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.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Report Blames Missionaries for Violence in Jhabua

Bhopal, July 10, 2005
Hindustan Times

The State Government is considering amendments in the Religious Freedom Act to check conversions in tribal areas. The move is its follow-up to the Narendra Prasad inquiry committee that had, on May 21, submitted its report on last year’s violent incidents in Jhabua.

Besides blaming the missionaries and the government machinery for the ‘huge’ conversion of tribals there, the report said the conversions were the main reason for the violence in the district.

As the basis for its startling revelation, the report cited the Census data for 1991-2001 which reportedly shows the Christian population in Jhabua had increased by as much as 80 per cent in a decade.

Meanwhile the state government has taken serious note of the information about the conversions not being furnished in the last 36 years since 1969 either to the Collector or to the State Government by the Collectors concerned.

The state government had instituted the one-member inquiry committee of retired director general of police Narendra Prasad on February 27, 2004, following violence in Jhabua after a minor girl hailing from a missionary school was raped and murdered in January.

According to an official release, Collectors of the predominantly tribal districts and the Department of Tribal Welfare would be questioned about the conversions and necessary action taken against them.

The Government is also considering seeking information from the Collectors posted in Jhabua in previous years. A high-level meeting of officers posted in the predominantly tribal districts and other officers concerned is being convened in Bhopal.

Provisions of the Religious Freedom Act, 1968, make it mandatory to inform the Collector about conversion. The Act has a provision for maintaining a register by the Collector showing details about conversion and informing the state government about it by the 10th of every month.

The report says nobody cared why these provisions were not followed. It further says half-hearted implementation of government schemes by development departments had pushed the poverty-stricken tribals into the missionaries’ hands and made them get converted.

Referring to the education, health, cooperatives, revenue, social welfare and agriculture departments, the report said, “laxity and inefficiency pushed tribals towards the missionaries, which succeeded with foreign money, educational institutions, hostels and hospitals.

A Central Government report states that as many as 454 NGOs in Madhya Pradesh had received Rs 94 crore as foreign aid in 2000-2001 alone.

The report also mentions the rape of two nuns in Navapada in Jhabua on September 23, 1998 in which 10 accused got life term and six others were given two years rigorous punishment. Of these 16 culprits, 14 were Christians and two Hindus, though the incident was projected at the international level as an atrocity against Christians by Hindus in India — especially in Madhya Pradesh, the report said.

The report also underlines opening Technical and Vocational Training Centre at Bhopal with help from an American university and financial aid from the Union Carbide by the president of the Madhya Pradesh Christian Association, Indira Ayengar.

Three foreigners were working with the Centre which was closed following objections raised by security agencies. The report said conversions were said to be the main reason behind widening chasm between Hindus and Christians in Jhabua.

The report underlined the laws enacted in Orissa, Arunachal Pradesh, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu. It also suggested implementation of the recommendations of six-member commission headed by Justice Dr Bhavani Shankar Niyogi in 1954, constituted during the chief ministership of Pt Ravi Shankar Shukla.

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