Missions, The Persecuted Church Across the World

Christian couple given two years in prison – April 17th

Church in Chains, April 10th, 2024

Pastor Ramesh Ahirwar and his wife Sakshi Ahirwar from Viveknagar Bhansa village near Sagar in Madhya Pradesh state have each been sentenced to two years in prison and a fine of 25,000 rupees (€280) after Hindu extremists accused them of “forcible conversion” under the state’s anti-conversion laws.

They denied the charge but were convicted and sentenced on 11 March 2024 at the Trial Court of Sagar district, even though the woman they are accused of pressurising to convert denied in court that they had tried to forcibly or fraudulently convert her or her husband.

The couple’s conviction is the first under Madhya Pradesh’s anti-conversion law. “I am shocked at the conviction,” the pastor told Morning Star News. “The charges against us are baseless and utterly untrue.”

Pastor Ramesh and Sakshi appealed to the High Court and are currently out on bail while their appeal is processed. Their first appeal hearing was held on 5 April at the High Court in Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh, and the court extended the order of bail granted by the trial court until 30 April 2024.

Pastor Ramesh said he was on a trip to Delhi in October 2021 when members of the Hindu extremist organisation Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) incited a man named Abhishek Ahirwar to accuse the couple of abducting his estranged wife, pressurising her to convert to Christianity and trying to fraudulently convert him too.