Under a so-called "freedom of religion" ordinance, individuals leaving the Hindu faith in yet another state in India will lead to persecution of Christians.
Nine out of 28 states in India have adopted anti-conversion laws, the latest Madhya Pradesh, which is located in the central part of the country and has a population of more than 75 million residents – the fifth largest in India. Approximately 90% of the state's population is Hindu; less than 0.3% are Christian.
William Stark of International Christian Concern explains that the recently enacted anti-conversion law in Madhya Pradesh requires people who convert to Christianity, for example, to notify the government 60 days in advance; it requires the same notification from the person doing the converting.
The law also outlaws forced conversations – but the intent, according to Stark, is to stop conversions to Christianity. He tells One News Now that the new law fuels the flames of Hindu nationalists.
"Essentially all the Hindu radical needs to do is show up at a church service, claim that they suspect forced religious conversions taking place there, beat the pastor – and the police will accept that justification and allow them to have impunity for attacking these religious minority communities," he summarizes.
Those being converted and their pastor can be punished for violating the law, says Stark.
"… If you as the individual who is converting, or as the religious leader leading that person through the conversion, if you don't follow the state law – let's say, you don't give them 60 days' notice – you could find both parties in trouble," he explains.
Under the ironically named "Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Ordinance 2020," that could result in three to five years in prison and a penalty of 50,000 rupees – the equivalent of about $686 (U.S.), making it the harshest anti-conversion law to date.
More information on this from International Christian Concern