02/24/2014, 00.00
INDIA
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Indian fundamentalist leader calls for an "immediate" stop to conversions . . . except to Hinduism

by Nirmala Carvalho
A leader of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), an extremist Hindu organisation responsible for attacks against the country's ethnic, religious and social minorities, made the anti-conversion statement recently. The "VHP wants to intimidate and persecute Christians by raising the bogeyman of conversions to instil Hindutva ideas in in the population," Christian leader said.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - "We must immediately stop conversions, or soon Hindus will be a minority in India," said Ashok Singhal, leader of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), a fundamentalist group that has a history of attacking the country's ethnic, religious and social minorities.

His remarks, which he made at a rally on Saturday in Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh) before a crowd of faithful, have drawn criticism from government officials and representatives of other religions, who described them as "inappropriate."

Sajan George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), told AsiaNews that we must "condemn in no uncertain terms the fascism of groups like the VHP, which endanger Indian democracy and secularism".

"Christians in India just want to enjoy their constitutional guarantees," the Protestant leader said, "in particular Article 25 of the Charter, which enshrines freedom of worship, practice and dissemination of their faith."

Ultimately, "Religious freedom is a basic human right," he added, "and the VHP wants to intimidate and persecute Christians by raising the bogeyman of conversions to instil Hindutva ideas in the population."

The VHP is inspired by Hindutva, a nationalist ideology centred on Hinduism whose aim is the establishment of a Hindu nation.

So-called anti-conversion laws have been adopted in some states ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which embodies the ideas of groups like the VHP.

In theory, these measures should prohibit any conversions by force or through money. In practice, they are often used to persecute minorities. In fact, if a Christian, a Buddhist or a Muslim converts to Hinduism there is nothing to stop them.

In addition to blocking conversions, Singhal wants Hindu families to have at least "five children" to prevent Christians and Muslims from outnumbering Hindus.

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