South Asia

Juvenile released but six remain in custody after Christian camp arrests

A month-long battle against the imprisonment of seven Christians detained last month for taking 71 Christian children and carers to a Christian camp has resulted in the release of one juvenile from police custody yesterday (20 June).

Six adults remain in custody despite protests from the Christian community in India and pressure from the Church elsewhere. The seven Christians were arrested for taking 71 Christian children from Jhabua, Madhya Pradesh to Nagpur in Maharashtra for a Christian camp.

The arrests and detention took place at the Ratlam Railway station and Indore bus stand in Madhya Pradesh. The seven have been charged under sections of the Indian penal code relating to kidnapping and under state laws on freedom of religion.

“Akaash Gundiya, the youngest and the only minor in custody since a month, was granted bail today,” according to a source who does not want to be named in a telephone call with Global Christian News.

The bail plea of all the others in custody has been rejected from the Indore High Court said the source. “We are applying for bail in the Supreme Court now and we are hoping to be successful.”

One of the close relative of a Christian in jail, who visited the family member inside the jail on Monday (19 June) told Global Christian News: “He was beaten by the police during investigations once and faced bullying and extortion – in terms of kind and cash, from his inmates in jail initially, but now things are better.”

The police demanded to keep these Christians in remand for further questioning, but the relative said that there have been no further questioning by the police.

“He is quite upset for being in jail for ‘no crime’ and the rejection of bail again and again. He is worried for his family, who are being harassed by the police and the mental trauma he might have to fight even after being bailed-out,” said the relative.

The police investigating officers are said to have visited the house of the parents of one of the Christians in custody twice and questioned them rigorously.

Sources informed Global Christian News that the police are persuading two Christian children (who were along with the group of 71 children going for the camp) living in the villages of Jhabua, a boy studying in fifth grade and a girl studying in eighth grade to visit Ratlam police station for further questioning.

“The parents of these two children have strongly objected to such a demand from the police personals. They said that the kids were initially kept in remand for four days for interrogation and that they would not allow their children to go through the trauma once again,” claimed the source.

A rally marking a silent protest by the Christian community in Ratlam was organised on 27 May 2017. It was attended by Christians from in

Rally in Indore

and around Ratlam and some people from the Muslim community joined the protest as well.

Despite strong criticism against a month-long remand of the Christians, Pastor Amiya Jal, Alkesh Ganawa, Vijay Meida, Pangu Singh Vasuiya, Nitin Mandod and Lallu Bhabhore continue to remain in Ratlam jail awaiting their bail.

“Police is pressurised by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the political parties in power deliberately delaying the bail. Creating trouble for the Christians is their sole motive. Forceful conversion cannot be proved, as it is not true,” said the source.