Catholics in Delhi Archdiocese pray during an annual rally on Palm Sunday on April 9, 2017. (Photo: Bijay Kumar Minj/UCA News)
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the southern Indian state of Karnataka has reconverted 23 people from five Christian families to Hinduism.
A reconversion ceremony on Nov. 29 was organized by Anant Kumar Hegde, a BJP leader and MP for Uttara Kannada district.
“Hegde was handpicked by the Hindutva hierarchy to create communal divisions and tension in the coastal belt of Karnataka,” Sajan K. George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians, told UCA News.
“After BJP victories in the 2014 and 2019 general elections, the Sangh Parivar [fanatic group] moved with the speed and cunning of a barracuda to attack and weaken the constitutional institutions needed to transform Indian society into a more equal and just one.”
George said the BJP has used the twin weapons of a brute majority and communal polarization to implement laws and policies that have impacted most adversely those who are denied all rights and can make no claims to equality: women, Dalits, backward castes and tribal people.
“This advance towards a Hindu Rashtra [Hindu nation] is viewed with concern and alarm by many, but as far as the majority are concerned, they feel that only members of minority communities will be threatened while they themselves will be guaranteed some kind of a privileged status," he added.
“Fascists aim to scapegoat and demonize specific groups. Creating a common enemy is an essential part of the program.”
Meanwhile, a gharwapsi (homecoming) ceremony was held in Haliyal town after the reconversion and all the families were handed a saffron flag as a symbol of their acceptance and identification as Hindu.
Former BJP assembly member Suneel Hegde told the media that those who were converted to Christianity are very poor and illiterate people.
“The conversion activities of the Dalits and tribals to Christianity in the state will be opposed tooth and nail. I request those who are converting Hindus to desist or face consequences,” he said.
Gharwapsi, a reconversion drive carried out by right-wing groups, has gained momentum since the BJP-led government came to power in May 2014.
Hindu nationalists often accuse Christians of using force and surreptitious tactics in pursuing conversions, often storming into villages and leading reconversion ceremonies in which Christians are compelled to perform Hindu rituals.
Uttarakhand became the ninth state to enact a conversion law in 2018. The other states are Arunachal Pradesh, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand and Tamil Nadu.
Religious conversion laws require the person officiating an act of conversion to inform state officials a month ahead of the ceremony. It also punishes an act of conversion using fraud, force or allurement with jail terms and fines.
Karnataka is governed by the BJP, whose members support the idea of turning India into a Hindu-only nation. They accuse Christian missionaries of using educational and health services as a facade to convert poor people to Christianity.