Panel in Jhabua district find no forced conversions. Tribals' interest in Christianity stems from love and care missionaries provide.
Jhabua (AsiaNews) In an official statement, John Dayal, chairman of the All India Christian Council, reports that a panel set up to investigate allegations of forced conversions levelled at Christians in the district of Jhabua (Madhya Pradesh) concluded that the accusations are baseless and unfounded.
That conclusion was reached after the panel toured the district from July 19 to the 21 meeting local representatives of Hindu organisations, Christian missionaries, public and party officials, government officials and social workers.
The panel, which visited Alirajpur, Meghnagar, Aamchoor, Jobat and a number of small villages in the district, stopped at both public and missionary-run schools and hospitals.
Most of the people panel members met denied the allegations made by Hindu extremists to the effect that Tribals are subject to forced conversions
Even Shri Mahesh Agarwal, a member of several Hindu organisations involved in the anti-conversion campaign, had to admit that in Jhabua many Tribals are drawn to Christianity because of the care and aid they receive from the missionaries and not because they are in any way forced or coerced.
Pintoo Jaiswal, the young vice chairman of the Alirajpur Municipal Corporation and a local leader in the Hindu fundamentalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), agreed.
Mr Jaiswal said there was absolutely no basis for the allegations of forced conversions. Instead, he said missionaries readily "embraced" and served Tribals in every way, whereas Hindus were hesitant to "even touch" them.
The missionaries also play a key role in providing education to the Tribals, so much so that Mr Jaiswal said that even his children were studying in Christian missionary schools.
"My children have never complained that any attempt was ever made to convert either them or any of their friends to Christianity", he said.
In the district of Jhabua, Fr Thomas P.T., from St. Michael's Parish Church, was arrested on July 21 on false accusations that he tried to induce some local Tribals, who wanted to send their children to the school he manages, to convert. He has since been released on bail.