State minister aims to sow dissent, say priests
Modi visits Hindu celebrations in tribal district
Church leaders have accused Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi of deliberately aiming to create dissent between Hindus and Christians.
This follows his appearance at an Indian Republic Day celebration on January 26 at Ahwa, the capital of the Dangs district of Gujarat, which is mostly populated by tribal communities.
Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is "feeling politically threatened in the tribal areas with substantial Christian populations and they are trying to Hinduize the whole area," said Father Cedric Prakash who directs a human rights center in the state's business capital, Ahmedabad.
He told ucanews.com on Sunday that though Modi did not make any controversial speech at the event, it was a subtle strategy to widen the base of his pro-Hindu party.
Modi attended several other functions over the weekend, including a meeting of the Swami Vivekananda Yuva Parishad youth group. The state government launched the group to promote the ideals of Swami Vivekananda, a 19th century Hindu revivalist.
"It was a calculated move by Modi to go to the Dangs. He will try to pit Christians and tribal people against each other," said Fr Xavier Manjooran, who provides legal help to tribal people against their exploitation by private and government agencies.
During the December 2012 state elections, BJP candidates were defeated in the Dangs and neighboring Dharampur, mainly because of the tribal Christian vote.
The Dangs district witnessed anti-Christian attacks in 1998 and again in February 2006, when local politician Swami Aseemanand organized a program for the re-conversion of tribal Christians.
Aseemanand has since been jailed, but Fr Manjooran believes that Modi wants to revive the program under the guise of a plan to develop religious tourism.
Indian states normally hold Republic Day and Independence Day programs in their capital cities. But Modi has introduced a system in which they are held in different districts on a rotation basis.
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