The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh plans to launch a host of special projects to lift the educational standards of tribals in a bid to counter what it believes is the threat of conversion faced by “‘ignorant” adivasis.
RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat is learnt to have told sangh volunteers working among tribal people to step up their activities and launch special prakalps, or service projects, to increase awareness and lift their educational standards.
“Bhagwat said adivasis are vulnerable to conversion by Christian missionaries because they are ignorant. He suggested that special projects should be taken up to address their educational and other needs,” a source told HT.
The plans come against the backdrop of a controversy over a so-called ghar wapsi programme by hardline Hindu groups to convert Muslims and Christians to Hinduism. Bhagwat is attending a four-day Chintan Shivir of the Vansasi Kalyan Ashram (VKA), an offshoot of the RSS, in Chitrakoot in Madhya Pradesh.
The Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha of the RSS, in a March 13-15 meeting in Nagpur, had set out some targets for its affiliates and the Chintav Shivir is an effort by the VKA to streamline its efforts to meet them. The VKA already runs over 50,000 single teacher schools in tribal-dominated areas along with other projects like hospitals and charitable organisations to provide education up to class four.
RSS sources said the VKA would come out with an ‘action plan’ after the completion of the shivir, which will discuss the challenges faced by adivasis, the most important being the issue of conversion. “I don’t know what Bhagwat ji said at Chitrakoot, but the view of the government and that of the RSS on religious freedom and religious conversion is not different. We have already expressed our willingness to ban religious conversion through force, allurement or coercion, provided the opposition is ready to support,” a minister in the Narendra Modi government said.