The police on Tuesday arrested 14 persons, mostly tribals, in Mayurbhanj district of Orissa on the charge of unlawful religious conversion. Those arrested also included nine women.
The police arrested them on the basis of a complaint on March 25 at Rasgobindpur police station of the district, about 300 km northeast of Bhubaneswar. The police said they were also looking for the pastor who was behind their conversion.
"All were booked under Section 4 of the Orissa Freedom of Religion Act, 1967," said Mayurbhanj SP Dayal Gangwar.
Orissa was the first state in India after Independence to enact a law restricting religious conversions. The act provides that no person shall "convert or attempt to convert, either directly or otherwise, any person from one religious faith to another by the use of force or by inducement or by any fraudulent means".
Police said the pastor, belonging to the Balasore district, converted the people over several weeks, without informing the authorities, causing resentment among the local people and law and order problems.
A Bangalore based Christian body however condemned the arrest. In a press note, Sajan K George, president of Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) demanded that Orissa CM Naveen Patnaik should order a probe into the arrests.