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, April 20, 2005

In Kerala even tsunami relief is communalised by the UDF

By Chandrasekhar

The Black Sunday of December 26 tsunami, which brought death and destruction in the coastal villages of South Kerala, has become a boon for the Christian organisations to harvest souls and to plant crosses in the remaining Hindu-dominated coastal pockets of Kollam-Alapuzha district.

Alappad village in Kollam district is the worst tsunami-affected area in which scores were killed and hundreds of houses destroyed. Incidentally, Alappad village is also the global headquarters of the Mata Amritanandamayi Mutt. Right from day one, under the direct supervision of Mata, and along with the total co-operation of the Sangh Parivar Seva Bharati, the Mutt has been organising relief camps and distributing food, etc. for thousands of Alappad residents to this day. Also the Mata promised to the Chief Minister, Oomen Chandy, to build pucca concrete, double-storeyed houses for all the 2,000 families who lost their houses in this natural tragedy. The Chief Minister later announced that Mata would be allowed to build 1,300 houses lost in the neighbourhood of the ashram, and the remaining 700 houses would be allotted to various other organisations like the Rotary Club, Lion's Club, YMCA and certain Christian organisations.

But this move was not acceptable to the Arya Samajams since most of the fishermen who lost their houses are Hindus and are devotees of the Mutt. Later in a total setback and on going back on his words, Oomen Chandy announced that only 450 houses would be allowed to the Mutt for construction and that remaining houses would be allotted to Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity and the Archdiocese of Kollam. This evoked a sharp response from the Hindu Arya Samajams since they felt that this was a concerted move on the part of Oomen Chandy and the Church to convert en-bloc the poor Hindu fishermen families to Christianity and to gain a foothold in the headquarters of the Mata.

The Araya Samajams also organised protest demonstrations when Sister Nirmala of Missionaries of Charity visited Alappad and declared that they would not occupy the houses except those built by the Ahsram.

A bid by the Kollam Archbishop to lay the foundation stone for houses proposed to be built by the Church was foiled by the Arya Samajams on 31st March. Thousands of persons comprising of men, women and children blocked all the approach roads to the village for more then three hours until the Bishop withdrew. They were supported by the RSS-inspired Seva Bharati which has been organising massive relief works involving Swayamsevaks from all over Kerala.

Participating in a day-long fast organised by the Arya Samajams in front of the Government Secretariat in Thiruvananthapuram, Shri O. Rajagopal, BJP leader and former Union Minister of State, warned that the decision to permit the Church-led organisations to construct houses in Alappad might invite serious consequences including bloodshed. He warned Oomen Chandy to back out from the move or face the music. He said that the sentiments of the people were in favour of living in houses built by the government or the Mutt. He said that the fishermen feared that they would be forced to convert to Christianity once they live in houses constructed by the Church. He also alleged that the missionaries were resorting to aggressive conversion techniques by offering money and jobs abroad. He charged the Chief Minister, Oomen Chandy, with having a hidden agenda in not allowing the Mutt to build all the houses but in inviting Christian organisations to do so.

The Hindu Aikya Vedi (HAV) state president, J. Sisupalan, has also warned of massive agitations against Oomen Chandy’s move to aid and abet conversion in the name of relief.

Meanwhile, VHP international president, Ashok Singhal flagged off a protest march from Alappad on April 7. After touring various coastal belts, it reached Thiruvananthapuram on April 12 where the VHP and HAV handed over a protest memorandum to the Chief Minister.

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