Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Gaur targets collectors on conversion


Bhopal, July 11: Babulal Gaur is planning to amend a state law to make religious conversions more difficult after a controversial report said they were responsible for violence on Christians in tribal areas.

The Madhya Pradesh chief minister is considering action against all officials who served in tribal-dominated districts in the last 37 years but failed to check conversions.

Collectors and senior officials serving in tribal welfare departments since 1968-69 — when the Madhya Pradesh Religious Freedom Act was passed — will be questioned and necessary action taken against the "erring" officials who failed to report conversion cases to the state government.

The Madhya Pradesh Religious Freedom Act makes it mandatory that all conversions should be reported and maintained in a register by the collector, who is to furnish the details to the state government on the 10th of every month.

Gaur's move comes in the wake of the findings of a one-man committee report which probed into the rape and murder of a girl at a missionary school on January 11, 2004.

But the Opposition, Christian leaders and rights activists have raised questions on report prepared by former director-general of police Narendra Prasad.

Indira Ayenger, the chairperson of Madhya Pradesh Christian Association, rubbished the report's findings.

She said the report claimed nearly 80 per cent rise in Christian population in Jhabua.

"That is what is called being economical with the truth. The Christian population in MP is on the decline. We are merely .03 per cent of the population. And if there were forced conversions, how is that not a single thana has a complaint in the last 10 years or so?" she asked.

"How is it that the report is silent on the burning of three churches, illegal detention of 11 Christians from January 2004 till date, 15 houses that were torched and the conduct of Nahar Singh, the BJP MLA from Alirajpur, who led attacks on Christians?"

Prasad's report also names Ayenger, saying her organisation set up a technical and vocational training centre with the help of an American university and adds that three foreigners working with the centre were sent away following objections by security agencies.

Ayenger retorted, asking: "Since when did Arizona State University become a Christian outfit?"

Union minister of state for agriculture Kantilal Bhuria also criticised the report, wondering why the Gaur government was relying on it when a committee from the National Minorities Commission and the Madhya Pradesh State Minorities Commission had submitted a report.