The Uttar Pradesh Police on Saturday said that a first information report has been filed against nine persons for allegedly forcing residents of a colony in Meerut to convert to Christianity, PTI reported.

Local Bharatiya Janata Party leader Deepak Sharma claimed that more than 100 residents of Mangatapuram Colony had allegedly been converted to Christianity. He mobilised the complainants, who are mostly street vendors, according to NDTV.

The complainants claimed that some persons provided food and financial assistance to the slum dwellers in the area during the coronavirus-induced lockdowns. The FIR stated the poor were then told that Jesus Christ is the only God and urged them to visit the church, NDTV reported.

“Not only this, pictures of Hindu gods and goddesses are also being thrown out by the accused from the houses of the people of Mangatapuram Colony,” the complaint alleged. “On protesting or complaining about the incident to anyone, the accused come home with knives and sticks and threaten to kill.”

The complainants also told the police that they were forced to change their names on Aadhaar cards. “When we were celebrating Diwali, these people entered our houses and tore pictures of Hindu Gods and said we should pray to Christ now that we have converted,” they alleged.

Senior Superintendent of Police Rohit Singh Sajwan told PTI that the Brahmapuri police station has been asked to investigate the matter.

Sharma alleged that those who did not get help during Covid-19 lockdowns were being forced to convert too. “This has been going on for the past three years,” he claimed.

The accused persons, identified as Chhabili alias Shiva, Binwa, Anil, Sardar, Nikku, Basant, Prema, Titli and Reena, have been booked under the Uttar Pradesh Unlawful Conversion Prohibition Act.

Uttar Pradesh was the first state to pass such a law. It criminalises religious conversion through force, fraud or marriage. Offences under the law are punishable by up to 10 years’ imprisonment. Ten other states have passed similar laws after Uttar Pradesh.