The beauty of the Himalayan Mountain range belies the spiritual battles raging in Himachal Pradesh.
Although opposed by many minority rights activists, the anti-conversion bill in Himachal Pradesh passed into law on Monday, February 19. Himachal Pradesh is the ninth state in India to enact an anti-conversion law.

Under the new law, those convicted of “forcible conversions” will be given a prison sentence of up to two years and/or fines up to 25,000 rupees (about US$565). If minors or Dalits are “forcibly converted,” the fine is five years imprisonment and/or 50,000 rupees (about US$1130).

Also, in order to prove the conversion is of their own free will, those wishing to change religions must apply at least 30 days in advance or be fined 1,000 rupees (about US$23). There is concern among many Christian and minority organizations that the law will make it easier for extremist groups to persecute innocent people.

Just before the law passed, three Gospel for Asia Bible college students were severely beaten, and their school was vandalized by an anti-Christian mob.

On January 27, a group of Hindu extremists beat three students, Dayaram, Chiman and Kovidh, from a GFA home Bible college in Himachal Pradesh. The group also vandalized their school. The young men were participating in weekend outreach the morning of the attack.

While distributing Gospel tracts and selling Christian calendars, the students were confronted by a man on a bicycle. The man asked them what they were doing, and the students told him they were selling calendars. He asked how much the calendars were, and they replied, “20 rupees” (about US45 cents).

“You are lying!” the man exclaimed.

Immediately, the man called someone on his cell phone. Within minutes, a large group of people surrounded the students. The group ripped off the students’ shirts and tore some of their calendars in half, then forced the students to tear up the rest of the calendars.

The mob also took Dayaram’s belt and began to beat the young men with it. The attacks continued and the crowd tried to force the men to say, “Jai Shree Ram,” a saying that praises a Hindu god. When the students refused to repeat the phrase, the mob’s anger escalated.

“Let’s burn them alive!” one attacker yelled. They smeared black grease on the students’ faces and tied their hands behind their backs. The mob beat them even more severely than before, and finally decided to take the young men to the police station.

About 60 members of the mob went to the Bible school and vandalized the facility.

The beatings attracted so much attention that by the time the group reached the police station, a few reporters had gathered. They began to question and take pictures of the students. “Where are you living?” “Who is your leader?” “What are you taught in your Bible college?” “Are you forcing people to convert to Christianity?” The young men answered the inquiries truthfully. During the interviews, the rest of the students—about 20 in all—and their leader from their Bible college were brought to the station.

The police took everyone inside to question the leader, and protect the students and staff.

When the tension subsided, the police officers accompanied the students and their leader home and posted four guards around their school to protect them throughout the night.

Leaders in Himachal Pradesh are asking for prayer that despite the passing of the anti-conversion law, persecution will not increase in Himachal Pradesh. Their prayer is that more people will come to Christ in this state than ever before, and that those who persecuted the Bible college students will come to salvation.