Authorities in India have recently distributed questionnaires to around 40 churches in Indore, located in the Madhya Pradesh state.
This move has raised fears among the Christian community that the information collected might be exploited by Hindu extremist groups to target them, according to sources familiar with the matter.
Critics argue that the questionnaires, which were exclusively sent to Christian institutions, are intrusive and discriminatory. Church leaders have voiced their concerns over the situation, emphasizing the unjust nature of the order and the discriminatory aspect of singling out Christians for this inquiry.
Bishop Chacko Thottumarickal of the Indore Catholic Diocese conveyed the sentiment of many, stating, “We contacted the police commissioner and told him that it is an unjust order and very discriminatory – why only Christians? The questions in the letter are also very suspicious. This is not in good spirit.”
The questionnaire, comprising 16 points, was issued by the Assistant Commissioner of Police from the Information Centre of Indore. Addressed to all police stations, it seeks information about Christian activities within the city over the preceding three months leading up to its issuance on July 7. The chilling effect of this inquiry has reportedly led numerous churches to suspend in-person worship in favor of online services.
Despite claims by the police commissioner that the notices have been withdrawn, the concerns persist as police allegedly continue to approach churches for the same details, requesting pastors to complete the documentation. An anonymous source indicated that the obtained information could potentially be exploited by anti-Christian groups, leading to disruptions within churches.
The questionnaire delves into various aspects of Christian activities, including evangelization and other undertakings. It also inquires about the presence of non-governmental organizations and foreign funding. Many churches have consequently shifted their gatherings online as a precautionary measure.
In response to inquiries, Police Commissioner Makrand Deoskar clarified that the notices were initially intended for station house officers but might have mistakenly been forwarded to churches. He emphasized that the questionnaire was related to routine police tasks and not aimed at targeting any particular community. The objective, as stated by Deoskar, is to collect and process data to address potential communal issues, particularly those related to religious conversions.
Despite these assurances, some church leaders have noted a decline in attendance due to fears of attacks and misinformation spread by certain media outlets. The overarching political context, including upcoming elections, has also raised concerns that polarizing actions, such as attacks on religious minorities, might be exploited for political gains.
The situation has led to shifts in church activities, raised questions about the government’s intentions, and highlighted the challenges faced by religious minorities in the country.
Original News Source: Morning Star News