01/16/2019, 16.35
INDIA
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Minister Rajnath Singh calls for a national debate on mass conversions

by Nirmala Carvalho

For Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), "Mass conversions are carried out by right-wing groups, performing ghar-vapasi where extremists claim they are bringing lost sheep back into the fold” who had “allegedly been coerced away from their original religion”. Such “claims are baseless. Many tribal people required to take part in the ghar vapasi programmes were animists and never Hindus.”

New Delhi (AsiaNews) – Home Minister Rajnath Singh today expressed concern over mass conversions in the country and called for a national debate on the issue. Speaking at a meeting organised by Rashtriya Isai Mahasangh, a Christian group, he noted that mass conversions must be controlled.

At the meeting held in New Delhi yesterday, the minister said he supported the right to adhere to any religion, but he also said that he believed a debate was necessary since mass conversions are a serious issue.

"If someone accepts a religion on their own there shouldn't be objections but mass conversion is a matter of concern for any country. If you're Hindu be Hindu, if Muslim be Muslim, if Christian be Christian. Why do you want to convert the whole world?"

As for the government, he said it will not discriminate against anyone. "I have never discriminated on the basis of caste, creed and religion in my life. Whether or not we get votes. Whether or not we form the government, whether we win or lose. But we will never discriminate among people. This is what our prime minister feels," he said.

Singh noted that one cannot be in power and rule without love. "One can only rule with love. There is no other way," he explained.

"I would also say one thing on the Christian community. We do not want to level allegations against anybody. You may have also heard. If somebody wants to accept a religion, he should do that. There should not be any objection to it. But if mass conversion starts happening, a large number of people start changing their religion, then it could be a matter of concern for any country," Singh said.

In his view, in almost all countries, including Britain and America, minorities demand anti-conversion laws. "Here (in India) I see the majority demand [. . .] an anti-conversion law.” And this “is a matter of concern. It should not happen."

Citing a slogan in Sanskrit, the Home Affairs minister said: "we do not have an allergy with anyone". Nevertheless, he acknowledges that there have been attempts to create a sense of fear among people.

"BJP aa gayi Abbadbad hoga, you hoga wo hoga (the BJP has come. Now this or that will happen). We do not want to run the country by instilling a sense of fear. We want to run this country with a sense of confidence (among people). Nobody should have a sense of alienation.” Everyone should feel “welcome in the country."

Singh noted that attempts have been made to defame the NDA government. "Recently, stones were pelted at churches. Some priests came to demand security. I assured them that all those behind it will be punished. But it (stone pelting) started a month before the assembly election and stopped a month after that. What would you say about that? Whose conspiracy is that?”

For Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), "Mass conversions are carried out by right-wing groups, performing 'ghar-vapasi' by which extremists claim they bring lost sheep back into the fold,” he told AsiaNews.

Such “claims are baseless. Many tribal people required to take part in the ghar vapasi programmes were animists and never Hindus. Therefore, returning to the original religion is false propaganda.”

In the last week of December, at least 200 tribal Christian families were reconverted to Hinduism in Surat, Gujarat, during the Hindu Dharma Jagran Sammelan. The GCIC has documented cases of reconversion of Christians to Hinduism in the tribal areas of Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh

Anti-conversion laws have been adopted in Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh, all of which have high numbers of tribal people and Dalits, giving the authorities the power to "decide and even control" people’s faith and religion.

The various anti-conversion laws, incongruously called "religious freedom" laws, make it compulsory for would-be converts to inform the district administration chiefs of their desire to change religion.

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