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.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Missionaries and Naxals inflaming passions in Kalinga Nagar

By Debasis Tripathy in Bhubaneswar

While the anti-industrial fire among the locals at the trouble-torn Kalinga Nagar is still burning, Christian missionaries, leftist ultras and different so-called secular political parties are busy fishing in troubled water of Orissa.

Although the much talked-about massacre occurred at Duburi Industrial Area in Jajpur district by police firing on January 2, causing the death of 13 persons, has been protested on almost all fronts, the leftists and the pastors are allegedly fuelling the fire. They reportedly induce the angry Vanvasis, unduly influencing them to wage a war against the nation. Open conversion bids have become the routine activities in these areas.

According to sources, the incident of January 2 and its nation-wide reaction have become a platform for some political parties and Naxal groups. Political parties—mainly Congress and CPI(M)—have used it as an opportunity to defame the government and other forces like Naxals are trying to colour it as an attack of the affluent on the proletariat Vanvasis. Above all, the Christian pastors have chalked out a unique plan—they entice the poor and innocent Vanvasis to accept Christianity. This illegal conversion bid is getting momentum as the government machinery appears to have become paralyzed in these areas for the last one month.

The remote villages under Kalinga Nagar Police Station like Nuagaon, Damaria, Gobarghti and Bamiagotha have been disconnected from the outer world due to road obstruction by the Vanvasis. Neither the government agency nor the cops are allowed to enter into these areas. Taking its advantage, Naxals and missionaries have opened their workshops of conversion and terror. Posters and pamphlets containing anti-national texts are being distributed among the locals. This correspondent visited some of those villages where literature relating to Christianity is being distributed. One of them is Su Sambad, published by Bible Society of India. In this booklet, it is written: “You will be rescued if you accept Christ as your Lord and Christianity as your religion.”

Some literate Vanvasis of this locality say that activists of the Cuttack-based Bible Society of India regularly visit their villages and distribute these texts among the locals. Films on Jesus are also displayed. Sakila Soren (35) of village Ambagadia says the pastors have visited his village five times since January 2 and he is being influenced to accept Christianity.

“The missionaries last came here on 2/2/06 and 3/2/06. They distributed the Bible and other books,” said Sakila Soren. Not only this Vanvasi youth, but others like him, have the same thing to narrate. One of the local organisations—Jajpur District People’s Forum—has also alleged about this foul play of conversion. Its spokesperson Udayanath Sahoo says: “In the past, the missionaries made several efforts to enter into this area, but the Vanvasis did not give them that chance. Now, taking the advantage of the mishap, they are portraying it as an attack of Hindus on Vanvasis.”

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