Christian pastor arrested by Hindu extremists for alleged forceful conversion in India

A Christian pastor and two Christian women were put behind bars on Sunday, May 22, in Madhya Pradesh in Central India by a group of Hindu extremists on charges of forceful conversion and violations of a religious Indian Penal Code.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks at the inaugural session of Re-Invest 2015, the first Renewable Energy Global Investors Meet & Expo, in New Delhi, February 15, 2015. | Reuters/Adnan Abidi

Pastor V A Antony of the Brethren Church in Aber village, his wife Prabha, church member Praveen Choudhary, and the latter's four-year-old son Paarth, were driving in the pastor's car after the Sunday service when they were blocked by an SUV driven by four plain clothes policemen who asked the pastor to step out of his car, according to Barnabas Fund.

"They stopped me after we had traveled about 5 kilometres, slapped me and then asked me to leave for Satna," Antony told Barnabas Fund.

Antony recalled that he had met two of the four policemen seated in the car that same morning together with three Hindu extremists who accused him of forcing people to convert. He said the men told him "not to conduct Church service in the village, as there are no Christians here." The men only left when policemen intervened after they started shouting at him in "the vilest language."

The SUV kept tailing Antony's car until they were joined by another car full of activists who belong to the Bajrang Dal and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a right-wing, Hindu nationalist, paramilitary, volunteer organization. The three Hindu extremists who met Antony that morning were also in the car.

The Christians were taken to the Kotar police station where "a group of affluent senior political and religious leaders" from the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bajrang Dal were already waiting.

Charges were immediately filed against Antony, Prabha, and Choudhary for violations of Section 3/4 of the Religious Institutions Prevention of Misuse Act 1988 and Indian Penal Code section 295A that reads, "Deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings or any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs."

Paarth was handed to his father that night before the three spent jail time. Antony, Prabha, and Choudhary were released on bail on Tuesday, May 24.

Antony claims that the Hindu extremists have already threatened him in two separate incidents before. In 2004, the extremists disrupted their worship service and beat up the church members. About three months ago, they threatened Antony to stop conducting church services in the village.