The Uttar Pradesh Police on Wednesday issued a state-wide alert in view of plans by Hindu groups to hold more conversion programmes this month.
“All SPs have been told to remain vigilant and monitor the activities of groups involved in conversions,” said additional DG Mukul Goel. “Police can’t stop a person from choosing or adopting a religion. But if there is a complaint of forced conversion, we will act against the organisation concerned.”
Hindu Yuva Vahini, an outfit floated by firebrand Bharatiya Janata Party MP from Gorakhpur Yogi Adityanath, will reconvert people to Hinduism in a programme at Ghazipur in eastern Uttar Pradesh, a leader said.
This comes amid a denial by 57 Muslim families of claims made by hard-line Hindu groups Dharma Jagaran Manch and Bajrang Dal's that they have switched to Hinduism. These families say they were tricked into a conversion event couched as a "homecoming ceremony" in Agra.
"We have taken permission from the administration [for the event] and hopefully we would reconvert 2,000 people in Ghazipur on December 18," Sunil Singh, state president of the Vahini, told HT.
Then on Christmas (December 25), the Dharma Jagaran Manch (DJM) — which was behind the Agra conversions — plans to bring “5,000 Christians and Muslims into Hinduism” in Aligarh, according to regional head Rajeshwar Singh.
Adityanath is expected to be present at the Aligarh event, added Bajrang Dal activists involved in the preparations.
Singh claimed several Muslims from Gorakhpur wanted to convert to Hinduism. He also said his organisation reconverted 1,200 people in Kushinagar district two months ago.
"The Hindu Yuva Vahini plays a key role in ghar wapasi (homecoming) of people who have embraced Christianity or Islam by coercion or otherwise," he said.
He, however, denied charges that people were reconverted to Hinduism at the Gorakhnath temple in Gorakhpur.
The Gorakhnath temple, the seat of spiritual power of the Nath sect of ascetics, is rumoured to be behind reconversion efforts in this part of eastern Uttar Pradesh for many years.
But he did concede that the new converts received blessings at the shrine.
Despite such denials, reports say the practice of conversion at the Gorakhnath temple is on since the time of Digvijaynath, predecessor of Adityanath's mentor Mahant Avaidyanath who died earlier this year. Adityanath is the current head priest of the temple.
"Conversion was prevalent in the temple since the days of Digvijaynath but it was not coercive. People willingly accepted the religion," said a person closely associated with the temple.
Avaidyanth continued the tradition after that, he added.
Ram Janam Singh, retired principal of Maharana Pratap Inter College and close associate of Avaidyanath, said the mahant had launched a drive for those who wished to adopt Hinduism.
The Vahini made headlines two years ago when it demanded reconversion of poor Hindu villagers who had allegedly embraced Christianity in lieu of money in a village at Campiarganj, recalled journalist and social activist Manoj Singh.
The unrest forced a Christian missionary to abort his prayer meetings at Campiarganj.
Manoj added there was no conversion and the poor had just participated in prayer meetings.
"The Hindu Yuva Vahini has repeatedly raised the issue of conversion but their allegations have been found to be baseless most of the time," he said.