Azamgarh: Police in Uttar Pradesh's Azamgarh district have intensified its probe into alleged conversions after 18 persons, including the mastermind, were arrested last week.
The police are now looking into the number of people approached by them for conversion.
According to police, the mastermind Sikandar, who claims association with a shrine in Barabanki, and his companions had decorated an area in the slum of Chirkihit village of Devgaon like a shrine and used to encourage conversions during their regular qawwali and religious discourse sessions.
Among those held in the crackdown last week was Sikandar who belongs to Barabanki. The police are now looking for those whom they had allegedly approached and managed to convert.
Azamgarh SP Anurag Arya told reporters that when the cops reached the spot on May 25, qawwali and discourse sessions were on with a big crowd, and additional forces had to be called in to control the gathering while the arrests were made.
The accused were booked under the UP Unlawful Religious Conversion Prohibition Ordinance, which lays down jail term up to 10 years if the conversion is through "misinformation, force, unlawfully or by any other such deceitful and dishonest means".
The police claimed Sikandar and the others had confessed during interrogation to having mobilised people for conversion at this event, and that they received funds for such activities.
Meanwhile, in a related development, a pregnant Dalit woman was raped and poisoned to death "for refusing to convert". The victim, employed at a local hospital, was three-months pregnant. According to police sources, the victim was in a relationship with the accused, Mohd Naved, who had presented himself as a Hindu.
The woman was admitted to district hospital in Shahjahanpur in a critical condition on Saturday night by Naved and his friend Farhad Khan.
Naved told the hospital staff "she was his wife Zoya Siddiqui".
The hospital staff, however, found their activities suspicious as they both tried to flee after coming to know the woman had died. Both were arrested after it was found that they had entered incorrect details in hospital records. —IANS