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, August 10, 2006

Bishop Anantharaj’s tentacles reach villages in Tirunelveli

8/10/2006 1:41:40 PM www.newindpress.com

TIRUNELVELI: The tentacles of Bishop Anantharaj, who was arrested for having cheated building contractors of several crores of rupees have not spared even the contractors in the remotest villages near Kadayanallur in Tirunelveli district.

As he has already been arrested, some of the building contractors in Tirunelveli district have now come out in the open with complaints against Bishop Anantharaj.

Using his stature as a bishop, Anandaraj had set up a non-governmental organisation, rural development centre, and advertised in the media that he needed building contractors to build the housing projects that he had initiated to provide housing facility for the socially deprived section of the people in various parts of the state.

The fund for the free housing project, Anantharaj claimed would be given by foreign funding agencies. Several of the contractors through out the state fell prey to the bishop’s statement and paid 10 percent of the total cost of the project in their respective areas as demanded by the holy man to get the contract in their favour.

According to a building contractor, Kanagaraj of Mela Kadayanallur near here, he along with another contractor, Chandran of the same area approached the bishop to get the contract for a Rs 2 crore housing project.

As per the plan proposed by the bishop, Kanagaraj said that 300 free houses would be built for Adi Dravida people in Puthur Pothai village near Shencottai. When the contractors approached the personal assistant of the bishop, they were told that they should give Rs 20 lakh (10 percent of the cost of the total project) to the rural development centre in order to get the contract.

Accepting the risk of paying such a huge amount, Kanagaraj and Chandran mobilised the amount from some more contractors and paid the amount for the rural centre in two phases to the bishop and his personal assistant.

After having received the amount from the contractors, Bishop Anantharaj organised a bhoomi pooja function at Puthur Pothai village marking the commencement of the housing project. Anatharaj was also said to have handed over a cheque for Rs 50 lakh to the contractor duo – Kanagaraj and Chandran.

However, the true colour of the bishop came to light when the cheque he gave bounced. Owing to the pressure exerted by the other contractors, Chandran and Kanagaraj went to see the bishop in Chennai. However, every time they went they were told that he was out on tour. This created great mental stress to contractor Chandran, who consequently lay bed ridden and passed away two months back.

When Kanagaraj was asked why they had not lodged a complaint against the bishop, he said that at that stage they wanted to recover their money by whatever means and hence desisted from complaining to the police as it would further complicate matters.

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