dal Deccan Herald
VHP 're-converts' 225 in Gujarat, 35 in Kerala
Valsad (Gujarat)/Thiruvananthapuram, Dec 21, 2014, DHNS & Agencies:Blatant move: 'Religion change voluntary'
Local units of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) on Sunday “reconverted” 225 tribal Christians at Aranai village in Gujarat's Valsad district, while 35 dalit Christians“returned to their original faith” in Alappuzha and Kollam districts of Kerala.
“As part of the ongoing ‘ghar waapsi (returning home)’ programme, the VHP today (Sunday) reconverted 225 people from the Christian community,” said Valsad district VHP chief Natu Patel, with the right-wing outfit. The “reconversion” was voluntary.
Patel said the VHP had organised a “maha yagnya” (sacred fire ritual) for the “purification” of the tribals before they were “reconverted”, and also gave each of them a copy of the Bhagwad Gita.
Another VHP worker, Ashok Sharma, said around 3,000 people gathered at the “ghar waapsi” programme in Valsad, which culminated on Sunday.
Meanwhile, the “reconversion” in Kerala took place in temples in Alappuzha and Kollam in the presence of local VHP leaders.
In Kanichanallur near Cheppad in Alappuzha district, 30 people from eight families, including five children, “reconverted” to Hinduism, as did five members of a family in Anchal in Kollam district. The families were part of local Pentecostal churches.
The Kerala leadership of the VHP, however, denied having issued directives on the “ghar waapsi” campaign in the state.
State VHP joint general secretary V R Rajasekharan said the incidents were not part of an organised “reconversion” programme, and that the outfit was only responding to requests by the families who sought a return to Hinduism.
“The VHP only monitored certain rituals and the related documentation that formalise the return of these families to Hinduism. The families themselves had made formal requests to us in this connection,” he told Deccan Herald.
Hindu outfits in Kerala claim that more Christian families will “reconvert” to Hinduism over the next couple of weeks.There are unconfirmed reports on similar “reconversion” programmes held in temples in Kottayam and Ernakulam districts and Punalur and Kottarakkara in Kollam district over the past month.
The incidents come against the backdrop of a raging debate over such programmes by Sangh Parivar groups in various parts of the country.
A controversy had erupted early this month when a right-wing group organised a “ghar-waapsi” drive wherein it reportedly converted about 100 people from a minority community in Agra, Uttar Pradesh.
The incident had led to a ruckus in the Rajya Sabha, with the Opposition demanding a statement from Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
A similar incident was also reported from BJP-ruled Chhattisgarh, where 39 tribal Christians were reportedly “reconverted” to Hinduism in the Maoist-hit Bastar district in October.
Bharatiya Janata Party national president Amit Shah on Saturday, during his two-day visit to Kerala, said his party was against forced religious conversion. He sought the support of other parties to a proposed anti-conversion bill.
* It started with conversion of 100 people from minority community in Agra on December 8
* Mohan Bhagwat said on Saturday that RSS was not converting, but “re-converting”
* Bhagwat had also said government should frame law against conversions
* BJP president Amit Shah on Sunday says conversions will not derail NDA government’s development agenda