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.

Wednesday, January 08, 2003

The truth behind the recent Hindu-Christian conflict in Dangs

The Special Bench From : Ghelubhai Nayak
National Minorities Commission Dang Swaraj Ashram
Government of India Ahwa
District Dangs, Gujarat

Sub:- The truth behind the recent Hindu-Christian conflict in Dangs and South Gujarat Honorable members of the National Minorities Commission,

Myself and my elder brother, late Chottubhai Nayak, who was known as the Chotte Sardar of Dangs, came to Dangs in 1948 at the behest of late Sardar Patel for commencing tribal welfare actives in the backward region. Ever since then the Dang Swaraj Ashram, founded by Chottubhai, has been one of the foremost tribal welfare institutions in the area, Last week I became the recipient of the Gramseva Award of the Gujarat Vidyapith, Ahmedabad, the university established by Mahatama Gandhi in 1921. This should leave little doubt regarding my anntecedents.

Sirs, myself and many of my Gandhian colleagues condemn the violence being perpetrated in south Gujarat, particularly the attacks on churches, in the name of religion, However, we are anguished to bring to your notice the ground realities behind the recent violent incidents in Dangs which haven't come to the fore or have been deliberately ignored by the large sections of the media, which in turn has led to a one-sided media reporting and press statements thus vitiating the atmosphere further.

The fact is that there is no dearth of evidence to prove that the violence is a reaction to the organized conversion activities of the Christian missionaries in the area with means that are clearly questionable and even illegal. The single point program of the missionaries is to convert the tribals and in doing so they are often using means that go far beyond the reatm of social service and can even be called illegal. They have been using a curious mix of blindfaith and allurements to entice the innocent tribals into the Christian fold.

There have been quite incidents know which support the charge but this is not the time to go deeply into it. The population of converted tribals which was just around 500 when we came to Dangs in 1948 today reportedly stands around 35,000 to 40,000 which is over 30 per cent of the total tribal population of around 1.35 lakh in dangs.

The following facts are for your perusal in order to convince you and the entire country that the recent religious violence which began in Dangs on the Christmas day is clearly a reaction to the slow poisoning of the tribals by the Christian Missionaries after converting them and then inculcating a spirit in them which clearly goes against true secularism:

1) The violence in Dangs began on the Christmas day after some Christian youths peited stones on the rally of the Hindu Jagran Manch and burnt the jeep of a tribal participant in the rally. If the participants in the rally had raised filthy slogans against the Christians as alleged by them then they should have lodged complaint with the police instead of triggering violence.

2) The ireagainst Christians in the area has been rising for past few years and has reached a boil now because of the provocative activities of the Christians, under the influence of their preachers. There have been at least 15 instances in the past three years in Dangs where in the Christians, under the influence of their preachers, have desecrated idols of Lord Hanuman, who is worshipped in this area by large section of tribals for ages. In one incident in Gaadhvi village three years ago they urinated on an idol of Hanuman and later in jharsod village they crushed Hanuman's idol to pieces and threw it away in the river.

Then there have been several instances where tension has gripped a village on account of the Christians publicly calling Hindu Gods as shaitans, again under the influence of their preachers. Besides, one of the causes of the increasing tension is the refusal of the Christians tribals to contribute to the traditional tribal festivals under the influence of the preachers who poison them with antiidolatory sermons. This can be quickly verified by holding an independent inquiry.

3) Social conflicts in tribal families have greatly increased on account of the terror tactics of the converted tribal at the behest of the preachers. In many cases a tribal who accepts Christian faith starts pressurising his brother into accepting the faith and this often results in bloody fights over the issue. In one case recently when a person, who had not converted, went to live with his converted son and died in his house, he was buried by his Christian son in the graveyard without even telling his other brothers (who were all non-Christians)

In another case in October last I had to warned the district collector about the some Christians attempt to disturb peace when they twice beat up no less than the nephew of the former Bhil Raja of Linga (in Dangs) when he refused to marry his son to the daughter of Christian, who was forcing him to enter into the matrimonial alliance. The Christians of Linga have also been opposing the construction of a Hanuman temple on piece of land which is owned by the Raja of Linga, Bhavar Singh and on which they have no right.

The press release issued by the Chairman of the Minorities Commission appearing in the newspapers says that "the Commission owes a special responsibility to the holy land of Father of the Nation :Let me remind the honorable Chairman that the Father of the Nation had also denounced the conversion activity by Christian missionaries as a holt on humanity in the name of social service. Even Vinoba Bhave, the greatest saint that the country can boast of in the past several centuries, denounced conversion activity and called for a legal ban on any king of conversion. This can be cleared gleaned from the writings of these two greatest sons of India.

I have been a close witness to the entire episode in Dangs and I stand by whatever I have mentioned in is communication, which I hope the honorable bench will place on record. I also hope that this will prove usefull to you in arriving at the right conclusions. I am sending this communication through fax as I am unable to reach Ahmedabad on such a short notice. In case you need anty clarification kindly call me up on phone.

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