Christians comprise around 2 per cent of India’s population (World Watch Monitor)

Six carol singers have been arrested in India after they were accused of trying to convert people to Christianity.

The carol singers, one of whom is a professor at a Catholic theological college, insisted they were only singing songs, but a Hindu man alleged he had been told to “worship Jesus Christ” and recently offered money to convert to Christianity. At first, a group of 30, including two priests, were detained. Then a further eight priests who went to help were also detained, according to the Indian Catholic Church.

The carol singers’ car was later set on fire.

The incident took place in the central state of Madhya Pradesh, which has some of the strictest “anti-conversion laws” in the country. The laws, which are also in force in a handful of other states, exist ostensibly to prevent people from being converted to another religion against their will, but in practice they are used to prevent minority faiths from converting Hindus.

India has had a Hindu-nationalist government in place for the past two and a half years, since BJP leader Narendra Modi came to power in May 2014. Since then, Christians and members of other religious minorities have complained of worsening conditions for them, including more frequent attacks against their worship places and discriminatory laws, including anti-conversion measures and bans on the sale or consumption of beef (because cows are sacred in Hinduism).

Prime Minister Modi recently expressed his “shock” at the criticism levelled at him by an archbishop, who cited human rights violations and bemoaned an increase in nationalism. A recent editorial in the BJP’s press outlet said India was “not a country for Christians” and other non-Hindu faiths, as “they have their own countries”.

However, Alphons Kannanthanam, a BJP member and the first Indian Christian in Modi’s cabinet, insisted in October that Christians are “safe” under Modi’s rule.