Hindu extremists convert 2,000 Christians in India
Published 03 January 2008 | Dibin Samuel, Christian Today India Correspondent
A Hindu group claims to have converted 2,000 tribal Christians to Hinduism in Gujarat.
According to UCA News, the conversion ceremony took place late December, at Vyara, 1,300 kilometers southwest of New Delhi. The town is the headquarters of newly created Tapi district.
Hindu groups alleged through media that they converted some 2,500 tribal Christians at a public function. Jesuit Father Stanny Jebamalai, who works in the area, confirmed to UCA News that some 2,000 Christians had joined Hinduism.
Since 1998, when the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power, tribal belts in the state have witnessed sporadic tension during the Christmas season.
Christian missionaries have been accused by the Hindu groups of exploiting tribal property and trying to forcefully convert people to Christianity promising money and jobs.
For the reconversion, "Hindu groups brought tribal Christians from Gujarat's Dangs and Tapi districts, as well as from neighboring Maharashtra state. In speeches at the gathering, Hindu leaders reportedly accused local Christians of joining with Maoists to fight Hindu landlords and convert more people to Christianity," reported UCA news.
Meanwhile, Tapi's deputy collector, NS Halbe told media that the function had government permission and that local authorities have confirmed the conversions.
Father Jebamalai told UCA News the "induced and forced" conversion of tribal Christians was aimed at creating "a sense of fear among Christians and prevent missioners from working in the area".
Christian leaders in the state say that Hindu radicals fear tribal and lower-caste people receiving an education because it may lead them not only to stop slaving for upper-caste Hindus but also to question the idea of high-caste superiority.
Christians in Gujarat have been persecuted, beaten and imprisoned in the state due to the growing presence of anti-Christian elements aiming to subdue Christianity.
In 2003 the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, which rules Gujarat, adopted the Freedom of Religion Act, in reality making any conversions illegal. Violators face up to three years of imprisonment and/or a fine of up to 50,000 rupees (around £650).