INDIA: Forty Christians forcibly reconverted to Hinduism

On 31 January 2022 radical nationalists forced forty Christians to re-convert to Hinduism in Phuldavidi village, Jhabua district, Madhya Pradesh state. Members of Shalom Kalashya Church in Jhabua district were threatened with dire consequences by the Hindu hardliners if they refused to take part in the re-conversion programme.

Leaders of right-wing nationalist groups VHP and Bajrangdal held a re-conversion (Ghar Wapsi) ceremony at a Hindu temple in the village, where forty Christians were forced to take part in the rituals of breaking the coconut and eating food (Prasad) offered to gods. The targeted campaign of reconversion is part of the extremists’ goal to make Jhabua a conversion-free district.

Anandi Ben and her family became Christians more than four years ago and were among the group of Christians who were forcibly reconverted. Anandi told International Christian Concern, “No one can take away the faith that is inside of our heart, we hope to join the Church again soon, God will help us. I was threatened that I will lose Government subsidies, affirmative benefits, if I continue as a Christian, I was also threatened that my agriculture land will be taken away from me, I had no choice.”

Harshest anti-conversion laws in India

Madhya Pradesh is one of eight Indian states where anti-conversion laws are in force, all led by Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party. Officially called “Freedom of Religion Laws”, they are intended to stop Hindus being converted to other religions and lead to increased violence against Christians. The laws are not applied to Hindus and many people who have left Hinduism are coerced to convert back in “Ghar wapsi” (“homecoming”) ceremonies.

Madhya Pradesh has had anti-conversion laws in place since 1968, but in 2021 a new Freedom of Religion Act replaced the 1968 Act and made Madhya Pradesh the state with the harshest anti-conversion laws in India, including increased fines and longer potential prison sentences. Since then, incidents of attacks against religious minorities in the state have increased.

(International Christian Concern, Church in Chains)