The Conversion Agenda

"Freedom to convert" is counterproductive as a generalized doctrine. It fails to come to terms with the complex interrelationships between self and society that make the concept of individual choice meaningful. Hence, religious conversion undermines, and in extremes would dissolve, that individual autonomy and human freedom.

Tuesday, April 13, 1999

Court stops father's forcible conversion attempt

by Bibhuti Mishra in Bhubaneshwar
Publication: Rediff on Net
Date: April 13, 1999

Gouri Raul (17) and her twin brother Gautam had complained that their father Giridhari Raul had tried to forcibly convert them to Christianity on March 18.

The police did nothing but a voluntary organisation, Centre for Child and Women Development, came to their rescue and filed a petition in the Orissa High Court on March 27 seeking the court's intervention in protecting the children from their father.

The police, urged on by the court, probed the case then and confirmed the allegation. So the court appointed their neighbours, K R Panigrahi and his wife, as the guardians.

"It's only the first battle won in a prolonged war; now we will press for grant of maintenance for the children," says CCWD secretary Sadasiv Swain. But this is not a communal issue.

According to Gouri, her mother Uma died in hospital on March 16 of breast cancer. Uma was taken to hospital against her husband's wishes after she began gasping for breath.

He had tried to treat her breast cancer by offering prayers at Potta in Kerala and later at their home in Bhubaneswar. After Uma died, he had her body buried according to Christian rites. Girdidhari Raul was aided in this by his friends of the Union church.

"My father... was cruel to my mother when she was alive and, at the instance of his friends, took her to Kerala. After her death he tried to force me and my brother into Christianity... We feel totally insecure in his custody, " said Gouri.

Mrs Panigrahi, appointed the guardian by the court, says Giridhari Raul hoped to grab the mother's property by sending the children away.

The court has not addressed itself to the issue of exhuming Uma's body and getting it cremated as per Hindu rites, as desired by Gouri.

Sanjukta Sarkar, a social activist involved in the case says, "The communal angle needs to be downplayed here; what is of paramount importance is the welfare of the children."

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