect the Hindu Dharma. Dixit alleged that the Evangelical Church of India had 55 members who violated Uttar Pradesh's anti-conversion law.
"A prayer was called by people of the Christian community at the church. Some people from the Vishwa Hindu Parishad reached there in the evening alleging that unlawful conversion of Hindus was being done," Police Deputy Superintendent Dinesh Chandra Mishra said.
In the face of the allegations, a local church leader told the ICC in an interview that the prayer meeting was simply in line with the celebrations of the Holy Week. The church leader, whose identity has been kept anonymous for security reasons, said that the arrest made on their members only signified that Christians in India can not practice their faith just because they are a minority.
"This is the most poised week for Christians around the world, where Christ's crucifixion and resurrection are celebrated. This incident is a complete intrusion, where minorities cannot freely practice their faith, even celebrate some of the very important days on the Christian calendar," the church leader said.
The attack of the Hindu mob on the evangelical Christians is the most recent among reports of a similar nature. Early this month, Pastor Kailash Dudwe of Kukshi Village located in Dhar District, Madhaya Pradesh received death threats after a Hindu mob attacked him and his family last January. The pastor was even complained to in court by the Hindu nationalists for allegedly violating the state's anti-conversion law.
According to the World Evangelical Alliance, India's local governments are using the anti-conversion laws "to harass religious minorities. And they serve as a pretext for mob violence." The World Evangelical Alliance then urged the United Nations Human Rights Council "to include the enactment and misuse of anti-conversion laws, in addition to apostasy and blasphemy laws, in future updates."
The Evangelical Fellowship of India's Religious Liberty Commission has similarly denounced the anti-conversion laws, which is officially entitled the Freedom of Religion Acts. The RLC noted that the FRA's expansion and scope have been a most alarming development in the country where Christian persecution has been on the rise since last year.
Christianity Daily reported that more than 761 acts of violence were committed against Christians in India in 2021 based on the Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations of North America's report. The FIACONA conducted a local survey that showed 72% of Indian Christians believe the police will not protect them in areas governed by the Bharatiya Janata Party. The survey also showed a lack of trust in the country's judiciary.