Police in India Press Churches to Provide Information on Activities

Notices have chilling effect on worship gatherings.

Christians in Sharda Nagar, Madhya Pradesh were distressed as Hindu extremists disrupted their house church worship. (Morning Star News screenshot)

Christians in Sharda Nagar, Madhya Pradesh were distressed as Hindu extremists disrupted their house church worship. (Morning Star News screenshot)

HYDERABAD, India, (Morning Star News) – Police in India have issued questionnaires to at least 40 churches in Indore, Madhya Pradesh state seeking information that Christians fear will be used by Hindu extremists to attack them, sources said.

The questionnaires are intrusive and discriminatory, as they were sent only to Christians, church leaders said.

“We contacted the police commissioner and told him that it is an unjust order and very discriminatory – why only Christians?” Indore Catholic Diocese Bishop Chacko Thottumarickal told local media. “The questions in the letter are also very suspicious. This is not in good spirit.”

The 16-point questionnaire issued by the Assistant Commissioner of Police, Information Centre of Indore, addressed to all police stations, seeks information about Christians’ activities in the city over the three months prior to its issue date of July 7. It has had a chilling effect, with many churches stopping in-person worship and going to online services, sources said.

“Although the police commissioner had stated that they withdrew the alleged notices, the police are still approaching the churches and enquiring about the same details and asking the pastors to fill out the document,” a source who spoke on condition of anonymity told Morning Star News.

Police are obtaining information about evangelization and other activities, and since then, most of the churches have been meeting online, the source said.

“This information would be shared with the anti-Christian elements who will storm into churches and cause a ruckus,” the source told Morning Star News. “It clearly shows the police and the Hindutva [Hindu nationalist] groups are operating hand-in-glove.”

The questionnaire asks about the objectives of Christian activities and if church leaders have noticed any suspicious conversions. It also asks if Christians are running any Non-Government Organizations and if they are receiving funding from abroad.

After Christians and media questioned Indore Police Commissioner Makrand Deoskar, he told the reporters in mid-July that the notices were actually sent to station house officers of all police stations in the city, and that officers may have sent them to the churches by mistake.

“The notices have been withdrawn after opposition by the Christian community members,” Deoskar told reporters. “We have not issued the notice to the community members. The letter has been written by the ACP [Assistant Commissioner of Police] and addressed to the TIs [police chiefs]. It is an internal letter. The TIs may have mistakenly sent it to some Christian missionaries.”

The questionnaire is related to police officers’ routine tasks and doesn’t target any community, Deoskar said.

“There are law-and-order problems related to religious conversions that often happen, so these details are being collected and processed to timely address communal problems,” he said.

Indore-based Pastor Baljit Singh said the notices have driven his church underground.

“We are not gathering on the church premises on Sundays,” he told Morning Star News. “Until the situation gets better, we will continue the services online.”

Some attacks on churches have been reported in the past few weeks, and local media have been falsifying information about them to stir up anti-Christian sentiment, he added.

A recent video of Hindu extremists storming into a home church in Sharda Nagar and scattering members has appeared with a voice-over alleging that large numbers gathered at the site to carry out forced conversions but were dispersed by the Hindu nationalists.

“Christian leaders have cautioned churches to be vigilant and conduct services with large congregations only after the situation improves,” Pastor Singh told Morning Star News. “Right now, the mainline church buildings only are conducting offline services. The rest of the small churches and home churches have been conducting online worship services.”

Area residents have been brainwashed to believe that if they allow Christian worship and activities, the British will take them over, he said.

Another anonymous source said elections to be held in December are spurring efforts to polarize Indian society, including attacks on Christians, for political goals.

“The political parties are trying to win their vote bank by polarizing the communities, thereby creating a favorable environment for themselves because they have not done any development,” the source told Morning Star News. “The general public has been badly affected by their rule. The local police, media, and the Hindutva supporters are trying their best to send out fabricated, tailored stories about religious conversions to suit their agenda.”

The hostile tone of the National Democratic Alliance government, led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, against non-Hindus, has emboldened Hindu extremists in several parts of the country to attack Christians since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took power in May 2014, religious rights advocates say.

India ranked 11th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2023 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian. The country was 31st in 2013, but its position worsened after Modi came to power.

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