Preventive Detentions of Christians and pastors, a rising concern: October 2020

November 13, 2020

Twenty-five incidents of harassment and violence against Christians have been reported in the month of October 2020. The most number of incidents were reported in Uttar Pradesh where 12 incidents were reported, followed by 4 incidents in Chhattisgarh and 3 incidents in Jharkhand.

A rising trend that calls for concern is the frequent arrests and detentions of pastors on allegations of unlawful religious conversions. Eight out of 25 incidents reported this month has been regarding the arbitrary detentions of pastors particularly in the state of Uttar Pradesh.

A case in point took place on October 13, 2020. A pastor and his brother living in Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh were detained by the police. The police barged into the person’s home, threatened and verbally abused him in the presence of his family members and accused him of doing forceful religious conversions. Later, when two Christians attending the church led by the pastor, went to the police station to get the pastor and others released, the police arrested the two of them also.

Another incident took place on October 11, 2020 in Bahraich, Uttar Pradesh. The police came and detained two Christians on complaints made by their neighbours who falsely accused the men of forceful religious conversions. The police verbally abused and threatened the two men who were detained.

This trend is a symptom of underlying reasons like intolerance by the majority community of the free exercise of freedom of religion by members of the minority community. Propagation of one’s faith or expressing their faith is both a fundamental right and a human right. The police often slap preventive detention provisions found in the Criminal Procedure Code on these pastors since there is no real offence committed by them. Although the preventive detention provisions [1] are meant to be used to deter a “person designing to commit a cognizable offence” from committing such offence, in this case, it is seen to be used arbitrarily as a tool to harass poor Christians in the villages.

The month of October is a significant month to remember the national values of unity in diversity, advocated by Mahatma Gandhi, the father of our nation. One of his many reflections on tolerance and pluralism reads as follows:

“Unity among the different races and the different religions of India is indispensable to the birth of national life”.

 

[1] Sections 107, 116 and 151, Code of Criminal Procedure.