Tuesday, April 26, 2005

In Bengal, VHP's converts go covert

Malda Complaining of police harassment, VHP says one more


MALDA, APRIL 20 Four days after 45 Adivasis "reconverted" to Hinduism at a VHP-sponsored function in Popra village, 20 km from here, six of them have gone into hiding. Nobody knows why. The VHP claims that the police and district administration had been harassing them after the conversion ceremony.
The VHP claimed the six Adivasis were from Popra and that they had filed affidavits in the court declaring their intention to return to Hinduism. The rest of the reconverts hailed from other places in Jharkhand.
Refusing to reveal the identity of the six re-converts, Rekha Hembrom, head of the VHP-run Chitrakoot Ashram Briddhika Manch of Popra, which organised the function, told The Indian Express: "We will not tell you their names and whereabouts. We have been continuously harassed by the police and administration after April 17. It's as if we have committed a blasphemy. The Church is converting people to their fold and the government is listless. Now, if some of them are coming back to our fold, the government is after our blood. The next time we arrange these functions, they will be done in total secrecy."
But Superintendent of Police S K Pujary rubbished allegations of harassment. "We have not harassed anybody. We just inquired what was going on at the Ashram. We were anxious about their safety," he said.
Amid all this, the VHP plans to go ahead with another re-conversion function, christened 'Haprav Satsang Utsav', in the villages of North Bengal, dominated by tribals.
"We have changed our strategy. Now, we will conduct all these reconversion programmes secretly to avoid the media glare which invites police harassment," said Gangadhar Murmu, son of Rekha and a senior VHP leader.
Started seven years ago, the VHP-run Ashram runs a residential school there with 30 Santhal children. It also regularly holds religious discourses for the Santhals. "Our discourses are attended by Christians, too. Many of them have showed their interest to come back to our fold," said Pushani Murmu, a member.
The VHP runs 270 schools all over the district. It also runs a few free dispensaries in the area.
The Church, too, runs its own schools and dispensaries. "We work only for man," said Prabodh Ekka, Father of Malda Catholic Church.
URL: http://www.indianexpress.com/full_story.php?content_id=68846