Forceful Conversions of Kandhamal Tribal Christians Continue

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In the tribal habitat of Kandhamal religious cleansing of Christians continues as Hindu groups have let loose awave of forceful conversions, almost always at gunpoint and knifepoint, shaving helpless heads and adding them to their list of triumphs. While Sangh Parivar units are trying to turn tribals, who number roughly 3 lakh here,into Hindus, the tribals are resisting it.

Times of India reports: At the infamous Nuagam relief camp near Baliguda, where a nun was raped on August 25 and where today there are about 2,000 tribals bunched up around leaky tents and on ground wet from flooding, Johan Naik and four others like him stand out as the most wretched.

"We are accursed," says Johan, rubbing his gnarled hand on his bald head. A month ago, as rampaging Hindu mobs ran through Kandhamal, looting, burning and pillaging, around 400 men converged at his house in Pirigada, a cluster of Protestant houses in Nuagam block. There, with swords unsheathed and drunk on the righteous rage of bigots, five of them gave Johan a choice. "You either embrace Hinduism or you die," he was told.

Soon, he was dragged to the nearby Patakhanda temple and made to prostrate before the statue of a 'devi'. Someone brought a jar of cowdung and cow's urine and forced him to gulp a bit of it. That was his purification rite and "return home" to Hinduism. And before he could actually make sense of what was happening, a young man whipped out a razor, doused his head in water and began tonsuring him.

"We know we are not Hindus. We never were, because we are tribals, worshipping nature and animals before we took up Christianity when the missionaries came here years ago," Johan said on Sunday. "But because of forced conversions, our brothers think we have let them and our faith down. Now, we are in the middle, nowhere."

Dand Naik, another one of the bald-headed men at Nuagam camp, waved his finger in anger and desperation. "I can tell you the names of those who shaved off my hair. Gurunam Patra, Satyaban Patra, Bhagavan Chaudhary, Subhash Sahu, Upendra Patra..." he trails off.

Siprayan Digal, 45, said there were 14 others who were forced to relinquish their faith in Christ. "But they have disappeared after that. There are five of us here, but many have left Kandhamal for now, out of fear and shame. Maybe someday, after the fire has been put off, we can go home and reclaim our religion and God. Dignity too."

As the men turn to go back to their soggy tents, a CRPF jawan strolling around shouts it's time to dim the hurricane lamps throwing dim slivers of brightness on the godforsaken patch. It's pitch dark suddenly. And all that they can do is wait patiently for a new morning.

State home secretary T K Mishra confirmed that as many as 900 people had been arrested in Kandhamal so far. Sources said at least two dozen workers of local VHP, Bajrang Dal and RSS were among those arrested.

Maoists blame Orissa Govt for Kandhamal riots

Sampad Mahapatra reports, the Maoists in Orissa have blamed the state administration for the riots in Kandhamal.

They have said that the government deliberately suppressed two letters they had left behind after killing Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader (VHP) Swami Laxmananand.

"We ordered death penalty for Swami Laxmananda. He was the main member of Vishwa Hindu Parishad. They used non-tribal traders' money to build Bajrang Dal and ran propaganda against Christians. They falsely accused Christians of killing cows and of conversions. This forced us to attack him," said Sabyasachi Panda, secretary, Orissa state committee of Maoists.

"We left two letters claiming responsibility for the murders. But the Patnaik government suppressed those letters. The state government made it look like Christian groups are responsible for the attack. Christian community in Orissa does not have any Maoist organisation supporting them here," said Panda.

Talking to journalists, Panda said the Naveen Patnaik government was being controlled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the VHP and that is why they were creating an impression that fundamentalist forces within the Christian community were responsible for the Swami's murder.

A day after the Maoists confirmed to NDTV that the murder of VHP leader Swami Laxmananda was carried out by them, the Orissa police have backed the claim.

But the Bhartiya Janata Party and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad have dismissed the Maoists' claim that they were behind the murder of VHP leader Laxmananda Sarawati.

The Sangh Parivar is the self appointed Jury Judge and executioner. They are indeed guilty of religious cleansing.

Cong wants Bajrang Dal, VHP banned

NEW DELHI: The demand for imposing a ban on Sangh Parivar outfits Bajrang Dal and VHP today gained momentum with the Congress saying these organisations were a "suitable case" for such an action.

"Bajrang Dal is a suitable case for ban...Also the VHP," Congress spokesperson Jayanthi Natarajan said here.

The Bajrang Dal had committed acts of violence against Christian community in both Orissa and Karnataka and has spread communal hatred, she alleged.

Of those arrested in Karnataka for their role in anti-Christian violence, more than half belong to the Bajrang Dal outfit, she charged.

"It is unclear why the reign of terror has been let lose against the minority community in such a vicious manner," Natarajan said, adding, "the state government (Orissa) has only allowed the situation to deteriorate.

Referring to the "horrific violence" against women, particularly the rape of a nun, she said the culprits have yet to be arrested.

Pray for peaceful, just and prosperous India.

Rev. Dr. Richard Howell
General Secretary
Evangelical Fellowship of India
New Delhi, India

Evangelical Fellowship of India (established 1951) is a charter member of World Evangelical Alliance, an accredited NGO with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations