07/15/2021, 16.42
INDIA
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Chhattisgarh: police instructed to monitor Christian missionaries

by Nirmala Carvalho

A circular from the superintendent of police in Sukma district instructs all local stations to closely monitor missionary activities. The document “smacks of bias and arbitrariness,” said a former spokesman for the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India. “A police officer is required by the constitution to protect the freedom of individual citizens and guarantee their safety.”

Mumbai (AsiaNews) – In a circular that could spark controversy, Sunil Sharma, Superintendent of Police (SP) in Sukma district, has instructed his subordinates and the officers in charge of all local stations to closely monitor the activities of Christian missionaries and converted tribal individuals.

Tribal Christians and “Christian missionaries are working regularly in many areas of the district to prepare the tribals for conversion,” says SP Sharma. They try to entice tribals to convert, and this raises the possibility of conflict between local tribals and converted Christians. In fact, conflicts between missionaries and tribal people are a big issue in many tribal areas.

The directive tells officers to “Constantly monitor the activities of Christian missionaries and converted tribals living in the district and report immediately if any of their actions seem suspicious.”

According to the police officer, the circular is more preventive in nature than repressive. He sent it in response to religious conversion activities in the nearby districts, noting that he did not want such a situation to arise in Sukma.

While acknowledging that everybody has the right to follow their faiths, SP Sharma added that “The police have been asked to gather their own information through their network on religious conversion activities by enticement”.

Father Babu Joseph SVD, a former spokesman for the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI), spoke to AsiaNews about the issue.

“The circular issued by the superintendent of police in Sukma district, Chhattisgarh, ordering his subordinates to monitor Christian missionaries smacks of bias and arbitrariness,” said the clergyman. “A police officer is required by the constitution to protect the freedom of individual citizens and guarantee their safety.”

“From his circular it appears that the main cause of social tensions in the district under his jurisdiction is the alleged activity of religious conversion by Christian missionaries. However, as a matter of fact, social tensions are not one way – they are always two or more ways.

“That being the case, the SP’s pointing at Christian missionaries without mentioning troublemakers from the majority is nothing more than playing existing power games. A real police officer is expected to use rules to ensure justice for all, especially those who are victims.”

“Unfortunately,” Father Babu noted, “it has become routine for some organisations and some in the administration to target Christian missionaries under the pretext of religious conversion as if they did nothing else for society.”

In fact, “I have always wondered why some right-wing organisations have rediscovered love for tribals whose lives have improved thanks to the intervention of Christian missionaries.

“Tribals have been there all this time and no Christian missionary forbids anyone from helping Tribals improve their lot. But when a Christian missionary helps Tribals, his action is always labelled as an act of conversion for corruption.

“We have to challenge such hypocrisy. Our tribal brothers and sisters are honourable citizens of this country, just like everyone else, and have every right to determine the course of their life, including their religious beliefs.”

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