India jails 3 Nepalese Christians for allegedly spreading Christianity

Police in India have arrested and jailed three Nepalese Christian citizens in the city of Shahjahanpur on Jan. 10 over complaints that they were spreading their faith among locals and have insulted Hindu gods.

(REUTERS / Adnan Abidi)Christians attend a protest against the recent killings and atrocities on Christians in Orissa and Karnataka, in New Delhi September 26, 2008.

Indra Bahadur Tamad, Mekh Bahadur and Shukra Rai were arrested and thrown into the district jail on Wednesday after Ravi Prakash Dikshit and Vimal Pandey complained that the three had inappropriately described Hindu gods. The three Nepalese Christians, who arrived in Shahjahanpur on Jan. 7, were also allegedly distributing Christian literature among the local residents, Times of India detailed.

However, a Town Hall resident who lived near the Nepalese Christians' rented house defended them. The resident, who asked not to be named, said other Christians had also shared the Gospel there previously but had not been arrested.

"The three of them are innocent and were only sharing the teachings of the Bible. A group of Christians come here every year and do the same, but such an incident has never happened before," the Town Hall resident said. "They never uttered a single word against any god or goddess."

Meanwhile, local intelligence officer Rajendra Saluja said they had not found any credible evidence against the three Nepalese Christians but have recovered religious materials from them. He added that Nepalese people can be arrested just like locals, but the information has to be relayed to the Nepal high commission if they are sentenced for a crime.

Last month, the Indian government ordered the tightening of security around Christmas celebrations after a spate of attacks targeting Christians in the northern region. Christians were still able to celebrate the occasion despite fears of backlash and attacks by vigilantes, The Associated Press reported.

The heightened security was ordered after a militant Hindu group allegedly assaulted a group of Catholic priests in Madhya Pradesh state. While police arrested one of the attackers, they also took in a priest who was accused of forced religious conversion.