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Reconversion goes on unchecked

Reconversion goes on unchecked

Author: Chandrakant Naidu
Publication: The Hindustan Times
Date: May 8, 2002

As the Sangh Parivar gloats over its success in communalising tribals in Gujarat, its attempts at doing the same in other states has worried minorities. In Orissa, the Parivar is on overdrive to reconvert tribal Christians to Hinduism.

Even the Puri Shankara-charya helped re-convert nearly 80 Christians, at Manoharpur in Keonjhar district, where Australian missionary Graham Stewart Staines and his minor sons were burnt to death.

There have been frequent incidents of violence against Christians in the state. In July 1999, Father Arul Doss was murdered in Jamabani village. In August 2001, members of the Missionaries of Charity were attacked in Kandhamal district.

These incidents only intensified the conflict between the two communities. The Parivar has not done much to prevent conversion. But it has aggressively reconverted to expand its base.

VHP state secretary Gouri Prasad Rath says the Parishad is working towards the "upliftment of our own people" and not reacting to the missionaries.

"Unlike the missionaries who are resorting to allurements and fraud to convert the tribals, we are only welcoming back those who want to return to the Hindu fold voluntarily," says Rath.

In Jhabua and Dhar districts of Madhya Pradesh, bordering Gujarat, the Sangh Parivar has been operating for over 40 years. It runs hostels for the tribals. In 1998, four nuns were allegedly raped in this region triggering nation-wide protests.

But, on the political front, the BJP's gains were not commensurate with the efforts put into the communalisation of tribals.

The Jhabua-Ratlam Lok Sabha constituency returned a Congress nominee -- Kantilal Bhuria. The Congress also holds four of the five assembly seats in the belt.

With the creation of Chhattisgarh, a large chunk of the tribal population of Madhya Pradesh is now in the new state. Being reactive rather than proactive, the Parivar has failed to create substantial influence on the tribals in Chhattisgarh.

During the past three years, the VHP has opened about 600 schools for tribals in Chhattisgarh. Another 400 schools are being planned.

(With inputs from Soumyajit Pattnaik, Kumar Shakti Shekhar and Venugopal Pillai)

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