Christians News: In February, in the tribal village of Brimdega, Chhattisgarh, about two dozen people were made to return to Hinduism in a colorful religious ceremony. The organizers of the ceremony call this process ‘Ghar wapsi’.
This means the return of those converted from Hindu to the Christian religion in recent years.
Parmeshwar Ekka, a young man who had ‘returned’ to Hinduism, told me that he decided to return to Hinduism after several months of consultation with his guru, “We are Hindus from the beginning. Unknowingly Went to Christianity for a year or two. In that, we used to pray that if you pray this, then your sorrow and trouble will go away. Years passed but nothing happened. Then we got converted today by Guru. Washed his feet and returned to Hinduism.
Brimdega is in the Jashpur district of Chhattisgarh, which is adjacent to Jharkhand and Odisha. This is a big tribal belt. For years, a big campaign to bring people back to Hinduism is being run in this entire region, which includes many other organizations of Arya Samaj, BJP, RSS, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal, and Sangh Parivar.
According to the census, the Christian population has increased in the tribal areas of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, and Odisha since 1991. The leadership of this campaign in this area is in the hands of well-known BJP leader Prabal Pratap Singh Judeo whose father Dilip Singh Judeo started this work in 1985-86.
He was a member of Prime Minister Vajpayee’s cabinet and was instrumental in taking this campaign forward. Prabal Pratap Singh started this work in 2013 after the death of his father.
He says, “So far I have got 15,000 people ‘Ghar wapsi’ done.”
Tribal ‘Ghar Wapsi’
When I reached Brimdega on 16 February, the atmosphere was enthusiastic. A tribal cultural program was organized.
In a big mud house, many religious leaders were performing Yagya and mantras were being recited. The people of the village sitting together were joining it in small groups in turn. In the end, those 22 people joined, for whose ‘Ghar wapsi’ this ceremony was organized.
Prabal Pratap Singh was washing their feet one by one with the Ganges water. “This unique tradition was started by my father. He used to wash the feet with the Ganges water and make tribal families return home.”
Judeo of calm health and high stature says that he is leading this campaign but the responsibility of taking it forward is the responsibility of all Hindus.
He says, “It should not be the agenda of any particular party or organization. It is a reality that the Hindu community is dealing with a crisis, conversions are happening. India is the only Hindu nation left, except Nepal. The question arises that if we will not be active to save our ancient culture, then our Hindu nation will not survive, all will be converted, so it is the responsibility of all Hindus.
It is important to mention here that despite the cases of conversion and allegations, since independence in India, the population of Hindus has been about 80 percent till now. and 2.30 percent of Christians.
But there is a section in Hindu society that feels insecure. Many people who attended the three-hour-long event at Brimdega told me that “Ghar Wapsi” is the result of Hindu awakening like ‘love jihad’ and an important task of building a Hindu nation.”
stronghold of conversion
If this tribal belt is the focal point of ‘Ghar Wapsi’, then it is also considered a stronghold of conversion.
Prabal Pratap Singh says, “Many conversions are taking place in Jashpur. Jashpur is a stronghold of conversion. Jashpur is a tribal area, a backward area. More conspiratorial forces work here. Jharkhand is on the rest of the border. There is also a lot of religion. Changes have taken place. Many Hindus have been converted”.
The news of atrocities on those who adopt Christianity and its propagators is also coming from here the most. But this is not the only such area.
Christians in eastern Uttar Pradesh also say that right-wing Hindu organizations try to stop their prayer meetings by force of violence, but despite this, the police arrest Christians only.
Attacks on Christian prayer meetings have increased so much that these meetings are now less common in the open or in churches. Prayer meetings are now being held mostly inside homes. There is no single anti-conversion law for the country. But eight states have enacted their laws to prevent forced conversions. The BJP has certainly spoken of the need for such a national law.
Last year, Uttar Pradesh passed an anti-conversion law and Madhya Pradesh amended its 1968 law. Karnataka’s Anti-Conversion Bill has been passed by the Legislative Assembly but is yet to be passed by the Legislative Council.
propagation of religion
In the locality of Banaras city, the population of those who believe in Christianity is very good. We got an opportunity to attend a prayer meeting going on inside a house there. All the people present there were Christians.
Pastor Abraham and his wife Pastor Pratibha were praying aloud with the men, women and children present there. Later he also read the text of the Bible.
