New Delhi (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Money, food, and ration cards to obtain state subsidies: that's how the radical Hindu Bajrang Dal have converted 57 Muslim families - about 300 people - to Hinduism. The ghar wapsi ceremony, the "return to home" as the fundamentalists call it, was held in Agra on this past December 8, and it is only the last such of a series that have taken place in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.
The families involved are composed mostly of poor people from Bangladesh. "We were asked to attend the event - said some - in order to receive ration cards and to enroll our names on the voters list. We did not know it was a conversion ceremony." Others knew what was coming, but "we underwent pressure and were afraid. They made us wash the idols of a Hindu goddess and forced us to say we were happy."
"We are poor people - one of them added - if our employers sacked us we would have nowhere to go. What we could do but say yes?".
The news has pushed the opposition (led by Congress) to submit a parliamentary inquiry asking the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Hindu ultranationalist party at the helm of the central government to clear the air on the issue. The BJP is in fact hand-in-glove with groups like the Bajrang Dal and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS, paramilitary), both of them perpetrators of violence against ethnic and religious minorities in the country.
For the moment, the government has expressed an "anti-conversion or reconversion where you use force or bribery" stance. However, the fact is that - since the BJP came to power - the cases of persecution against Christians and Muslims have increased, as well as incidents of forced conversion or so-called "return to home" episodes.
In these very days, the RSS has "promised" a great ghar Wapsi ceremony for the coming December 25, during which 4 thousand Christian families and 1,000 Muslim families of Aligarh will return to Hinduism.