Three Nepalese Christians who shared Christian materials in Shahjahanpur city in India have been arrested and sent to jail after some locals accused them of spreading Christianity and insulting Hindu gods.
The Times of India identified the accused on Thursday as Indra Bahadur Tamad, Shukra Rai and Mekh Bahadur, who arrived in Shahjahanpur on Sunday and began distributing Christian books.
The Nepalese citizens had rented a house and had planned to stay there for a while, but on Wednesday when addressing a crowd, they got into an argument with a couple of local Hindu men, Ravi Prakash Dikshit and Vimal Pandey.
Dikshit and Pandey later filed a complaint against the Christians, accusing them of insulting Hindu gods, which led the to the arrests.
Other locals who witnessed the exchange said that the Christians are innocent, however.
"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. They never uttered a single word against any god or goddess," a resident, who wished not to be named, said.
Local police said that the Christians belong to the World Council of Churches and were there to promote Christianity, charging them under IPC Section 295A, or "deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs."
Christian pastors and other believers are regularly arrested in India and threatened with prison for sharing the Gospel. Seven pastors were arrested in Northern India in December after they were accused of forcible conversion by Hindus in the Uttar Pradesh state.
The Christians were also accused of resorting to violence after Hindus refused their evangelistic efforts, though they deny the charges.
London-based charity British Asian Christian Association said at the time that the believers were denied bail.
"I can't express the frustration I feel for these pastors. Words simply cannot convey the anger I feel when I think of their unwarranted arrest based on the lies of local people fearful of the Gospel message of Christ," BACA's lead officer in India, Pastor Naresh, said in a statement.
"Men trying to save the lives and the souls of others are arrested on the whim of extremists, but they never lose their calling or faith."
In another incident in November in Chhattisgarh state, two pastors were beaten by Hindu extremists and forced to apologize for spreading the Gospel, which had offended some locals.
"Pastor Vijay Jogi and Pastor Santosh Rao were receiving the people at the entrance," Pastor Amos James said about the Gospel meeting that attracted attention.
"Suddenly a mob of 70 Hindu Dharm Sena and Bajrang Dal activists gheraoed (encircled) the entrance, and Pastor Jogi and Pastor Rao were beaten and summoned to the police station," he described.