Seeing Pastor Abraham and his wife, it did not seem that he had recently returned from prison. In November last year, he organized a prayer meeting at his residence in Mau during which, according to Pastor Pratibha, “anti-Christians came to us for the second time after 2020. We told our people to keep praying.”
She says, “Those people were taking our video from mobile and they were saying that a religious conversion racket is going on here. We took everyone to the Kotwali. The police took us to the police station and later we sent seven people to jail. Gave.”
Since his release on bail, he is alert and is holding meetings inside homes.
Why are people here converting to Christianity?
Rajesh Kumar of Banaras was involved in a prayer meeting along with many of his Christian companions. He said, “Some local Hindu boys came along with the police and said you are forcibly converting”.
The police then took them to the police station and arrested them. “15-16 boys complained against us that we hold prayer meetings for conversion. We will be persecuted but will not stop preaching the Lord”
Rajesh was a Hindu at one time but many years ago he joined Christianity. He says his life changed when his blood cancer-stricken sister, who had been bedridden for 16 years, got up to walk after reading her Bible. He says that this miracle made him a Christian. I have met many Christians who have converted in recent years after claiming to have miraculous healings.
In the words of Pramod Sonkar, a local youth leader of Shiv Sena, earlier he used to dissolve the prayer meetings of Christians and beat them up but in 2014 he became a Christian.
He believes that when he died for two hours in the ICU of a hospital, Christianity brought him back to life. He says, “I had stones in both my kidneys. There was no hope of my survival. My sister said to go to the Christian prayer meeting and go back to Hinduism if you don’t get healing.”
Pramod says that after his operation, he was declared dead in the ICU. He remained in the same condition for two hours but his Shiv Sena comrades and Christian friends were praying for him incessantly. At last, he stood up and was completely fine. Now he is a pastor and spreads his Christian religion vigorously.
All over the world, claims related to the treatment of diseases with divine intervention have been made, but till now no scientific basis has been found about it. Nirbhay Singh says that Christian preachers use such dangerous superstition to convert innocent Hindus to Christianity
He says, “Sincerely they lure Hindus to Christianity by luring them with money and jobs and sometimes by fabricating false stories of healing of incurable diseases.” Christian missionaries refute these allegations.
Conversions in the Temple City
Banaras is a city of temples and also an ancient pilgrimage site for Hindus. The preachers of Christianity are very active here and in other cities of eastern Uttar Pradesh as well.
Over the past two years, I have visited many rural areas in the region where Christianity has grown in influence. Years ago after her marriage, Pastor Pratibha settled in Mau from Ranchi. They had only one purpose: to propagate their religion.
She says, “No one knew the name of Jesus Christ. But today Mau was blessed with so much God that today many people are found in Christ.”
violent protest against conversion
Right-wing Hindu organizations protest vigorously to stop the conversion. Often these protests are also violent. Hindu Yuva Shakti is one such organization in Banaras whose purpose is to stop conversion and work on the unity of Hindus of all countries.
High-ranking Nirbhay Singh, president of Hindu Yuva Shakti, which has a membership of over a million, says he has been jailed “fifty times” for trying to stop conversions.
They say that if people leave the Hindu religion of their own volition, they feel sad, but they do not have any objection to it. They say that Christian preachers convert ‘straight’ Hindus by offering jobs and money. According to him, he also claims a “false miracle” to cure the disease of Hindu patients for conversion.
He admits that he and his fellow Christians also use force against evangelists.
Sitting in front of a map of ‘Akhand Bharat’ on one of the walls of his office, Nirbhay Singh takes a deep breath and says, “First try to convince them (Christian preachers). If they don’t understand then there is no doubt. We will explain in a way they understand.
First, I will explain with folded hands, if need be, I will explain with open hands. This is our job. Nothing can be greater for us than our religion”.
Referring to the recent attack on a church, he says, “How many people come there and they are lured with money, then we tried to break that church. To break the prayer meeting there.” Tried it and we have no regrets about it.”
However, most of the time there is no evidence for these allegations by Hindu organizations, and Christian missionaries say that Hindu organizations accuse voluntary conversions of forced conversions as well.
Attacks on Christians increased even in Congress government
Governments in Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka belong to the BJP where attacks on Christians have increased. But the government in Chhattisgarh belongs to the Congress party. The Christian organizations of the state have been continuously accusing the Christians of arresting them on false charges against the government.
Arun Pannalal is the president of the Chhattisgarh Christian Forum. He says, “The police make false allegations and send them to jail. Above all, there are cases of atrocities here. Our concern is the failure of the government machinery.” The governments of both the parties and the state police call these allegations baseless.
