RSS converts 53 families in drive to make block in Jharkhand ‘Christianity-free’
RSS believes the villages, part of the Sindri panchayat, have been ‘hijacked’ by Christian missionaries over the last 10 years.
At least 53 families in five tribal-dominated villages “returned to Hindu fold” in the last one month as part of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s “Christianity-free” block campaign in Jharkhand’s Arki, RSS workers have said.
These families live in villages that are part of the Sindri panchayat, which the RSS, the ideological parent of the BJP that is in power in the mineral-rich state, says has been “hijacked” by Christian missionaries over the last 10 years.
The alleged ghar wapsi, sources said, would continue throughout April.
“You cannot call it conversion. We are only bringing our lost brothers and sisters back to their religion,” said RSS Saiyojak Laxman Singh Munda, who is spearheading the campaign.
“We want a Christianity-free block. The villagers will soon return to their roots.”
The tribals were lured into Christianity by the missionaries, said Munda, who is also the BJP’s deputy president of Khunti district in which Sindri panchayat falls.
Ghar wapsi, the Hindi word for homecoming, is the proselytising campaign launched by some Hindu outfits to convert non-Hindus and “bringing them back into the fold of Hinduism”.
The RSS and its various affiliates have been accused of terrorising and forcing people into changing their religion.
On April 7, at least seven Christian families – including tribals and non-tribals — underwent a Shuddhikaran, or a purification ceremony in Kochasindhri village.
Sandalwood paste was smeared on their foreheads, their feet washed and a Tilak performed by local Hindu priests.
Tribals account for 26.2% of Jharkhand’s population of 33 million. Around 4.5% of these tribals are Christians while the remaining follow the Sarna code.
Over the years, several tribals in Jharkhand have embraced Christianity.
The state government in Jharkhand, too, has been expressing concern over proselytisation of tribals. Chief minister Raghubar Das has warned strictest possible action against forcing tribals into changing their faith.
RSS workers along with the members of the NGO Vanvasi Kalyan Kendra went house to house to convince the tribals and also held public meetings to “expose” how the missionaries were taking them away from their roots.
The RSS didn’t force them but in fact enlightened them about the importance of sticking to their roots, said Dashrath Munda, head of one of the families that attended the April 7 ceremony.
“Nobody was forced. Some of the families refused to get converted and were not included in the ceremony,” he said.
The RSS was worried that if Sarna tribals convert to Christianity, they could pose a threat to Hinduism, Sarna Dharamguru (faith leader) Bandhan Tigga said.
He said ‘Ghar Wapsi’ campaign had picked up under the BJP rule. “When the CM himself talks of conversion at public platforms, it is evident that RSS’s activities will gain momentum,” Tigga said.
Though Sarna tribe worships Mother Nature and claims to belong to a non-Hindu, non-Muslim and non-Christian faith they are recognised as Hindus in the census and other socio-economic surveys.
The tribe has been petitioning the government to be recognised as a separate faith.
Tigga didn’t condemn the campaign but said conversions shouldn’t be forced.
The practice was wrong as tribals were not Hindus and worshipped nature, activist Father Sten Swamy said.
“If at all this is happening, the tribals are being wronged since they are not Hindus. So, there is no question of ghar wapsi,” he said.