The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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VHP converts six families

Malda, Aug. 22: Sakiruddin became Samiran and Michael became Raja as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal converted one Muslim and five Christian families in a yagna in Habibpur block today.

The district administration had no clue about the conversion even hours after it took place at the Bharat Sevashram Sangha Ashram at Tajpur village, about 30 km from Malda. The Christian families, all of them tribal, were from Serampore and Kendua villages under the Habibpur police station, while the Muslim family was from Suryadighi in Gajol.

“We have not received any information on any conversion. But we will take action if anyone has converted anybody against their will,” district magistrate Ashok Bala said.

Superintendent of police Pankaj Dutta said he had not heard about it. “We got no prior information that any conversion would take place in any village,” he said.

VHP district president Parameshwar Mushaddi, who was present at the ceremony, said 15 people from six families were converted at the ashram. “They converted on their own. We only helped them,” he said. But the converted families told a different tale.

Sakiruddin Sabji, a labourer, who converted with his wife and two children, said he had been assured that his children would be given “free education” at the ashram school at Tajpur.

Sakiruddin said he had changed his and his family’s first-and-last names in an affidavit on August 16. While the man became Samiran Choudhury, his wife Banu Begam became Bandana.

Raja Hansda, who gave up his Christian name today, said VHP officials had told him his family would get “a lot of benefits” from “the Indian government if we become Hindus”. “They have already given us these new clothes,” he said, holding them out.

At Tajpur, lying along the Malda-Habibpur state highway, the ceremony began around 11 am at the sprawling ashram, with puja and yagna. The 15 were converted separately, to the shouts of jai Sri Ram. The puja ended around 3 pm, with all the families treated to a sumptuous vegetarian meal.

Swami Jibananda, the ashram head, however, said the Bharat Sevashram Sangha had nothing to do with the conversion. “We hosted it at the request of the VHP.”

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