Two Christian women held for conversion attempt in Madhya Pradesh, India


Two Christian women accused of trying to convert people to their religion have been arrested in Jabalpur district of Madhya Pradesh. According to official sources, the women - Mariamma Mathew (36) and B Godwil (65) - were arrested on 14 April 2006 when 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, the sources say. 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 have not sought any permission," says Superintendent of Police D Srinivas Rao. The police acted on a tip-off from a youth who had received a pamphlet and approached them. The Madhya Pradesh Christian Association has condemned the police action. Anil Martin, general secretary of the body, says, "Christians in this state have been under pressure for long and such atrocities on them have increased under the Bharatiya Janata Party rule." Christian activists say this is 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 Bhopal, Christians were beaten up for allegedly holding a meeting to convert some children brought from outside the city, the activists say. The Narendra Prasad Committee, set up by the state government to look into charges of conversions, says in its recent report that the Christian population in Jhabua district alone has gone up by 80 per cent in the past two decades. Indira Iyengar, president of the Madhya Pradesh Christian Association, says the Christian community is being implicated in false cases. Referring to the arrests in Jabalpur, Iyengar has questioned how the two women were apprehended when senior police officials said they were yet to ascertain whether there was anything objectionable in the pamphlets distributed by them.

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