The Catholic Church in Madhya Pradesh has strongly criticised the recent speech made by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Rajnath Singh on "mass illegal conversions" during a senior BJP leader's 75th birthday.
In a letter written to Singh on Thursday, copies of which have been sent to all senior BJP leaders, Anand Muttungal, public relations officer and spokesperson for the Catholic Church in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, said: "Since you did not have any attractive slogan to draw the support of Hindus to the next electoral battle, now you have chosen to incite Hindus by raising the slogan of conversion."
Drawing Singh's attention to the speech delivered on October 31 on the occasion of senior BJP leader Kailash Sarang's birthday in Bhopal, Muttungal has said that while all those present on the occasion restricted their speeches to praising Sarang's qualities and his contribution to the Jan Sangh, the whole atmosphere of the programme was vitiated by a highly controversial speech on "mass illegal conversions", made by Singh.
Muttungal pointed out that in the initial part of his speech Singh said, "Due to mass illegal conversions, the affairs in the North East are worrisome, 30 percent of the tribal population in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand have changed their religion."
"If there is some truth in what you say then it is not a worrisome sign for you alone but for the whole country. So it will be in the best interest of our country to ascertain all facts related to illegal conversions. We must take the service of all means possible including the Right to Information Act in this regard. Before deploring conversion, it will be very interesting to find out the reasons why people are changing their religion", Muttungal's letter said.
The priest cautioned that the Constitution of India guarantees freedom of religion and if it was not observed then "it will weaken the foundation of our country".
In his speech, Rajnath Singh had said, "Foreign missionaries were infiltrating into India and using illegal means to convert the masses. There is a threat to our internal security due to conversion."
Muttungal also highlighted the violence against minorities after the BJP came to power. "Every now and then churches, prayer centres, individuals, Christian educational institutions etc. are subjected to brutal attacks by anti-social elements. And the BJP government has not done anything concrete to stop them," he rued.
The priest appealed to the BJP chief to "stop making baseless and unsound allegations". Even a law to regulate conversion was sent back by the president calling it "unconstitutional," he recalled.