Eleven out of India’s 28 states have passed laws to criminalize forced conversions but, in practice, they have been used to prevent the practice of the Christian faith.
Pinto, director of the Lucknow Diocese’s pastoral center in northern Uttar Pradesh state, was arrested on Feb. 6 for allowing a gathering of 100 people led by evangelical pastors to take place in the Catholic center. The government of Uttar Pradesh is controlled by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is the party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
India’s population is 79.8 % Hindu, 14.2 % Muslim, and 2.3 % Christian. In Uttar Pradesh state — India’s most populous state with 230 million inhabitants — only .18% are Christian.
“Hindu fundamentalists barged into the center and insisted on the arrest of the priest at the police station along with the pastors while other fundamentalists even threatened the nearby convent and nuns nearby,” Father Donald D’Souza, chancellor of the Lucknow Diocese, told CNA.
On Feb. 7, Sister Mercy of Carmel School in the Ambikapur Diocese in Chattisgarh state, whose government is also ruled by the BJP, was arrested for “abetting the suicide” of a sixth-grade female student. Before the girl’s death, the nun had questioned her and two other girls for being together in the bathroom for a long period of time. The nun had asked the girls to bring their parents to school the next day.
Shortly after the girl’s suicide, Hindu nationalist groups arranged for a large crowd to march to the school, and police were called to the scene. Police arrested the nun the next morning.