Bhopal: A day after the alleged conversion incident in Indore, the Balaghat police of Madhya Pradesh arrested three people under the newly enacted anti-conversion law -- ‘Freedom of Religion Ordinance - 2020’ -- for allegedly alluring villagers to embrace Christianity by offering them Rs 10,000 a month.
The alleged incident occurred at Bagholi village of Lalbarra police station, 30-km away from Balaghat district headquarters, on Wednesday evening, but came to light on Friday.
On a complaint by a villager, Deepak Patel, the police booked Chhatarsingh Katre, Mahendra Nagdeve and Udalnath under Section 506 and 34 of the Indian Penal Code and Section 3 and 4 of the Freedom of Religion Ordinance.
The incident comes after the Bhawar Kuan police of Indore booked 11 people for forcing people to embrace Christianity and booked them under the new anti-conversion law on January 28, 2021. The matter came to light after Bajrang Dal members created a ruckus at the event alleging conversion. On the complaint of a girl, the Indore police also booked her parents and nine others.
According to police complaint, Chhatarsingh Katre, a believer of Hinduism, is a government school teacher and had organised special prayers at his home to celebrate the birthday of his 20-year-old daughter, Kalyani Katre, on January 27.
“A decade ago, when Chhattarsingh’s wife was on her deathbed, a Father (believer in Christianity), who lives in Lanji, had helped him to cure his wife. Since then, he had respect for the Father and Christianity,” Singh’s close friend and neighbour, Sanjay Kumar Nageshwar, to NewsClick over phone.
“On the birthday of his daughter, Katre called a Father and fellow villagers for special prayers at his home, when a group of people associated with Bajrang Dal barged inside with police claiming religious conversion and created ruckus,” Nageshwar claimed, adding that his wife was an eyewitness of the incident.
However, the FIR claimed that Chhatarsingh had called a priest at his home and was offering Rs 10,000 a month to each villager to embrace Christianity, else they may face some bad omen.
“When I opposed, they threatened to kill me,” alleged the complainant in his police report.
When contacted, Raghunath Khatarkar, town inspector of Lalbarra police station, said: “On a complaint by a villager, a case has been registered against three people under the relevant sections of the IPC and freedom of religion ordinance. All three accused have been arrested and sent to jail.”
A day after the arrests, the wives of two accused -- Chhatarsingh and Mahendra Nagdeve – dashed off a letter to the Balaghat SP alleging that police forced local residents to register the case against their husbands and framed them in a fake case of conversion.
“No one from the village had complaint to the police alleging religious conversion. They are innocent and being framed in the false case. Hence, release them,” they claimed in the letter.