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Agra conversion row: Govt offers law; radicals unfazed

Nearly 57 Muslim families living in a slum on Agra's outskirts reportedly embraced Hinduism on Monday. They, however, contested the claim later, saying they were tricked into a conversion event couched as a 'homecoming ceremony'.

india Updated: Dec 11, 2014 21:07 IST
HT Correspondent and Agencies
HT Correspondent and Agencies
Agra conversion row,Muslims,Hinduism

The government offered to bring a law on religious conversion amid opposition pressure in Parliament on Thursday over the Agra controversy and tension in Aligarh and other sensitive areas where hard-line Hindu groups were aggressively pushing ahead their “reconversion” programmes.

“The government is ready to discuss and build a consensus on having a legislation on (religious) conversion,” parliamentary affairs minister M Venkaiah Naidu said in the Lok Sabha after Opposition MPs shouted slogans demanding a debate and an adjournment motion on the Agra incident in which 57 poor Muslim familieswere apparently tricked to switch to Hinduism at a camp hosted by the Dharam Jagaran Samiti and the Bajrang Dal.

The Opposition also demanded an adjournment motion, saying incidents like the one in Agra could ignite riots. “They (organisers of religious conversions) are bringing the country a bad name and sowing seeds of poison,” said Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge.

When Parliament was debating the situation arising out of the Agra incident, an explosive letter surfaced in Agra in which Dharam Jagran Samitileader Rajeshwer Singh has outlined the target, expenditure and achievement of his organisation to its cadre.

Setting a goal of 50 events this year to convert 100,000 Muslims and Christians, the letter seeks donations to go ahead with its proposed programmes, called ghar wapsi or homecoming ceremonies.

It calls for help from each volunteer to at least fund one event, saying Rs 5 lakh is required to “reconvert” a Muslim while expenses on problems related to a Christian come to Rs 2 lakh.

The letter says such ceremonies have “brought back” to Hinduism 40,000 people, including 2,000 Muslims, in 20 districts.

In communally-sensitive Aligarh, the Dharam Jagaran Samiti and the VHP announced their plan to “reconvert” 5,000 Christians and 1,000 Muslims at a function on Christmas.

They said Hindus would be appealed to welcome the “reconverted” Muslims and Christians, who had apparently switched faith from Hinduism some time in history.

Firebrand BJP leader Yogi Adityanath, who is the MP for Gorakhpur, and other senior leaders of RSS and VHP offshoots are likely to attend the programme to be held on a college campus.

The Hindu Yuva Vahini that Adityanath had floated, too, has a plan to convert over 2,000 people at a similar programme at Ghazipur in eastern Uttar Pradesh on December 18.

Muslim groups and political parties not aligned with the BJP demanded the governments at the Centre and the state to restrain the radical Hindu outfits.

Security in Aligarh was strengthened to prevent any violence. Senior superintendent of police J Ravindra Gaud promised swift action on any complaint of forced conversion.

First Published: Dec 11, 2014 12:57 IST