Christian groups in Madhya Pradesh have expressed dismay over detention of 16 persons from the community in Khandwa district last week, even as the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Monday issued notices to several states, taking suo moto cognisance of a media report alleging atrocities against Christians there.
The notices have been issued to the governments of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, said Jaimini Kumar Srivastava, information and public relations officer, NHRC.
In Madhya Pradesh, churches had reportedly been vandalised. Incidents of arson, stone pelting and forcible conversions etc were also reported to have occurred in Dewas, Satna, Katni, Indore, Bhopal, Alipur and Mandla districts, Srivastava told HT. The commission has observed that the contents of the press report, if true, amount to violation of fundamental right to freedom of religion.
Accordingly, the NHRC has issued notices to chief secretaries of the five state governments and sought their reports on the issue, Srivastava said, adding that they have also been directed to send a report within four weeks on the action taken to prevent reoccurrence of such incidents.
Meanwhile, in a press statement on Monday, MP Christian Association president Indira Aiyengar condemned the detention of 16 persons on charge of conversion, and said they were produced before court and sent to jail for no fault of theirs. Even women and children among them were not spared, Aiyengar added.
She said the day after Christmas Karunakar couple along with their 8-month-old daughter, Jeevartna couple with their four-year-old daughter, Paulraj couple with their six-year-old daughter, two nuns and five other people were arrested on December 26 by the Borgaon Bujurang police in Khandwa district.
Aiyenger alleged that police were acting against Christians in a partisan manner. Only a verbal complaint from any person that he was being converted to Christianity seemed enough evidence for the police to book the person or group of persons concerned, she added.
Khandwa superintendent of police Mahendra Singh Sikarwar said one person, Mukesh, had made a complaint that he was being lured to embrace Christianity by the group of persons booked for religious conversion under section 275 of the IPC and provisions of the anti-conversion act.
When asked whether a complaint by a person was enough to believe that conversion was being effected and send as many as 16 persons behind the bars, he said. "If there is a complaint, an FIR has to be registered. In such matters, courts give bail immediately but somehow, they were denied bail."