Sandeep Kumar, 18, was arrested and jailed in India’s Uttar Pradesh state for twelve days in August after anti-Hindi comments were posted to a Facebook page that he alleges was created to frame him.
Kumar, known by his Christian name Karan Anthony, is an agricultural sciences student at the University of Allahabad. According to a Morning Star News report, Hindu extremist groups filed a complaint against Kumar after filing a report with authorities in the Kasganj District, leading to his arrest and charge for posting anti-Hindu social media comments.
Kumar is denying that he was behind the comments. “I did not make any posts on Facebook,” he explained to the press. “It was my (former) good friend who falsely framed me by joining hands with Rudra Sena activists.”
A relative explained to Morning Star News that Sathin Gaur, a former friend, filed the complaint.
Kumar said that he left Facebook after becoming a Christian due to bullying from his classmates. “Whenever I posted something about Jesus, my friend Sathin and other classmates started sending abusive comments.” He added, “They were expressing hatred in vulgar language, and I did not like it. I deactivated Facebook immediately and never logged in after that incident.”
The authorities have charged Kumar with violating several laws including, “promoting enmity between classes,” “publishing or transmitting obscene material,” and “accessing a computer without the permission of the owner and doing so dishonestly or fraudulently.” If convicted by the Criminal Magistrate Court, Kumar could face nine years in prison.
Kumar said he was unaware of the social media account until confronted by the police. “I was not at all aware about the fake Facebook account,” he said. “I was only focusing on my studies, and we have worship services on the campus also every morning and evening, so I was spending most of my time with Christian friends here and never felt the need to open a social media account.”
He talked about how his faith got him through his time in jail and gave him an opportunity to speak to his fellow prisoners about matters of faith.
Kumar said, “When I was in jail, every day I was spending time in prayer; the other prisoners did not understand what was going on, they asked me many questions like, ‘What is this you are doing, why are you knelt, what are you murmuring?’ It was an opportunity the Lord had given me to share the gospel with them.” After his 12-day imprisonment, Kumar contracted malaria and typhoid.
The authorities are still investigating the complaint filed against him. Members of extremist Hindu groups including Rudra Sena and Hindu Yuva Vahini co-signed the initial complaint against Kumar. He says they have spread fake news about Kumar’s family, who are involved in Christian ministry, in a targeted effort to smear him.
Morning Star News reports that since the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party took power in 2014, radicals have become emboldened in targeting Christians living in India.