The United Christian Forum maintains a database of attacks on Christian society and its places of worship, as well as a helpline for victims. According to its latest report, the number of violent incidents against Christians and their churches across the country in 2021 was 486, which is 74 percent more than in 2020.
To prevent conversion by force or inducement, BJP governments in states like Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh have implemented anti-conversion laws and an act has been brought in Karnataka on this. Under these laws, the guilty can get a year’s sentence, but under the guise of this, there is evidence and accusations of torturing Christians.
This law has been promoted as a law preventing ‘love jihad’. But the ground reality is that it is also being used voluntarily to prevent religious conversion. In Uttar Pradesh, this new law was implemented in September last year, under which more than 35 Christian preachers have been arrested so far.
Alliance Defending Freedom or ADF International is a faith-based legal advocacy organization. According to its India branch lawyer Munish Kumar Chandra, they have about 40 cases under the new law related to conversion in Uttar Pradesh.
He says, “There are 40 to 45 such cases in which FIRs are registered, the charge sheet is either coming or trial has started. Some people are still in jails”. ADF India says that under the new law, the police are registering a case of mass conversion of Christian preachers in which it is difficult to get bail.
Challenging the new anti-conversion law
This new law has been challenged in the Allahabad High Court. A similar law was passed in Madhya Pradesh last year which has been challenged in the Supreme Court. The lawyer in both these cases is Shashwat Anand of Allahabad.
He says, “This cannot happen in a civilized country. This is our Article 25 which includes the right to profess, practice, and propagate religion, or Article 21 which includes the right to personal liberty. Freedom of speech in Article 19 and Article 14, which provides for equality of rights and equal protection, all these rights have been abolished under this new law.
The process of making laws for conversion started during the Congress era. Many states, especially with large tribal populations, had passed laws against conversion. In 1967, Odisha was the first state to pass a law against religious conversion. Madhya Pradesh passed an anti-conversion law in 1968. Arunachal Pradesh enacted a similar law in 1978. Subsequently, in 2002, Tamil Nadu passed a law against forcible conversions.
The new era of making laws against religious conversion started in the era of Prime Minister Modi. Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh both added the word ‘marriage’ to their new law and said that even if the conversion is for marriage, it is mandatory to be notified.
In Uttarakhand, the law has empowered the parents and siblings of a convert to complain to the district magistrate if they believe the conversion is taking place without following the regular procedure.
The law passed in Uttar Pradesh states that forced conversion is a serious and non-bailable offense. The punishment is also much higher than before.
Conviction rate under the anti-conversion law
Legal experts say that hardly anyone has been convicted or sentenced to prison terms under the old-fashioned conversion law. Only a few cases under the new law have come to the trial stage at this time. Shashwat Anand is confident that the new law of Uttar Pradesh will be banned in the Allahabad High Court.
Many times those who voluntarily change their religion are also coming under the guise of a law to stop religious conversion. Although, under the new law against conversion, those who convert to religion have to give notice to the administration 60 days in advance.
But there is no need to send notices to those who adopt Christianity because according to the preachers of the religion, they insist on a change of heart instead of conversion. That is, they remain Hindus on the document. He doesn’t change his name. They are not cut off from their society. But gradually they become devotees of Jesus Christ. In this way, they are not legally required to announce their conversion.
Despite this, they are also arrested for forcibly spreading religion. There is no doubt that the new law has increased the troubles of Christian preachers. But religious propaganda and religious conversion are also increasing rapidly. Pastor Pratibha started preaching religion in jail.
Recalling the few days she spent in prison in November, she says, “Going to prison was one of God’s purposes because God wanted us to go to prison and preach so that the people in prison would also be saved.”
There are two types of Christians that are under attack – those who are part of an established church such as Roman Catholic or Protestant. These people are not very active in conversion. Other people who are full-time preachers and who do not necessarily have to be associated with any church. They spread the message of Christ by going to society. They are also called Evangelical Christians.
Evangelical Christians say that no power in the world can stop them from spreading the message of Jesus Christ. They have been sent to the earth for the promotion of religion. Being killed, going to jail, or being persecuted cannot hinder their work.
Religious conversion has always been a controversial and complicated issue. Now it has also become a political issue. It will be necessary to note that in the coming days, the target of the conversion law is the illegal conversion or this law takes away the constitutional freedom to voluntarily adopt any other religion than Hinduism.
By Zubair Ahmad
Courtesy of BBC