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M.P. court acquits 8 Christians of forced conversion charges

The Christian men after their acquittal by a Ratlam court.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

A sessions court in Ratlam has acquitted eight Christians accused of kidnapping and forcibly converting 60 children from Jhabua district in May 2017.

Additional District and Sessions Judge Vivek Kumar Shrivastava acquitted them recently after none of the 20 witnesses, including parents, supported the prosecution version.

As the six men and two women escorted the children to a Bible camp near Nagpur, on May 23, 2017, the railway police, tipped off by right-wing Hindu outfits, detained them at the Ratlam railway station. A case was registered under the Indian Penal Code and the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act.

“Justice has finally been done,” said Tehmina Arora, Director, ADF India, which represented the accused. “But we must not forget the toll that such false cases take on families. No one should be targeted for their faith. The anti-conversion laws are tools to harass and target Christians and should be repealed since they restrict the freedom of religion guaranteed under the Constitution of India.”

When the children and parents were Christians, and the children were being taken to a Christian camp, where was the issue, she told The Hindu. “There was no question of kidnapping as the father of one of the children told the police then they were being sent willingly,” she said.

The police had claimed the elders didn’t have documents, and couldn’t explain why the children were being taken to Maharashtra. After the separation, while 28 girls had to spend the night at the waiting room, boys were shifted to a shelter home.

The accused were only granted bail after three months. In court, none of the witnesses had supported the prosecution version. Meanwhile, ADF India had had to approach the High Court to reunite the children with their parents.

Three more Christians, who were booked in connected cases in Indore and Ratlam, are now hopeful of being similarly acquitted, ADF India said in a press release.

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Printable version | Sep 19, 2021 3:55:58 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/mp-court-acquits-8-christians-of-forced-conversion-charges/article30882605.ece

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