In a positive move for Christians, the Bilaspur High Court in India has been persuaded by Christian organisations to oppose a ban preventing non-Hindu religious missionaries from entering villages in Bastar district.
Governing bodies in Bastar, Chhattisgarh state, were given three weeks from 8 September to respond to a petition by Christian bodies questioning the constitutionality of the ban. The wording of the ban appears to prohibit non-Hindu religious activities altogether, undermining religious freedom in the area.
In May 2014, a resolution passed under section 129(G) of the Chhattisgarh Panchayat Raj Act declared:
To stop the forced conversion by some outsider religious campaigners and to prevent them from using derogatory language against Hindu deities and customs, the Sirisguda Village Council bans religious activities such as prayers, meetings and propaganda of non-Hindu religions.
The resolution was agreed to by more than 50 Gram Panchayat (assemblies in self-governing small towns and villages) in Bastar. It was immediately opposed by the Chhattisgarh Christian Forum, which filed the petition with the High Court.
Despite this, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), a Hindu fundamentalist organisation, has continued to demand that the ban be fully implemented.
Furthermore, it is reported that the VHP and other Hindu extremists have increasingly attacked and discriminated against Christians in the region as a result of the ban. Ten Christians, including three pastors, have been assaulted by Hindu radicals because of the ban, according to the Salt Foundation, an Indian religious freedom organisation.
Hindu extremism has been a growing concern for Christians in Chhattisgarh state, where believers make up around 2% of the population. In Chhattisgarh, there is already an "anti-conversion law" that prohibits religious conversion by "force, fraud or allurement". Such laws are often misused to prohibit legitimate Christian evangelism.