UCA News



Updated: February 09, 1997 05:00 PM GMT
Support Asia's largest network of Catholic journalists and editors
Support Asia's largest network of Catholic journalists and editors
Share this article :

Attacks against low-caste converts to Christianity and conspiracy claims by pro-Hindu groups in Maharashtra, western India, may aim at getting a stalled anti-conversion bill passed in the state legislature.

Mumbai, capital of the state governed by a pro-Hindu coalition of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP, Indian people´s party)) and Shiv Sena (SS, army of Shiva) has witnessed several attacks on Christians recently.

BJP activists attacked a low-caste convert Jan. 15, allegedly in a dispute over sharing water in Dharavi, which has been dubbed Asia´s largest slum.

In retaliation, Christians attacked some Hindus, which prompted BJP activists to rally through the streets demanding the Christians´ arrest and a law against conversion.

"The real issue is hatred toward Christian teachings and business rivalry," said P.K. Thyagaraj, who sustained head injuries when BJP activists attacked a born-again Christian prayer meeting last December.

According to Pentecostal Pastor Vijayaraj, there are 30,000 Pentecostalists in Mumbai and they increasingly face threats from Hindu fanatics.

The Pentecostal mission is active in Dharavi, where most migrants from the southern state of Tamil Nadu live in ghettos.

Nagaraj Krishna, a BJP activist from the area, told UCA News that "large scale conversions" take place in Mumbai (formerly Bombay) and that some 200 low-caste members became Christians on Jan. 1 in the suburb of Malad.

"Funds are flowing into India to promote conversion and for printing literature on Jesus Christ," he alleged.

BJP Dharavi unit secretary Aiya Durai said "proliferation" of Bible teaching in slums has raised Pentecostal membership from two to 48 in a few years.

But Shakuntala Joseph, a convert, told UCA News that she was not enticed with money or pressured to become a Pentecostal, and added that she "found a lot of peace" afterwards.

Christianity has also divided some families in the slums, charged Muthuraj, a BJP activist and Hindu whose mother and sister have joined a Pentecostal group.

Church of North India Bishop S.B. Joshua of Bombay points out that Pentecostal leaders are self appointed ministers with no sanction from any mainline Church.

Hindu activists also allege that the city´s Christian schools are increasingly used to propagate Christianity and convert Hindus. Some Hindus attacked a Catholic convent school Jan. 2, accusing a teacher of luring a Hindu former student to Christianity.

However, Father Denis Pereira, secretary of Bombay Catholic archdiocesan schools, dismissed the allegations as a Hindu activists´ "ploy" to expedite a bill against conversion pending in the state legislative assembly.

The bill, Maharashtra Dharma Swatantrya Adhiniyam (Maharashtra freedom of religion act) was introduced in 1994, but got postponed because of some "technical" problems.

BJP legislator Mangal Prabhat Lodha introduced it to make "coercive" conversion a cognizable offense and ban "gratification in cash, kind or grant of material benefit."

The bill interprets "threat of divine displeasure" or "social excommunication" as force in conversions and punishable by a year or more of imprisonment.


Support UCA News...

As 2020 unfolds, we are asking readers like you to help us keep Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News) free so it can be accessed from anywhere in the world at no cost.

That has been our policy for years and was made possible by donations from European Catholic funding agencies. However, like the Church in Europe, these agencies are in decline and the immediate and urgent claims on their funds for humanitarian emergencies in Africa and parts of Asia mean there is much less to distribute than there was even a decade ago.

Forty years ago, when UCA News was founded, Asia was a very different place - many poor and underdeveloped countries with large populations to feed, political instability and economies too often poised on the edge of collapse. Today, Asia is the economic engine room of the world and funding agencies quite rightly look to UCA News to do more to fund itself.

UCA News has a unique product developed from a view of the world and the Church through informed Catholic eyes. Our journalistic standards are as high as any in the quality press; our focus is particularly on a fast-growing part of the world - Asia - where, in some countries the Church is growing faster than pastoral resources can respond to - South Korea, Vietnam and India to name just three.

And UCA News has the advantage of having in its ranks local reporters that cover 22 countries and experienced native English-speaking editors to render stories that are informative, informed and perceptive.

We report from the ground where other news services simply can't or won't go. We report the stories of local people and their experiences in a way that Western news outlets simply don't have the resources to reach. And we report on the emerging life of new Churches in old lands where being a Catholic can at times be very dangerous.

With dwindling support from funding partners in Europe and the USA, we need to call on the support of those who benefit from our work.

Click here to find out the ways you can support UCA News. You can make a difference for as little as US$5...
UCAN Donate
Thank you. You are now signed up to our Daily Full Bulletin newsletter
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia