The Supreme Court on Friday stayed the arrest of a 36-year-old Muslim man from Surat in Gujarat in connection with the alleged forced conversion of tribals in Bharuch.
Abdul Vahab Varyava approached the top court for the anticipatory bail after Bharuch district court ane Gujarat High Court denied him any legal protection against a possible arrest.
Varyava was charged under the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act and was named an accused in December 2021 upon addition of new charges to an existing FIR filed in November last year at Amod police station in Bharuch.
He was also charged under provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) pertaining to charges of criminal conspiracy (120 B), causing disharmony (153 (B) (1) (c)) and criminal intimidation (506 (2)).
In the interim, the top court directed, “no coercive steps shall be taken against the petitioner to take him into custody.”
Nine Muslims were named in the FIR for “allegedly converting around 37 Hindu tribal families and 100 tribals on receiving financial aid and assistance from the other accused.”
The Muslim men alleged that the charges against them are fabricated.
The invoking of charges came in the wake of criticisms and accusations from India’s religious minorities that they allege the BJP governments in the Union and states have been criminalising religious conversions. Amid a rising tide of Hindu nationalism in India under Narendra Modi, Hindutva groups have long accused minority Muslims and Christians of taking over the country by persuading Hindu women to marry them and financially assisting the Hindus and convert to Islam.