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2 MP Christians held for promoting conversion

Two Christian women accused of trying to convert people to their religion have been arrested in Jabalpur.

india Updated: Apr 16, 2006 19:32 IST

Two Christian women accused of trying to convert people to their religion have been arrested in Jabalpur district of Madhya Pradesh, police said on Sunday.

Officials said the women -- Mariamma Mathew, 36, and B Godwil, 65 -- were arrested on Friday after they were found distributing pamphlets telling people how they could overcome their problems by following the Bible.

Several other "objectionable" pamphlets were also seized from them, an official said.

"According to the Madhya Pradesh Religious Freedom Act, anybody campaigning about his or her religion or organising religious functions needs to seek permission from the district collector. However, the offenders had not sought any permission," Jabalpur's Superintendent of Police D Srinivas Rao said.

The police acted on a tip-off from a youth who had received a pamphlet and approached them.

The Madhya Pradesh Christian Association condemned the police action.

Anil Martin, general secretary of the body, said, "Christians in this state have been under pressure for long and such atrocities on them have increased under the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) rule."

Christian activists said this was not an "isolated case of arrests" on the charge of forcible conversions. Since the BJP came to power some two and a half years ago, several such arrests -- including that of a priest in the tribal dominated Jhabua district and a pastor in Indore town -- have been made.

In state capital Bhopal, Christians were beaten up for allegedly holding a meeting to convert some children brought from outside the city, the activists said.

The Narendra Prasad Committee, set up by the state government to look into charges of conversions, said in its recent report that the Christian population in Jhabua district alone had gone up by 80 per cent in the past two decades.

Indira Iyengar, president of the Madhya Pradesh Christian Association, has said the Christian community was being implicated in false cases.

Referring to the arrests in Jabalpur, Iyengar questioned how the two women were apprehended when senior police officials had said they were yet to ascertain whether there was anything objectionable in the pamphlets distributed by them.

First Published: Apr 16, 2006 19:32 IST