The RSS-sponsored Samajik Kumbh at Mandla, which is known for considerable tribal population and sizeable church presence, has created a sense of unease among Christians who fear they may be targets.
The Kumbh — where lakhs of people are expected to gather from February 10 to 12 — at Mandla, 95 km from here, is being seen as a show of strength by the RSS. There is buzz that it is aimed at "reconverting" Christian tribals and mobilising them in favour of the BJP. The state has pumped in both money, manpower for an event where the entire national brass of the Sangh will congregate. CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan is also expected on Thursday.
Critical of this "mixing of politics and religion", Church personnel have met the CM, district magistrate, and the superintendent of police fearing tensions. The Bishop of Jabalpur has formally requested the DM and SP for protection for Christians and their properties. Christian leaders have also submitted to the authorities "RSS literature" that generates hatred against the community, even painting a gloomy picture of dwindling Hindu numbers and "denationalisation" if "Christian conversions" are not checked.
Catholic Church personnel in Mandla, Dhindori, Jabalpur and other adjoining districts of Madhya Pradesh have set up a Christian helpline to assist any Christian who may face "trouble" in view of the RSS-sponsored Samajik Kumbh at Mandla, which is known for considerable tribal population and sizeable church presence.
The helpline is the cell phone number of a prominent church functionary, with the entire church structure in nearby districts being alerted — via e mail, phone calls and other means —to inform the helpline immediately about any trouble.
RSS leaders denied the suggestions that the gathering will create tension. "Some people from outside may be spreading rumours but many local Christian leaders have welcomed the Kumbh, which is an attempt to instill pride in our glorious traditions and bring all communities together...," RSS Akhil Bharatiya Prachar Pramukh Manmohan Vaidya told HT.