Christians Secretly Forced to Re-Convert to Hinduism in India

Sunday, April 28, 2002

Hindu Militants Call for an End to Christian Proselytizing
by Abhijeet Prabhu

BANGALORE, India (Compass) -- The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Organization, VHP) is secretly conducting large-scale conversion drives in India's Marxist-ruled state of West Bengal. More than 16 tribal Christians were forced to re-convert to Hinduism on April 22 at a purification ceremony in Chopra village in the Malda district about 300 kilometers from Calcutta, NGO sources said. Ten other animist tribals were also converted to Hinduism in the village.

The conversions were in violation of the law on conversion that requires converts to file court affidavits affirming their consent to change their religion. Ironically, the VHP has been accusing Christians of violating this same law. Christians have been strictly adhering to the letter of the law to the extent that classes on conversion laws and how to file affidavits are taught to missionaries at Bible colleges.

The converts at Chopra did not go through the process of filing affidavits. However, the VHP insists that they are exempt from these laws because when people convert to Hinduism it is not "conversion" but "homecoming," VHP leaders say.

District police chief Pankaj Dutta said he did not know of the conversions. However, sources say that the VHP is actively sponsoring large-scale conversion drives but is careful that reports of its activities do not leak out in the state. The VHP is wary of the ruling Marxist government, which is known to be unsympathetic to the Hindutva (Hindu nationalism) cause.

Police say they would like to intervene, but seldom are aware of the conversion drives because the VHP no longer publicizes them.

Over 300 Christians have been converted in the last few months, sources said. The converts were required to undergo a fire ritual, fast, bathe in a pond and chant Hindu prayers.

"If this is the case in a state where the government is hostile to militant Hinduism, you can imagine what it is like in states where the government is hand-in-glove with the saffron forces," Rev. Anand Mukherjee, pastor of a Baptist church in Calcutta, told Compass.

Meanwhile, despite the sixth round of talks between the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) and Christians at the United Theological College in Bangalore last month, and despite the final attempts of Christian leaders to convince the RSS leadership that force or finance is not behind conversions, RSS chief K. S. Sudarshan publicly called upon Hindus to guard against religious conversions.

"Hindus will soon turn into a minority in their own country if timely steps are not taken to check forcible religious conversions," Sudarshan said in the Hindu heartland of Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh, on April 7. He added that Christian missionaries were taking advantage of division in Hindu castes and sub-castes and missionaries were trying to promote Christianity in Asian nations by setting up schools and hospitals in the country. In addition, Muslim organizations wanted to convert India into an Islamic state, he stated.

Taking a cue from the RSS chief, a VHP leader said on April 13 that in a Hindu nation, no community will be allowed to take an evangelistic stance toward other religions. Also, religious groups, especially Christians and Muslims, will not be allowed to "forcibly convert" members from other communities. He alleged that large-scale Christian proselytizing was taking place among tribals because of the money being offered them.

Meanwhile, in the neighboring state of North-East India, the Tripura Baptist Christian Union (TBCU) has refused to mediate with outlawed militant groups like Naga Hu Hu in Nagaland after its chief minister, Manik Sarkar, in a recent press conference directly accused Christian missionaries of militancy in Tripura.

The Baptists made their position clear after Sarkar asked the church and Christian organizations to help restore peace in the troubled state.

TBCU Assistant General Secretary Rev. Dakshina Ranjan Reang said, "It is unfortunate that a section of political leaders, including the chief minister, are trying to blame Christian missions for the militancy." He said it was ironic that the Rama Krishna Mission and other Hindu religious institutions were never asked to play a mediating role. "They can play a better role because the majority of people in the state are non-Christians, while Christians constitute only three to four percent of the total population," he argued.

Copyright 2002, Compass News Direct.