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.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Villagers Ostracised, Threatened For Not Converting To Christianity

BHUBANESWAR, April 14 2005

Twenty-two families belonging to the Mochi shoemaker community in Malabhanaja village of Ganjam district were allegedly ostracised for not embracing Christianity.

The aggrieved families had drawn the attention of the district administration to their plight but when they failed to get justice, they filed a public interest litigation (PIL) in the Orissa High Court.

Acting on the PIL, a two-member division Bench of the High Court comprising Chief Justice Sujit Burman Roy and Laxmikanta Mohapatra issued show-cause notices to the State Home department secretary, the district collector, the superintendent of police of Ganjam and officer in charge of Digapahandi police station under which Malabhanaja village falls.

The Nikhila Utkal Ambedkar Mochikula Samaj (NUAMS) that passed the ostracism orders on the 22 families has also been served the notice.

According to the PIL, NUAMS issued a notice to the residents of Malabhanaja September last year calling them for a meeting on the 12th of the same month. At the meeting, the participants were asked to convert to Christianity to be part of NUAMS. Those who disagreed were forced to pay a penalty of Rs. 21,501 and face ostracism. The 22 families of Malabhanaja who failed to attend the meeting were ostracised immediately.

According to rules, none of the members of the 22 ostracised families would be allowed to have any relationship with an outsider. They were also banned from marrying in any of the 21 surrounding villages. Besides all types of communication between Malabhanaja and other villages were cut off. Violators will be tied to a tree and severely beaten up.

The PIL seeks punitive measures against people responsible for such ostracism. When contacted, Rev. R. Chinnath of Bhubaneswar said conversion by force was frowned upon by Catholics and all kinds of coercion were illegal and unethical.


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