Hindu extremists have called for “anti-conversion laws” to be introduced in India’s Jharkhand state, after local media reported that 300 tribals had converted to Christianity.

But Catholic Cardinal Telesphore Toppo told UCA News the reports were false and that the indigenous people were already Christians.

Jharkhand has a higher than average representation of Christians, particularly in Gumla district, where the allegations took place. Government figures say 4.5% of Jharkhand’s population is Christian – almost double the national average – and in Gumla as many as 20%.

The Vishva Hindu Parishad group wants Jharkhand to replicate the “anti-conversion laws” of other Indian states. They say these laws prevent Christians from carrying out forced conversions, but Christians deny this, saying the laws discriminate against minorities and are used to settle personal scores.

Cardinal Toppo said the laws are “against the constitution … The church does not compel anyone to become Christian. It also does not block anyone from going away”.