By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
(Worthy News) - The Hindu-led government of southern India’s Karnataka state has reportedly launched an investigation into Christian activities linked to alleged “forced conversions” to Christianity.
Karnataka’s legislative committee on Backward Classes and Minorities Welfare wants to inspect all churches, Christian leaders, and missionaries in the state, Worthy News learned.
News of the announcement came after, elsewhere in India’s northern state of Uttar Pradesh, seven pastors were detained on charges of violating anti-conversion legislation.
Karnataka’s move has provoked strong opposition from local Christians who comprise just under two percent of the state’s 61-million population, according to census figures.
Legislator Gulihatti D. Shekhar of the ruling Hindu-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) reportedly noted that “40 percent of churches in Karnataka were not officially recognized.”
Shekhar also chaired the meeting where the decision was taken to investigate the Christian presence in Karnataka.
Rizwa Arshad was among opposition members of the Karnataka Legislative Assembly condemning the lack of consultation in making the decision, news reports say. He was quoted as saying that “the committee’s role of protecting the rights of minorities had been replaced by one of surveillance.”
In published remarks, local church leader Peter Machado expressed sadness that Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai supports the conversion investigations.
Manado said the “broad-minded and enlightened person succumbs to the pressures from fundamentalist groups. They wish to indulge in disturbing the peace, harmony and peaceful co-existence in the society”.
Bommai reportedly confirmed last month that the state government intends to introduce a new anti-conversion law. “If such a law is passed, Karnataka would be the tenth Indian state to criminalize conversions carried out through force, fraud, or allurement,” noted Christian advocacy group Barnabas Fund.
Sajan K. George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians charity, warned that the police adds to “the already difficult situation that Christians experience in Karnataka.” He said that in BJP-ruled Karnataka, Christians experienced interruptions of numerous worship services in recent months and “fabricated accusations” of conversion activities.
In one of the most recent incidents last month, a group of “radical ‘Hindutva’ [Hindu] nationalists disrupted a prayer meeting at a church in the town of Karkala, Udupi district, Karnataka,” recalled Barnabas Fund.
The attackers reportedly alleged that the pastor was conducting unlawful conversions as part of a broader crackdown on devoted Christians in Hindu-majority India.