Christians won’t reconvert, face boycott in Jharkhand village
Five Christian families in a village of Latehar district are facing social boycott from the residents after their refusal to reconvert to Sarna, an indigenous tribal religion characterised by nature worship, despite intervention by the police.
Tetratola village in Banhardi panchayat at Latehar district have boycotted 5 Christian families for not reconverting to Sarna religion. Sarna is an indigenous tribal religion characterized by nature worship.
Motilal Oraon (30), a resident of Tetratola village in Banhardi panchayat, said he, along with the families of Luku Oraon, Banarsi Oraon, Marwari Oraon and Rajesh Lohra, were being asked to reconvert to Sarna by the village residents for the last few months. All the five families, comprising over 35 members, had converted to Christianity in 2012.
On April 10, the gram sabha asked them their final decision. When they refused to reconvert, the village residents unanimously decided to boycott them. The gram pradhan, Ramkeval Oraon, issued “orders” for their social boycott along with suspension of benefits from all government schemes, Motilal said.
According to the “order”, a copy of which is with HT, village residents were prohibited from either inviting them to any social events or participating in their events. A fine of Rs 1,000 would be imposed if the order was violated, it said.
The order, signed by over 100 village residents, also said that the agricultural land owned by the five families would be distributed among their nearest relatives who were still Sarna. It also said their ration cards, along with membership of local self-help and women’s groups, would be suspended.
“Besides facing the social boycott, we were also not allowed to use water from the village well and hand pump. Ration shop was out of bounds for us,” Motilal said.
On Monday, Chandwa police station officer-in-charge, Mohan Pandey, conducted a meeting with village residents, who said the officer tried to pacify them and settle the issue.
Village mukhiya’s husband Chandradeo Oraon said he was attending to the affairs of the village as his wife, Kaliya Oraon, was not present in the village. He said residents had unanimously boycotted the five families. But after the police officer conducted the meeting, they decided that the five families would not be denied any benefits in state-sponsored schemes nor would their land be divided. But their social boycott would continue, he said.
Motilal said the ban on their use of water drawn from village well and hand pump was lifted. They were also promised that rations would be provided to them.
Pandey, however, denied that the village residents had boycotted the five families. He said a small matter was being blown out of proportion.
In February, Chief Minister Raghubar Das had announced in the state assembly that he would to recommend a separate religious code for Sarna to the central government.
Earlier, in September 2017, the Jharkhand Religious Freedom Act came into force. As per its provisions, anyone found converting or abetting conversion through force, allurement or fraudulent means, would be punished with imprisonment of up to three years or with fine up to Rs 50,000 or both. The imprisonment could go up to four years and the fine amount doubled if the person converted was a minor.