In perhaps the biggest ghar wapsi exercise in the state, about 150 tribals were converted at Khoramdanga village in Birbhum district on Wednesday. The ruling party threatened action if coercion, or force, was detected in the process. Central Viswa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leaders including Praveen Togadia were present at a rally held in the area.
According to locals, 98% of the residents of the village, close to the Jharkhand border, were Christians and on Wednesday, all of them were converted.
“Almost 15 to 20 years ago, our forefathers converted to Christianity. Now, we have converted back to Hinduism,” said Bani Murmu and Srimoti Tudu.
VHP district coordinator Churka Tudu said, “This was not a conversion but a home coming ceremony.”
The news triggered a barrage of criticism. “Bengal has a history of living in communal harmony and bigots like Togadia will be dealt with ruthlessly,” tweeted Trinamool Congress spokesperson Derek O’Brien.
“A rally was organised for the protection, socio-economic development of Hindus in Birbhum. About 15,000 people turned up at the rally,” said VHP international president Praveen Togadia.
Sachindra Nath Sinha, general secretary organisation (East) of VHP was less evasive. “We performed a yagna. Many people, including the tribals, from the village attended,” said Sinha.
“It is unfortunate that the BJP and VHP are politicising religion. They are misguiding the naïve tribals,” said Anubrata Mondal, Trinamool Congress district president.
CPI(M) district secretary Ram Chandra Dome also condemned the incident and said, “It is against our Constitution.”