'Re-conversion' efforts in multiple pockets linked to suspected goal of blanket ban

'Re-conversion' efforts in multiple pockets linked to suspected goal of blanket ban

By: || Updated: 22 Dec 2014 02:40 AM
New Delhi: From south to west, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) is keeping the "re-conversion" pot simmering, prompting a Jesuit priest to suggest that the real intention is to create an environment that facilitates a legislative ban on all conversions.




On a day over 30 people from Christian families were "re-converted" in Kerala, the VHP announced plans for a " ghar wapsi"(homecoming) programme in the tribal belt of Valsad in southern Gujarat on December 30.


The VHP, which claims to have brought nearly 500 tribals "back" into the Hindu fold at Arnai village in Valsad, said the upcoming programme would be much bigger in scale and size.


However, Ajit Solanki, the Valsad VHP secretary, refused to disclose the venue for the homecoming programme and said no permission would be sought for the event.


"We are not re-converting them, we are only facilitating their homecoming. So, permission is not required," Solanki said.


Valsad collector Vikrant Pandey could not be contacted to ascertain how the administration would respond. The Samajwadi Party government in Uttar Pradesh had clamped prohibitory orders in Aligarh, prompting a Sangh parivar outfit to call off a "re-conversion" camp on Christmas Day.


The Gujarat drive has been going on for the past one year, and the ongoing debate on "re-conversion" appears to have prompted the VHP to announce an intensification of the campaign.


Those who "returned to the fold" were from 12 villages. The VHP said all of them had become Christians over the past 15 years.


It also said the tribals "voluntarily" chose to "return to the fold" - a claim contested by Congress leader Sanjay Patwa.


"The poor tribals had been attracted towards Christianity because they benefited from the work of missionaries in education and health care in the remote villages. Now they have been given inducements and forced to re-convert. It's not voluntary as the VHP wants us to believe," Patwa said.


In Agra too, the parivar outfits had initially claimed the "re-conversion" was voluntary but later several families alleged they were promised inducements.


Fr Cedric Prakash, a Jesuit priest based in Ahmedabad, said the VHP drive was a "clever ploy" to foment unrest and create an atmosphere in which the Centre could promulgate a law banning conversions.


"They want to create an environment to bring in an anti-conversion law," Fr Prakash said.


BJP spokesperson I.K. Jadeja sought to distance the party from the programme. "We have nothing to say about such programmes. We have nothing to do with the VHP. We neither support nor oppose such programmes."


In southern Kerala, 33 men and women from nine Christian families were converted to Hinduism at two ceremonies organised by the VHP.


While 30 Christians from eight families "returned to the Hindu fold" in Alappuzha district, three others did so in Kollam. They were all subjected to a "purification" ritual. The Arya Samaj will do the paperwork for their new legal status.


M.C. Valsan, state organising secretary of the VHP, said all those who "re-converted" had voluntarily approached the organisation's workers through caste outfits active in their areas.


Valsan said that "re-conversions" had been happening before, too, and claimed it was the current "political atmosphere" that had turned them into a subject of discussion.


"What's wrong if a handful of them realise their mistake and want to return to their original faith?" he asked.


State home minister Ramesh Chennithala said an officer of the rank of additional director-general of police would probe the matter.


-The Telegraph, Calcutta


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