06/26/2014, 00.00
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Chhattisgarh: non-Hindus barred entry because they damage traditional culture

by Nirmala Carvalho
The Bastar District Council (Gram Sabha), which represents more than 35 villages, rules against non-Hindus. For the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), this will "sow suspicion and distrust in the community." Chhattisgarh "is becoming a cauldron for hate mongering against non-Hindus."

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - The Gram Sabha (Council) of more than 35 villages in the predominantly tribal district of Bastar (Chhattisgarh) has banned entry to not-Hindus to prevent them from "damaging" the culture and religion of the community.

In taking this decision, local leaders claimed that members of a "particular minority" were trying to discourage people from practicing traditional rituals, said Sajan George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) who spoke to AsiaNews.

"What happened," the Christian leader said, "is a shame because this is how one begins to sow suspicion and distrust in the community, generating disharmony and hate that could have disastrous consequences for non-Hindus."

"India is a secular country; yet there are no legal penalties for such actions, which mask the interests of those who want to use village councils for their political aims."

According to Sajan George, the Hindu ultra-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (which is in power at both the state and union levels) "should heed the prophetic words of Sri Vivekananda," an important  Hindu philosopher who lived at the end of the 19th century, "pronounced on 11 September 1893 in Chicago during the world Parliament of Religions, memorable because of their inclusiveness and respect for all religions."

The latest incident is nothing new. On 16 June, in another Chhattisgarh district, a group of Christian families was targeted and beaten by Hindu fundamentalists.

In view of such incidents, the GCIC president fears "Chhattisgarh is becoming a cauldron of hate mongering against non-Hindus. We urge the district administration and the chief minister to take urgent action to protect the lives and properties of minorities. "

Among its statutes, the State has a so-called "anti-conversion law" (Chhattisgarh Religion Freedom Act of 2006), which requires would-be converts to inform a district magistrate one month in advance of their decision to change religion.

What is more, the law grants the magistrate the power to give or withhold permission to convert.

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