Friday, February 03, 2006

Centre asks Gujarat to maintain law and order at the Shabari Kumbh

NEW DELHI: Concerned at the reports of a large congregation being planned from February 11 to 13 in the predominantly tribal district of Dangs in Gujarat by a Sangh Parivar outfit, the Centre on Thursday said efforts would be made to provide additional paramilitary forces to ensure that the "Shabri Kumbh Mela" passed off peacefully.

In a letter to the Gujarat Chief Secretary, Union Home Secretary V.K. Duggal suggested that extensive arrangements be made along the route leading from the bordering States and districts to the site. He also suggested that adequate security arrangements be made in the villages where the people of minority community live or there religious and educational institutions are located. Four companies of the Rapid Action Force (RAF), stationed in Ahmedabad, would be deployed in the area.

The three-day event is being organised by the Vanvasi Kalyan Parishad at Shabri Dham near Jarsol in Dangs district. The district witnessed attacks on the Christian tribal population and their institutions during the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) regime in 1998.

With nearly 10 per cent of the population of the area being Christian tribals, the Parishad, a front organisation of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), tries to discourage the others from getting converted to Christianity. The law and order situation in the Dangs and surrounding areas was reviewed by Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil at a meeting here on Wednesday.

The Ministry sent A.K. Mitra, Special Secretary (Internal Security), to Ahmedabad and Dangs on January 29 for a three-day visit to make an on-the-spot assessment of the situation. The Centre is keeping a close watch on the situation, sources in the Ministry told The Hindu.

Intelligence inputs said the Christians in the adjoining Nandurbar district in Maharashtra were also apprehensive of tension following the congregation and the programme of "Suddhikaran" (reconversion).

Several Christian organisations, including the All-Indian Christian Council, have urged the Gujarat Government and the Centre to take steps to ensure the safety of Christian missionaries and institutions.

Nearly three lakh tribals from across the country are likely to converge in the area to attend the programme, being dubbed as "Sabri Mahakumbh", which isaimed at protecting the Hindu religion from the foreigners. The three-day programme is likely to be attended, among others, by RSS chief K.S. Sudarshan, Sant Asaram and Morari Bapu. The "Mahakumbh" for tribals is aimed at mobilising their clan from Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.

Another outfit "Shri Sabarimata Seva Samiti", affiliated to the Vanvasi Kalyan Parishad, has been active in Dangs over the past one-and-a-half decades. It has often accused the Christian missionaries of indulging in conversions under the pretext of social and religious services. It claims to have reconverted, on an average, 200-500 Christian tribals to Hinduism every year for the past few years.

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