MUMBAI, India – Police in India arrested two people – including a clergyman – on Sunday under charges of “religious conversion attempt” on over 100 people.

According to PTI news service, a pastor and his associate were arrested at Easter in Kanpur, a large industrial city in the state of Uttar Pradesh.

Police claimed to have caught the church pastor and his associate while ferrying over 100 people in buses to the neighbouring Unnao district for unlawful religious conversion.

Christians make up less than half-a-percent of the population of the city, which is 78 percent Hindu.

Police identified the arrested Christians as Pastor Simon William and his associate, Deepak Morris, both residents of Kanpur and members of the Pentecostal Church.

A 45-year-old man named Sanjay told police he was being taken to a Church in Unnao along with over 100 others for forceful conversion into Christianity, and was promised money and medical help if he accepted changing religions.

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Officials said the people were also asked to remove the statue of Hindu Gods and Goddess from their places after conversion.

Uttar Pradesh passed its Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Act in 2021.

Pastor Deen Nath told Crux the incident happened to the Assembly of Believers Church, which had been in Unnao district for the past ten years.

“No conversion activity was taking place, it was a Praise and Worship Easter Sunday assembly,” he said.

Uttar Pradesh is the most populous state in India, with nearly 200 million people. However, only about 350,000 Christians live in the state, a miniscule 0.18 percent of the population. By comparison, Christians make up nearly 2.5 percent of the whole of India’s population.

Uttar Pradesh, like the national government, is run by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), with strong links to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a militant Hindu nationalist organization.

Hindu nationalists often accuse Christians of using forceful and surreptitious tactics in pursuing conversions. They then storm into villages and lead “reconversion” ceremonies – called Ghar Wapsi, or “back to home” – in which Christians are compelled to perform Hindu rituals.