Sambalpur, May 1 2005 Sunday
In a reconversion ceremony, 567 Christians returned to Hinduism at Bijepur, a block headquarter town in neighbouring Bargarh district on Sunday, VHP sources said.
The ceremony was organised by the VHP and an elaborate arrangement was made at a local school premises where the people, mostly belonging to SC, had assembled.
A 'yagna' was held to mark the occasion and the people reconverted were provided with new clothes. VHP sources said that activists of the organisation had been in touch with these persons for a long time counselling them to return to Hinduism.
Members of 169 families from seven nearby villages were expected to attend the ceremony but all had not turned up, the sources said.
Asked whether they had informed the district authorities about their intention to change their faith as laid down in the Orissa Freedom of Religion Act (OFRA), the sources said, "all of them had sworn affidavits in this connection which were sent to the district authorities". Contacted, the local police said over 700 affidavits sworn by those intending to reconvert had been submitted with the authorities. Two sections of armed police and five officers had been deployed at the venue of the 'yagna' to ensure law and order but the entire procedure was completed this afternoon peacefully.
Dharma Narayan Sharma, VHP National Secretary, Rohini Parmanik, National Joint Secretary and Satyanarayan Panda, Vice-President of state VHP were present on the occasion.