Two Christian pastors in India's Madhya Pradesh imprisoned on conversion charges

Persecution against Christians continues even after Prime Minister Narendra Modi's statement on religious tolerance.Reuters

Two pastors are currently detained on charges of forced conversion in India's Madhya Pradesh.

According to Morning Star News, pastors Lal Singh and Indram Chauhan were conducting a prayer service in a private residence near Julwania in Madhya Pradesh's Bajwani district last Wednesday when members of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal suddenly broke into the house and accused the pastors of forcibly converting poor tribal people.

A contingent of police officers who accompanied the VHP and Bajrang Dal members reportedly arrested the two pastors. Morning Star News said they also confiscated Bibles from the pastors to use as evidence.

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad is a right-wing ultranationalist organisation that is notorious in India for its ghar wapsi or "reconversion" activities. The Bajrang Dal is the VHP's wing that focuses on youth.

Hindu radicals frequently invoke a law against forced conversions in Madhya Pradesh as a means to harrass minorities including Christians, although no Christian has been found guilty of the charge so far.

Following their arrest, the two pastors were transported to the police station in Rajpur, even though the incident was within the jurisdiction of the Julwania police station.

Madhya Pradesh's law requires that any person arrested must be presented to a magistrate within 24 hours. However, the militants apparently have taken efforts to induce delays in the process.

According to Rev Vijayesh Lal of the Evangelical Fellowship of India, militants have surrounded the Julwania police station in an attempt to keep the policemen there from heading to the Rajpur police station to complete the formalities for presenting Pastors Lal and Chauhan before a magistrate.

"It appears that the Hindu groups want the Christians to stay in the police station for a longer period of time," Lal explained to Morning Star News.

The incident follows a week after an incident in India's Rajahstan state where 20 Christian men were detained without charges and beaten after they attempted to start evangelisation activities in Jaipur.