“With effect from the moment you receive this notice, you must not conduct any Christian congregational activity, if you continue any Christian activities despite receiving the notice, stringent action will be taken against you”, the notice stated.
Mr Mahendra Nagdeve is a 45-year-old father of three Children. He had been paying all his bills and tax on time. He set aside a prayer hall within his home. He said that since they are living in the Lanji area of Balaghat District, not a single official from the Nagar Palika Balaghat municipality had ever visited him in order to tell him that that he has any problem with their prayer meetings. Their activities included Bible study with other families. His wife also prays with a Christian women’s group at home.
The Nov 8 this year a notice was a surprise against their legal right. He was converted from Hinduism to Christianity 13 years ago. He and his family attend a local church later he began worshipping Jesus Christ with his family and other relatives in his home.
In response of the notice he submitted a letter to the municipal officials stating that since last 13 years he had been praying peacefully in their house but nobody ever complained.
The chief officer of the Balaghat municipal council, Chandra Kisore Bawre said that his neighbors had complained against them. He acknowledged outside pressure to issue the notice. He said that he had issued a notice only but did not take any action yet.
Hindu nationalists compelled Bawre to issue the notice, a source told. They thought that Nagdeve was forcibly converted to Christianity.
Nagdeve reached the municipal director, Mira Samrithey. He told her that his house was not a church building and his family has been studying the Bible and praying together as anyone else does.
He said the municipal director told him that the orders came from the senior official services therefore she cannot interfere in this matter. Moreover he must not use his house building for worship and Christian activities.
His attorney, Anil Maglani said that the municipal authorities have interfered in the personal life of a citizen. They had issued a notice to the municipal officials saying that they are exploiting the religious beliefs of Nagdeve which is his right.
Another attorney who requested anonymity said that there is no legal basis for stopping worship inside a house in India.
Nagdeve said that since he has received the notice he had not met with friends and relatives for worship.
“There is strength in fellowship and meeting together of believers to pray and worship the Lord,” he said.
Religious rights advocates say that Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took power in 2014, the hostile tone of his National Democratic Alliance government, led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and against non-Hindus have emboldened Hindu extremists in several parts of the country to attack Christians.
India ranked 15th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2017 World Watch List of the countries where Christians experience the most persecution.