A Catholic church priest and a pastor were among three people arrested by the Madhya Pradesh Police on Sunday night for allegedly luring tribals from a village in the state’s Jhabua district to convert to Christianity, The Indian Express reported.
A first information report was filed at Kalyanpura police station based on a complaint by a man identified as Tetiya Bariya. The complainant alleged that Father Jam Singh Dindore, Pastor Ansingh Ninama and a person named Mangu Mehtab Bhuriya lured tribal villagers into Christianity by promising free education and treatment in missionary-run schools and hospitals.
All three of them have been charged under the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2021, popularly known as the anti-conversion law, Dinesh Rawat, who is in charge of Kalyanpura police station, told PTI.
In his written application, Bariya said, “On December 26, at around 8 am Father Jam Singh Dindore called me and Surti Bai [another villager] to their prayer room and made us sit in a weekly meeting called for conversion. They sprinkled water on us and read the Bible to us.”
The complainant claimed he was then asked to convert to Christianity with an offer of free health and education facilities. He, however, declined the priest’s alleged offer and informed the police about the matter.
A police team went to Father Jam Singh Dindore’s home on Sunday afternoon and detain the accused persons.
Jhabua Shalom Diocese (Pentecostal) Auxiliary Bishop Reverend Paul Muniya told PTI that a smear campaign was being run in tribal-dominated areas of Madhya Pradesh to defame Christians on the pretext of conversion.
“The campaign is aimed at political gains,” the local diocese added. “Some organisations are dividing the tribals. Our pastor and two believers, all three of them Christian tribals, have not indulged in any attempt to convert, allure any person to our faith.”
The development comes at a time when several Christmas events have been targeted by Hindutva group members across the country, alleging that Christians were using festivities to force Hindus to convert.