Samyala (AsiaNews/Agencies) One of the most hard-line Hindu fundamentalist groups, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP or World Hindu Council), has built a Hindutva (Hindu nationalist) boarding school in Padra in the state of Gujarat to educate Tribal children they deem 'lost Hindus' about Hinduism.
The first group of pupils in the new institution is made of 20 boys from refugee camps in Tripura, a state bordering Bangladesh.
The boys are Mizoram Riyang Tribals and were sent to the school by the VHP's sister organisation, the Uttar Purwanchal Jan Jati Samity.
Parents were induced to send them to this school with promises of a good education for their children. Currently though, this education amounts to teaching Hindu prayers and VHP slogans whilst more traditional lessons are dispensed in Gujarati, Hindi and English in high schools in the towns of Padra and Vadodara.
Another group of 20 pupils are expected at the school for this June.
For years, Hindu fundamentalist movements have been accusing Christians of proselytising, arguing that the latter exploit Tribals' poverty to draw them to Christianity.
Last week, as he was inaugurating the boarding school, the Shri Guruji Purwanachal Chhatralaya Ashok SinghalVHP executive president said: "Hindus in north-eastern India are under the great threat of Christian terrorism and Islamic infiltration from Bangladesh. We need the right force to defend our faith from these attacks and this boarding school is part of our efforts in that direction".
The VHP changed the names of some of these Tribals, ostensibly "to make pronouncing them easier".
"My parents are farmers in a village in Tripura," said Lalrinthangba (now called Lalji) who is attending third grade at the Geb School in Vadodara, "and one day a certain Dr Dhananjay got in touch with them and offered them to educate me. Everything is going well here".
Lalamarpe, who is the eldest of the kids, was brought here when organisers were having communication problems with the pupils. Now called Naresh, he was Christian, went to church and attended the Mary John School in Aizwal.
"Dr Dhananjay told my parents that Praveen Togadia (the VHP's secretary general) wanted young people from the community to take part in a social project," he said. "I didn't want to but my parents decided it was best for me and for my education. Now we are all Hindus except one brother who is still Christian".
"[Now,]I want to become a Member of Parliament and be an activist like Dr Dhananjay. I'll talk to my people and teach them Hindi and Hindu values."
Arvind Brahbhatt, VHP organisational chief for Gujarat and Rajasthan, said: "We are helping the lost Hindus assimilate the Bharat bhakti [Bharat devotional practices] and the Hindu sanskar (Hindu religious terminology)."
"[And] they'll do the same with their own people once they go home," he added, also stating that another 35 children from Tripura and Assam are being educated in a similar boarding school in Banswada, Rajasthan.