VHP moves Calcutta HC after Mamata Banerjee accuses it of converting tribals into Hinduism

Hidustan Times, Kolkata | By
Feb 05, 2020 07:40 PM IST

The VHP claimed that it only helped 133 poor couples to get married.

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday hit out at the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), accusing the organisation of converting tribal people into Hinduism and warning that the state administration would act tough to prevent such attempts.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee warned that the state administration would act tough to prevent proselytisation.(ANI)
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee warned that the state administration would act tough to prevent proselytisation.(ANI)

“Three days ago, in Malda district, tribal women were being converted in the name of marriage. I thank my administration that they acted. One VHP person has been arrested and the rest are evading the police. They are shameless,” Banerjee said while addressing a public meeting at Krishnanagar in Nadia district on Wednesday.

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Her remarks came following a clash between supporters of tribal outfit Jharkhand Disom Party (JDP) and workers of VHP on Sunday when JDP supporters allegedly vandalised the venue of a mass marriage event for tribal people organised by VHP’s dharma prasar wing in Malda district of north Bengal.

VHP leaders denied attempt to proselytise and attacked Banerjee saying her administration was acting against the interest of Hindus.

“It’s strange that the government turns blind when missionaries convert tribal people to Christianity but are booking our leaders and workers for merely doing social work. As many as 133 couples, all from economically backward backgrounds, were helped in getting married. What’s wrong in it?” said Sourish Mukherjee, spokesperson of VHP in West Bengal.

The police on Tuesday evening arrested one Shyamal Mandal, whose name did not feature among the 10 VHP organisers named in the FIR at Malda police station started on the basis of a complaint lodged by JDP leader Laxmiram Hasda.

Hasda wrote in his complaint that leaflets issued by VHP’s dharma prasar wing described tribal people as “Vanavasi (forest-dweller)” and “Girivasi (hill-dwellers)”, terms that he considered derogatory. He also alleged that tribal people who considered Sarna as their religion were being converted to Hindus.

The 10 people, including the organisation’s Malda district unit president Maloy Mukhopadhyay and district unit secretary Asit Kumar Sarkar, have been booked under section 298 of the Indian Penal Code (Uttering, words, etc., with deliberate intent to wound the religious feelings of any person) read with section 3 (2) (v) of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 (commits any offence under the IPC (45 of 1860) punishable with imprisonment for a term of ten years or more against a person or property on the ground that such person is a member of SC or ST community).

“Since lower courts do not have the authority to grant bail if one is charged under these sections, we have moved a bail petition in the Calcutta high court on Wednesday,” VHP’s Sourish Mukherjee said.

Manoj Tigga, the leader of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s legislative party in the state Assembly, said that Mamata Banerjee was highlighting Sarna religion to get back tribal votes that went to BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

“It is true that the tribal people consider Sarna as their religion but Sarna is also part of Hinduism. The chief minister is raising the issue in her desperate bid to win the hearts of the tribal people who are standing strong behind BJP in Bengal,” said Tigga, who himself belongs to the ST community.

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