Christians publicly shaved to 'return' to Hinduism in Chhattisgarh
by Nirmala Carvalho

In a village in Bijapur district, extremists Christians forced to perform a religious ritual in order not to lose homes and property. Local law does not consider a “return” to the “ancestral” religion as conversion, even when involving members of tribal who were never Hindus.

Raipur (AsiaNews) – Christians in Jaitaloor, a village in Bijapur district in the Indian state of Chhattisgarh, were forced to "return" to Hinduism.

To achieve this goal, Hindu extremists shaved their heads and put coconuts in their hands as part of a Hindu religious ritual.

Such acts were accompanied by the threat of seizing land, homes and properties owned by Christians and having them denied access to publicly owned forest land if they did not comply.

“This is a barbaric act and an evident forced conversion," said Sajan K. George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), speaking to AsiaNews.

This, George explained, is “A violation of the fundamental right to religious freedom and respect for the dignity of every person”.

It is “also a way to publicly humiliate, mock and insult Christians, whose daily life is constantly in the crosshairs of right-wing extremist nationalist groups.”

What is more, it “is not an isolated incident. Christians in Chhattisgarh live constantly in fear of Ghar Wapsi campaigns, as conversion to Hinduism is called.”

Already last July in the nearby district of Sukma, the police superintendent Sunil Sharma had issued a circular asking officers to raise the level of attention towards the activities of Christian missionaries who, he wrote, “are continuously travelling to the interior and influencing local tribals by luring them with perks to make them accept Christianity.”

"In Chhattisgarh,” Sajan George said, “anti-conversion laws were made tougher in 2006. But an amendment expressly provides that the ‘return’ to the ‘ancestral’ religion should not be considered a conversion.”

In reality, the vast majority of tribal people have never really professed the Hindu religion.