Notices have a chilling effect on worship gatherings.
The questionnaires are intrusive and discriminatory, as they were sent only to Christians, church leaders said.
“We contacted the police commissioner and told him that it was an unjust order and very discriminatory—why only Christians?” Indore Catholic Diocese Bishop Chacko Thottumarickal told local media. “The questions in the letter are also very suspicious. This is not in good spirit.”
The 16-point questionnaire issued by the Assistant Commissioner of Police, Information Centre of Indore, addressed to all police stations, seeks information about Christians’ activities in the city over the three months before its issue date of July 7. Sources said it has had a chilling effect, with many churches stopping in-person worship and going to online services.
Police are obtaining information about evangelization and other activities, and since then, most of the churches have been meeting online, the source said.
The questionnaire asks about the objectives of Christian activities and if church leaders have noticed any suspicious conversions. It also asks if Christians are running any non-government organizations and if they are receiving funding from abroad.
After Christians and media questioned Indore Police Commissioner Makrand Deoskar, he told the reporters in mid-July that the notices were actually sent to station house officers of all police stations in the city and that officers may have sent them to the churches by mistake.
“The Christian community members have withdrawn the notices after opposition,” Deoskar told reporters. “We have not issued the notice to the community members. The letter has been written by the ACP [Assistant Commissioner of Police] and addressed to the TIs [police chiefs]. It is an internal letter. The TIs may have mistakenly sent it to some Christian missionaries.”
They relate the questionnaire to police officers’ routine tasks and don’t target any community, Deoskar said.
“To promptly address communal problems, we are collecting and processing details related to religious conversions,” he said.
Indore-based Pastor Baljit Singh said the notices have driven his church underground.
Some attacks on churches have been reported in the past few weeks, and local media have been falsifying information about them to stir up anti-Christian sentiment, he added.
A recent video of Hindu extremists storming into a home church in Sharda Nagar and scattering members has appeared with a voice-over alleging that large numbers gathered at the site to carry out forced conversions but were dispersed by the Hindu nationalists.
Another anonymous source said elections to be held in December are spurring efforts to polarize Indian society, including attacks on Christians, for political goals.
India ranked 11th on the Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2023 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian. The country was 31st in 2013, but its position worsened after Modi came to power.