BHOPAL: As many as nine persons were booked under the Madhya Pradesh Religious Freedom Act 1968 at Ratlam on Tuesday on charges of trying to convert 60 children from tribal-dominated Jhabua district to Christianity via a camp in Nagpur (Maharashtra).
Another two were booked under the same Act on Monday for trying to convert 11 children at Indore. Since one accused is common in the two incidents, ten arrests were made in total.
“We have arrested Vijay Meda, Nitin Mandor, Lalu Bhamore, Pangu Singh Vasuniya, Akash Jodiya, Sharmilla Damor, Savita Bhuria and Amia Pal,” said deputy SP of Ratlam, DS Chouhan.
In the first case, Railway Protection Force (RPF) and Government Railway Police (GRP) teams intercepted a group of 60 children (28 girls and 32 boys aged between 13 and 15 years) travelling with nine men at Ratlam railway station on Sunday night. They said they were going to attend a summer camp in Nagpur.
On cross checking, a police team found that there was no summer camp there, but a Bible prayer camp.
“The camp was organised by Jeevan Raksha, a Gujarat-based organisation. We sent our team to Nagpur to find out whether the children were being taken to a summer camp there. But our team found out that there was no summer camp, but a special Bible prayer camp from May 22 to May 25,” SP (GRP-Indore) Krishnaveni Desavatu said over phone on Tuesday morning.
All the boys and girls were produced before the Ratlam district child welfare committee (CWC) and the committee later sent them to shelter homes in Ratlam and Jaora.
The parents of the children, who reached Ratlam on Monday evening, claimed that their children were being taken for the camp in Nagpur with their consent and there was no question of any religious conversion, as they already followed Christianity. However, police officials said that they did not follow the due process to convert to another religion.
“For changing to another religion, one needs to submit a written application to the district collector and only after the stipulated process, a person can change religious identity, which didn’t happen in the case of any of the parents claiming to be Christians. This is why, the children and their parents will be officially treated as Hindu tribals and not Christians,” said Desavatu.
In the second incident on Monday, two men — Alkesh and Harun Dabar from Jhabua and Alirajpur districts — were arrested in Indore on charges of trying to convert 11 children and teenagers aged between 11 and 17 years to Christianity at the same camp in Nagpur. Alkesh has been booked in both the cases.
The children, all Hindu tribals hailing from Ambua area of Alirajpur district, are in custody of Child Line in Indore and their parents have been informed, in-charge of Indore’s Choti Gwaltoli police station Sanju Kamle told the New Indian Express.
“The Indore and Ratlam cases, which are related, have prima facie established an organised attempt by the Gujarat-based organisation to convert the tribal children from Madhya Pradesh to Christianity at the special prayers camp whose caretaker Vincent Patil too has been grilled by our team in Nagpur,” said Desavatu.