Jharkhand: BJP, RSS want like-minded people to head educational institutions
A joint meeting of the right-wing groups chaired by Amit Shah in Ranchi also called for scrapping of affiliation of institutions who are allegedly encouraging religious conversion.
The Bharatiya Janata Party and its ideological fountainhead RSS would like to see more people who subscribe to their ideology at the helm of educational institutions in Jharkhand, where the party is in power.
A meeting of the BJP and its affiliates held in Ranchi during the visit of party president Amit Shah on Saturday discussed the issue of “religious conversions at schools and colleges run by Christian missionaries and decided to press the state government to check their growth,” said an RSS leader who attended the close door meeting.
It was agreed at the meeting top press the BJP-led government of chief minister Raghubar Das to scrap affiliation of educational institutions that are allegedly directly or indirectly engaged in religious conversion, he said.
Besides the BJP and RSS, representatives of Akhil Bharatiya Vidhyarthi Parishad (ABVP), Seva Bharati, Vidhya Bharati and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) attended the meeting that was chaired by Shah.
“The meeting emphasised on improving the quality of education in both rural and urban areas by deputing officials who believe in Sangh’s ideology at the helm of the educational institutions,” said the RSS leader, who spoke on condition on anonymity.
Historically, Christian missionaries have had a strong presence in the tribal-dominated Jharkhand. They ran most of the prominent schools and colleges in the impoverished state, until the government expanded its educational network.
In recent decades, as the political influence of the BJP grew in the region, Jharkhand has also seen a strong expansion of educational institutions run by groups associated with the RSS, which is increasingly challenging the presence of the Christian missionaries, alleging they indulge in religious conversion under the pretext of offering education and other social services.
Earlier this year, the Jharkhand government rechristened the state’s oldest “Ranchi College” to “Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee University”. Mukherjee was the founder of the Bharatiya Jana Sangha, the forerunner to the BJP.
The renaming sparked angry protests from tribal students, who accused the government of “saffronising” higher education by suppressing students’ opinion and issuing diktats to please the RSS.
Saturday’s meeting of the Sangh affiliates also hailed the 1000-day old Raghubar Das government for its decision to introduce the controversial anti-conversion law, and resolved to implement the same effectively.
The Jharkhand Religious Freedom Act, 2017 put severe restriction on religious conversion. As per its provisions, anyone found violating the legislation would be imprisoned for three years and fined Rs. 50,000 or both, and four-year imprisonment and Rs 1 lakh fine, or both, if the person converted is a minor, woman or schedule caste or schedule tribe.
It also mandates a person converting willingly to inform the deputy commissioner about details such as time, place and the person who administers the conversion proceedings.
Pro-Christian tribal groups and opposition parties have condemned the law describing it another step by the RSS-BJP combine to victimise minorities in the state.