Many Hindus believe that conversion to Christianity is an attack on their culture and way of life, and an imminent threat to both.

For previous coverage of the persecution of Christians in India, see here.

“Christian Couple in India Sentenced to Prison,” Morning Star News, April 3, 2024:

NEW DELHI (Morning Star News) – A Christian couple in India has been sentenced to prison after Hindu extremists instigated a false case of forcible conversion against them, sources said.

A woman they are accused of pressuring denied in court that the Christians tried to forcibly/fraudulently convert her or her husband, but Pastor Ramesh Ahirwar and his wife Sakshi Ahirwar of Viveknagar Bhansa village near Sagar, Madhya Pradesh, were convicted under the state’s anti-conversion law on March 11. The district court sentenced them to two years in prison and a fine of 25,000 rupees (US$300) each, the pastor said.

“I am shocked at the conviction,” Pastor Ahirwar told Morning Star News. “The charges against us are baseless and utterly untrue.”

If the conviction stands, it would be the first under Madhya Pradesh’s anti-conversion law.

Pastor Ahirwar was on a trip to Delhi in October 2021 when members of the Hindu extremist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) instigated a man from the neighboring village, Abhishek Ahirwar, to accuse the couple of abducting his estranged wife and pressuring her to convert to Christianity, the church leader said. Pastor Ahirwar, who had helped arrange the marriage of the Hindu couple, said the wife returned to her parents’ home when she left her husband.

The complainant, Abhishek Ahirwar, alleged that the pastor tried to fraudulently convert him as well.

“Abhishek said that I kept his wife against her wishes, and that I am not allowing her to go back to her husband’s house – also, that I pressured her to convert and offered to construct a house for her and give her 20,000 rupees [US$240] every month in return,” Pastor Ahirwar told Morning Star News. “The mason’s son [Abhishek] said that I offered him 20,000 rupees every month if he converted to Christianity.”

Abhishek Ahirwar’s father is a mason the pastor had hired in the construction of his house church in 2021.

“I suspect that members of the RSS offered to help the mason’s son to intervene in saving his marriage and in return asked him to help them frame me in the case, so that my church is shut,” Pastor Ahirwar said.

Abhishek Ahirwar’s Hindu wife testified in court that she was neither coerced into changing her religion nor offered any monetary incentives, the pastor said. She testified that the pastor did not offer any money to her husband either, and she clarified that Pastor Ahirwar did not pressure her to refrain from returning to her husband’s house.

“There was a lot of chaos and discrepancy among the statements of the complainant, his father, their witnesses – I was very confident that after recording everybody’s statement, the court will set us free,” Pastor Ahirwar said. “But sadly, that did not happen. The court pronounced us guilty.”

The judge seemed prejudiced or under duress to convict them, a Christian leader from Madhya Pradesh told Morning Star News on condition of anonymity.

“It is not uncommon to have only adverse judgments against religious minorities in lower courts or even high courts nowadays,” the source said. “It is only in the Supreme Court and in selective cases that justice can be expected.”…