Fresh ‘conversions’ in UP, Bihar trigger tension

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, Bhagalpur/Lucknow
  • Updated: Dec 19, 2014 07:54 IST

The conversion row threatened to flare up again Thursday with reports that over 70 Hindus had embraced Christianity in two districts of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh and Hindu groups declaring they would hold immediate ‘ghar-wapsi’ programmes.

The development comes days after Sangh groups deferred conversion programmes on the RSS’ orders, and at a time when Rajya Sabha has failed to conduct any business due to clashes between the government and the Opposition on the issue.

In Bihar’s Bhagalpur, five residents of Barohiya village told the police they had not converted but expressed their “faith in Christ” as “they had been cured of illnesses”, SSP Vivek Kumar said. A police probe has not found any indication of force or persuasion but will continue “to fully ascertain the facts”, he added.

Locals said three of the five were persuaded by neighbours and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) activists to take a dip in the Ganga and worship at a temple to mark their “return to Hinduism”. One of them, Basudeo Mandal, was also made to remove crosses (Christian symbols) from his hut. Mandal said he used to organise prayer meetings in his house, and it was from these meetings that the conversion reports spread.

“Taking advantage of their poverty, some people motivated them to embrace another religion,” said RSS block in-charge Susajjan Kumar.

“Those who converted have returned to Hinduism. To create greater awareness among Hindus, we will soon visit other villages where conversion attempts have been made,” said Kumar, who visited Barohiya with other office-bearers on Wednesday.

In UP’s Bahraich district, a magisterial inquiry was ordered into the alleged conversion to Christianity of 70 Hindus in Kamlapuri village — which has been adopted by BJP MP Savitri Bai Phule under the PM’s model village scheme. Police have detained members of an NGO, India Hope Centre, SP RL Verma said. Like in Barohiya, villagers came to know of the alleged conversion on Sunday when the 70 assembled in a house for prayers in the presence of a priest.

However, many of the people questioned denied they had converted, saying they had simply gathered there to pray. Fearing action, many of them have locked their houses and fled, sources said.

Hindu Mahasabha member Mukesh Verma said the NGO had “motivated poor villagers to adopt Christianity” while doing flood relief work in August. He said Hindu groups would soon organise a reconversion in the village.

The BJP also jumped into the row with state party president Laxmikant Bajpai demanding “action should be taken against the organisation that allured and tricked the villagers to convert to Christianity”.

Phule wasn’t available for comment but her representative Sureshwar Singh said he’d spoken to the villagers, who had denied the charge. “But we are keeping a watch on missionary organisations as they had assembled the villagers for a Sunday prayer programme,” he added.

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