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RSS sparks faith fears
- Christians scared of conversion at Sangh meet
(From top) Chauhan, Modi and Singh

Bhopal, Feb. 8: An RSS-sponsored congregation in Madhya Pradesh expected to a draw a million-strong crowd has stirred fear among Christians leaders that the event will be used for re-conversions to Hinduism.

The organisers of the Ma Narmada Samajik Kumbh (Narmada social congregation), to be held from February 10 to 12 in Mandla district on the river’s banks, are projecting it as a ghar wapsi (homecoming) celebration.

This has fanned Christian leaders’ concerns that the event will be used for reconversion in the BJP-ruled state. Their suspicion has also been stoked by lakhs of forms, printed by the organisers, saying the “signatory is re- converting on his or her free will”.

Chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan is expected to attend the gathering along with Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and his Chhattisgarh counterpart Raman Singh.

Organising secretary Rajendraji said reconversion was not on the agenda of the Narmada Kumbh but added that “if some tribals wish to rediscover their roots with Hindu faith, they will be welcomed with open arms”.

Another organiser, Rajkumar Matale, described Mandla’s “social congregation” as a follow-up to the Shabri Mahakumbh held in the tribal-dominated Dangs district of Gujarat in 2006. Incidentally, the Dangs event was a brainchild of Swami Aseemanand, now in jail in connection over the Samjhauta Express blast and other attacks.

Father Anand Muthungal, spokesperson for the Madhya Pradesh Catholic Church, today asked chief minister Chauhan to explain the true purpose of the event and cited a state law, the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, which requires anybody converting to another faith to give prior notice. He said he had information that many tribals who had earlier become Christians would be forced to sign forms to “reconvert.”

A “fact-finding team” of Christian leaders has produced offensive pamphlets, posters, banners and hoardings that they claimed was meant to spread hate against Christian missionaries ahead of the RSS show.

John Dayal, secretary-general of the All India Christian Council, said he feared the Narmada event would “poison the atmosphere”.

“We support the freedom of the majority community to hold such a massive religious event. But we fear that even if there is no violence or a forcible conversion of Christians to Hinduism during the kumbh, the Hindutva campaign will poison the atmosphere in Madhya Pradesh and will negatively impact relationships between Christians and tribals in the hamlets, villages and townships of the region (Mandla).”

Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh accused the BJP regime of diverting government funds for the kumbh. He claimed he had information that “crores” had been spent on housing, kitchen, toilets and other accommodation-related arrangements.

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