Chhatar Singh Katre, a teacher in a small village school run by the government in Madhya Pradesh’s Balaghat district organized a get-together and a prayer meet on January 27. The occasion, his daughter said, was to celebrate her college admission.
Before the program started, the police reached the spot, and detained Katre, and his friends Mahendra Nagdeva J Nathan; all three were taken to the police station for interrogation, and subsequently arrested for luring and coercing people for conversion.
All three remain in jail, their bail pleas having been rejected by the Balaghat sessions court.
Katre’s daughter Kalyani Katre said, “My father organized the meet for me and now he is in jail for no reason. The case was registered against him and two others on the complaint of a person who was booked 10 years ago for assaulting and harassing my father and others for participating in a religious program.”
Raghunath Khatarkar who is investigating the case at Lalbarra police station of Balaghat district, said the complainant Hemant Thakre recorded his statement before the court and accused Katre and two others of offering him 10,000 rupee for conversion. “In the name of God, they also tried to scare people that something bad would happen to them.”
In a month since the enactment of the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Ordinance to regulate interfaith marriages and conversion, 28 people have been booked and at least half of them are Christians, according to police records.
The ordinance, which replaces the MP Freedom of Religion Act 1968, came into force on January 9. State home department data shows that eight cases have been registered in eight different districts in a month, and 28 people named. While four cases are against nine Muslims for allegedly forcing women to change their religion for marriage, another four were against 19 Christians for luring and coercing people to change their faith through prayer meetings, police reports showed.