Last week, two United States (US) nationals were detained and fined in Assam’s Sonitpur district for allegedly attending the inauguration of a Baptist Christian association office on 31 January.
Notably, they were in India on tourist visas and participation in a religious event is a violation of visa norms. They were released from detention after giving a fine of $500 and are now likely to be issued Leave-India notices.
The two US nationals are identified as John Matthew Boone and Michael James Flinchum. Sonitpur Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Madhurima Das had informed the Foreigner Regional Registration Office in Kolkata about their activities.
Indian Express quoted Das as saying, "A Baptist association had held a building inauguration function in Tezpur and Baptist leaders from different parts of Assam had gathered there. The two US nationals were also present there."
She highlighted, "The building itself is incomplete, it is half-done, so we have to say that they had come for conversion activities. Since they were in the country on tourist visas, they cannot participate in any religious meet."
This comes after the Himanta Biswa Sarma-led Assam government had instructed the SPs of all districts in the state in October 2022 to monitor activities of foreigners to control conversion activities.
After this order was passed, a total of 27 Bangladeshi, Swedish and German foreign nationals were detained and deported in the span of about a month for participating in conversion activities in violation of visa norms.
Nishtha Anushree is Senior Sub-editor at Swarajya. She tweets at @nishthaanushree.
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