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Activists refute Indian tribal people conversion claims

Hindu groups vehemently oppose conversions among such groups in states like Jharkhand
Tribal people protest against policies of the Jharkhand government in New Delhi.

Tribal people protest against policies of the Jharkhand government in New Delhi. (Photo: Bijay Kumar Minj)

Published: May 28, 2024 07:57 AM GMT
Updated: May 28, 2024 07:58 AM GMT

Catholic activists have refuted a claim by a leading pro-Hindu party leader that large-scale religious conversions are taking place in an eastern Indian state known for its tribal population.

“I am one hundred percent sure that there has been no religious conversion from Hinduism or any other religions to Christianity,” said Ratan Tirkey, a former member of the tribal advisory committee of eastern Jharkhand state where indigenous people constitute more than 26 percent of the population.

We are in touch with the local administration as rules stipulate a prior nod from it to change religion, he said.

“We have been visiting local offices for more than 10 years and there is no record of conversion to Christianity,” Tirkey told UCA News on May 28. 

Hindu groups like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (world assembly of Hindus) and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the parent party of the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, have been accusing Christian missionaries of religious conversions among Jharkhand’s 33 million people.

"It is just a claim, there is no truth in it,” said Tirkey, a tribal activist.

Jharkhand, currently ruled by the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, enacted a draconian anti-conversion law in 2017 and joined 11 other Indian states where the sweeping law is in full force.

India is conducting polls for the 543-member Lok Sabha (lower house) and Modi is seeking a third consecutive term in office. The results of the seven-phased polls will be declared on June 4.

Tribal people, who follow their traditional worship practices, are grouped as Hindus under India’s census, a practice started by colonial British officials for practical administrative purposes. They make up nearly 9 percent of the South Asian nation’s mammoth 1.4 billion population.

Tribal people and Dalits (former untouchables) make up 60 percent of the country’s approximately 27 million Christians with tribal people alone constituting nearly 33 percent of Indian Christians.

To prevent conversion among tribal people and the Dalits, the RSS runs a nationwide campaign called Ghar Wapsi (homecoming).

While campaigning for polls in Jharkhand on May 22, Himanta Biswa Sarma, chief minister of northeastern Assam state from Modi’s party, alleged massive conversion by Christian missionaries in Jharkhand.

"In Jharkhand, Christian missionaries are active in religious conversions but the current government is silent on this. This government has failed to protect Hindu rights," Sarma said at a rally in Bokaro district in Jharkhand.

 “If that was the case, the entire population in Jharkhand would be following Christianity who are still a minority in the state,” Tirkey said while reacting to Sarma's allegations.

There are 1.4 million Christians, mostly tribal people, in Jharkhand and Modi came to power for the first time in 2014.

Tribal activist Prabhakar Tirkey told UCA News that “for the past few years the campaign against the missionaries has intensified.”

He said that “some people have had issues when the Church was involved in Covid-19 vaccination drives and other social activities."

“Missionaries are blamed for interfering in the life of tribal people. But I would say because of missionaries tribal people are able to safeguard their culture,” the Christian leader said.

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1 Comments on this Story
JOHN MASCARENHAS
IS THERE NO LAW IN INDIA WHERE PEOPLE ARE FREE TO CONVERT OR CHOOSE THEIR RELIGION WITHOUT BE FORCED OR MANIPULATED? WHY DO HINDUS FEEL THREATENED? TRIBALS AND DALITS ARE TREATED LIKE ANIMALS BY THE HINDUS, WHO WANT TO KEEP THEM SHACKELED, IN ORDER TO DEPRIVE THEM OF JUSTICE AND PROGRESS.
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UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
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