The Rev. Chander Mani Khanna had been called before the court in Srinagar on 8 November 2011 after a video appeared on YouTube showing him baptising seven converts from Islam. The court ruled that he and Dutch missionary Jim Borst were guilty of attracting Muslim youth to Christianity through monetary allurements.
Issuing the court’s ruling on 19 January, Nasir-ul-Islam, deputy Grand Mufti of Jammu and Kashmir, said:
Khanna and his associates have been found guilty of spreading communal disaffection and were involved in immoral activities. They are ordered to be expelled from the state.
Mr Khanna was arrested by the police shortly after the initial court hearing and is currently out on bail.
Senior Christian leaders in India have investigated the sharia court’s allegation of forced conversions and found that each of the baptisms was undertaken voluntarily.
The harassment of Mr Khanna appears to be part of a wider anti-Christian campaign in the Kashmir valley, which is being stirred up by a section of the local media.
The sharia court’s fatwa also ruled against Christian schools, which have been accused of luring their overwhelmingly Muslim student body to Christianity. The diktat called for the state government of Jammu and Kashmir to monitor the activities of Christian missionary schools in the valley. It said that since the majority of pupils in these schools are Muslims, Islamic studies should be included in the curriculum.
Mr Borst has established two Christian schools in the Kashmir valley, where he has been serving the Lord since 1963. His ministry has come under repeated attack; one of the schools has been bombed twice by terrorists and also torched. Christian schools have been functioning in the valley since the 19th century.
The Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) said that “a mischievous hate campaign” had been launched against Christians in the Kashmir valley region following the fatwa of the sharia court. It said that the small Christian community has been “living in terror” as a result and called on the Chief Minister of Kashmir to ensure their security and safety. There are unconfirmed reports that some Christian families have fled the valley.