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, March 02, 2005

Proselytisers run amok

March 06, 05
Mystery death of Orissa schoolgirl; parents charge missionaries with harassment
From Sanjay Jena in Dhenkanal & Deepak Kumar Rath in Delhi

This is the ugly face of proselytising missionaries. They wanted an innocent family in Rameswarpur of Dhenkanal district in Orissa to convert to Christianity. As the family refused to shun their religion, their 14-year-old daughter, Jyotirmayee, was allegedly raped and killed and her mutilated body thrown to a nearby railway crossing in Dhenkanal.

This is the story of Alekh Bej family’s tryst with missionaries. “One day, three Christian leaders, Prashant Ghose, D. V. John Sarangi and Rabi Naik alias D'Souza came to my home and asked me to convert to their religion, Christianity,” Shri Bej said and added that they promised him help in the form of money and material in his only daughter Jyotirmayee’s marriage. However, Shri Bej turned down their proposal.

Then the local Church mandarins made a second attempt trying to allure Shri Bej’s wife Yasoda. “‘If you change over to Christianity, your daughter could get a good bridegroom as there are many well-to-do persons in our religion,’ Rabi Naik told me,” said a weeping Yasoda to Organiser and added that on that day, Shri Naik had threatened her with dire consequences if her family did not adopt Christianity.

Following this threat, Bej’s daughter Jyotirmayee, a student of Class VIII in Saudamini Smruti Vidyapeeth, was reported missing from her school. Jyotirmayee’s friends intimated her family about this. A concerned father went to the police station and reported the matter. But the local police did not take it seriously. The next morning, Jyotirmayee’s naked mutilated body was found on the railway tracks. With ample circumstantial evidence of Jyotirmayee being raped and murdered, the local people staged a road blockade demanding the arrest of the culprits.

In the FIR filed in the police station, Shri Alekh Bej has categorically mentioned names of Raju Naik, Rabi Naik and Ranjan Naik. “As I refused to convert, I had to face this consequence,” Shri Bej told Organiser.

Shri Jual Oram, Orissa BJP president, while talking to Organiser, said that the state BJP had sent a special delegation to Dhenkanal to enquire into the matter. BJP state organising secretary, Panchanana Rout, BJP vice president Nayan Mohanty, general secretary Suresh Pujari, Rajya Sabha MP Rudra Narayana Pani, former MP Anadi Sahoo, Mahila Morcha president Sanchita Mohanty and Mahila Morcha national secretary Simantini Jena were in the team and they discussed the issue with the Dhenkanal SP, local police and the public. Shri Oram said that due to carelessness on part of the local police the issue had gone to the extent that the state BJP would raise it in Parliament in the coming session. He added that this was an exposure of the missionary activities in the state as they were involved in conversio the state as they were involve the state as they were involved in conversioposure of the missionary activities in the state as the state as they were involved in conversioposure of the missionary activities in the state as they were involved in conversio the state as they were involv the state as they were involved in conversioposure of the missionary activities in the state as t the state as they were involved in conversioposure of the missi the state as they were involved in conversioposure of the missiP Legislative Party leader and senior minister, Bishwabhushan Harichandan, Revenue Minister Manmohan Samal, Prant Pracharak of RSS Ajit Mahapatra and other senior leaders of both the BJP and Hindu Jagaran Samukhya were present. Shri Harichandan, while talking to Organiser, said: “Every effort should be made to nab the culprit.” He said it was very suspicious that no lady doctor was present while the post mortem of the girl was being done.

Reacting to the incident, Shri Ashok Sahoo, president, Hindu Jagaran Samukhya, told Organiser that the Christian missionaries in Orissa were on a conversion spree to achieve their target by hook or by crook. Such inhuman tactics to get innocent Oriyas converted to Christianity by exploiting their poverty indicates that these missionaries can go to any extent. They appear to be emboldened after the UPA government came to power in the Centre. Shri Sahoo along with Girish Mahanta, state organising secretary, Hindu Jagaran Samukhya and Girish Mahanta met Sanjay Joshi, general secretary, BJP. Shri Joshi assured them that a Central team would be visiting Orissa to make an on-the-spot enquiry into the incidents of violence and conversion by the missionaries in Orissa.

“Christian organisations are on a warpath-accept their religion or face the music,” said what Subash Chouhan, state convenor of Bajrang Dal. Shri Chouhan identified the NGOs like Seventh Day Adventist (SDA), Merry Welfare Organisation and Baptist Church, who are working with foreign funds in Dhenkanal district and alluring people to switch over to Christianity. If they fail to allure, force is their alternative weapon, Shri Chouhan pointed out.

Though the body of Jyotirmayee was found on February 17, till February 21 no one was arrested. The Bej family is unable to understand the inaction on the part of police to arrest the culprits. The Bej family has accused the police station incharge, Jyoti Ranjan Mohapatra, and DSP Mandardhar Sahoo of conniving with the culprits and allowing them to go scot-free. With district SP on leave, the law perhaps is yet to take its course.


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