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Right-wing groups try to ban non-Hindus in central India

Region's administrator says village councils' resolutions are 'illegal'

Right-wing groups try to ban non-Hindus in central India

Many of the Adivasi tribal groups in Chhattisgarh practice Christianity (Photo by Ekta Parishad/Wiki Commons) reporter, Jagdalpur

July 7, 2014

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Hindu groups have launched a campaign against non-Hindus in the tribal Bastar region in central India's Chhattisgarh state by using the influential village councils in an attempt to ban non-Hindu missionaries from the villages.

On Sunday, Belar village in Bastar district became the latest village council to pass a resolution. About 50 village councils in Bastar have adopted similar ones.

But Ankit Anand, Baster region's chief administrator, told that "any resolution banning people from any particular religion or community from the village is legally null and void".

Anand said the bans are "not being enforced anywhere" and had not led to increased tensions between Hindu and non-Hindu groups.

Chhattisgarh Christian Forum president Arun Pannalal said that Hindu right-wing groups are working through village councils to give the impression to tribal people that such resolutions are legal and passed by the village council's legal framework.

Pannalal said the resolutions are "illegal and unconstitutional", violating Article 25 of India's constitution that guarantees freedom of religion.

"There is no legal sanctity for such decisions by village councils," he said.

Chhattisgarh is India's most densely Hindu state with 98.3 percent of its 23 million people being Hindu. Muslims account for 1 percent; Christians, mostly tribal people, account for 0.7 percent.

Pannalal said village councils are forwarding results of the resolutions to district collectors and other officials in an attempt to get them official recognition.

Apart from tribal Bastar region, Pannalal said Hindu loyalist groups are trying to galvanize residents in other districts to adopt similar resolutions that would ban the formation of church groups and prayer services.  

In May, another village in Bastar passed a resolution that banned Christian activities following a dispute triggered by local Christians refusing to make donations for an annual Hindu religious festival saying that their religion did not allow idol worship. 

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