Maharashtra, 6,000 Christians reconverted to Hinduism by extremist groups
by Nirmala Carvalho
Reconversion occurs in a large-scale and highly publicised ceremony. According to the Global Council of Indian Christians, this kind of propaganda relies on the authorities’ complicity and is designed to “disrupt communal harmony”. Anti-Christian violence continues unabated.
Mumbai (AsiaNews) – At least 6,000 Christians reconverted to Hinduism because of the work of Swami Narendra Maharaj. The ceremony of their re-conversion was held yesterday in Thane, a place some 50 kilometres from Mumbai (Maharashtra). In the recent past, the same group celebrated the return of thousands of Christian converts to Hinduism (“Thousands converting back to Hinduism: truth, or propaganda?” in AsiaNews, 8 April 2009). In the meantime, anti-Christian violence continues unabated elsewhere in the country.
Led by Guru Narendra Maharaj, the group’s mission is to reconvert people to Hinduism. Twice a year, it organises large-scale ceremonies for the return to India’s traditional religion.
A spokesman for the group said that with the latest 6,000 the total number of re-conversions now stands at 94,000. He predicts that “within two years, the figure of 100,000 would be reached.”
This trend is strong in suburban Mumbai where the Swami Narendra Maharaj’s followers are supported by various other organisations that seek out and identify the people to reconvert.
For the spokesman, converts “are wretched men converted to Christianity by force” who go back to Hinduism “without compulsion or guarantee.”
Many radical Hindu groups accuse Christian Churches of carrying out forced conversions by providing economic incentives or through brainwashing. So far, no complaint has ever been taken to court. Such accusations do however provide justification for ceremonies like the one in Thane and for the violence inflicted upon Christians.
Sajan George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), spoke toAsiaNews about his deep disappointment with regard to the reconversion ceremony. It “is designed to disrupt communal harmony,” he said. What is more, “not only is it turned into a public spectacle but it is announced well in advance.”
The GCIC president is particularly upset by the authorities’ lack of action in letting a group like that of Swami Narendra Maharaj to use reconversion ceremonies for propaganda purposes.
“Where is the police now? Why does it remain silent when ceremonies like in Thane are staged?”
“Christians are arrested even when they assemble for prayers within the four walls of their own homes, or even if they are only distributing religious literature, which is a constitutional right,” Sajan George lamented.
Christians are charged by police under Sections 153A and 295A of the Indian Penal Code. Section 153A refers to “promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony.” Section 295A concerns “deliberate and malicious acts to outrage religious feelings.”
For George, only a discriminatory intent can explain the state machinery’s inaction. The authorities are overzealous in using the law against Christians, but turn into “mute spectators” when the reconversion of 6,000 Christians is banded about.
In the meantime, anti-Christian violence continues unabated, the GCIC president said. On Sunday in Madhya Pradesh, eleven extremists brutally assaulted a Protestant clergyman with hockey sticks right after Sunday worship. In Karnataka, some 50 Hindu radicals stormed an Assembly of God Church disrupting Sunday worship. The clergyman performing the service was beaten; Bibles were burnt and worshippers threatened.
According to data collected by the GCIC, hundreds of cases of anti-Christian violence in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa were recorded in 2009.
In States like Madhya Pradesh and Orissa as well as in Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat, there are anti-conversion laws that require would-be converts to go before public authorities to motivate their decision to change religion and demonstrate that they are not being forced to convert.
In cases of Hindus converting to Christianity, the law is respected to the letter, and is often used to prevent conversion. In cases involving non-Hindus or former Hindus (re)converting to Hinduism, the law is simply by-passed and public authorities do nothing to uphold it.