Despite an atmosphere of uncertainty and fears that some organisations might disrupt the proceedings, the Ghar Wapsi (homecoming) function of the Dharam Jagran Manch, a wing of the RSS, went off smoothly on Tuesday as they succeeded in persuading 23 Christian families to embrace Sikhism.
The function was held at Baba Jeevan Singh ji gurdwara in nearby Guru-ki-Wadali village. All families that announced to come back to Sikhism were Mazbhis, a scheduled caste community. These families had left Sikhism and embraced Christianity several years ago; so, the conversion was given the name Ghar Wapsi or homecoming.
Though the Jagran Manch claimed to have converted 128 people, including women and children, the number was not more than a hundred. A majority of those who embraced Sikhism belonged to Guru-ki-Wadali village. In fact, more than half of those present in the gurdwara were women.
'Ardas' (prayer) was performed by the gurdwara priest to welcome these families into Sikhism. Each member was presented with a sirpoa by the gurdwara management committee members and a chain with an amulet having an image of Guru Gobind Singh.
The families took a vow never to leave Sikhism.
Claim they were misled
Talking to mediapersons later, some of the families claimed that they had made a mistake by becoming Christians. "I used to keep ill and about seven years ago, a priest told me to become a Christian and all my woes would be over. My family became Christians. However, my illness has continued," said Surjit Kaur, a woman of Wadala village who had come with her son and daughter-in-law. The three claimed that their relatives had for long been persuading them to return to the Sikh fold.
Most of them spoke in similar tones, claiming that Christian priests had misled them. A few claimed that allurements like free education and health services influenced them.
Enact law against conversions
Dharam Jagran Manch state head Ram Gopal said the Manch was willing to help all, even the SGPC to bring back Sikhs to Sikhism.
He said the Mazhbi Sikhs and Valmikis, who had shunned their religion due to allurements were now realising their mistake and were returning to their respective religions. He appealed to the Punjab government to enact a law that would ban religious conversions in the state.
Jagran Manch's state planning chief Dinesh Sharma claimed that the Christian missionaries under the Azad Mission were converting Sikhs and Valmikis of Majha and Doaba into Christianity by alluring them with false promises.
The proceedings that lasted for over three hours passed off peacefully.
Barring one Sofia and her family, a majority had converted to Christianity in the past five to 10 years. Sofia, however, does not know when her family gave up Sikhism and embraced Christianity. She has no plans of changing her name and that of her children even after becoming Sikhs.
Mixed reactions from SGPC
Efforts to contact SGPC chief Avtar Singh Makkar and Satbir Singh, head of the Dharam Prachar Committee of the gurdwara committee, proved futile.
However, additional secretary Daljit Singh Bedi said, "We welcome the conversion as the families were converted back to Sikhism. The ceremony was conducted as per Sikh rituals and it would have been better if the Jagran Manch had contacted the SGPC."
SGPC member Kiranjyot Kaur said, "Conversions are against Sikhism, which respects all religions. I don't know what system the Jagran Manch adopted. But Sikhism is against the concept of persuading people to adopt a particular religion."