Sunday, February 12, 2006

Kumbh Day 1: Message for missionaries


Posted online: Sunday, February 12, 2006 at 0046 hours IST

SHABARI KUMBH SITE (DANGS) FEBRUARY 11: Quoting from the Bible and a Bollywood number, it was an open call from kathakar Morari Bapu to missionaries, asking them to stop conversions. Stressing his liberal credentials, he even asked them to cooperate in the ghar vaapsi programme of those tribal Christians who wanted to come back to their 'parent' religion.

Gujarat CM Narendra Modi, on the other hand, quoted Mahatma Gandhi to say it was his constitutional duty to see that no conversions took place. RSS chief K S Sudarshan, however, chose only to watch the proceedings from the dais with Asaram Bapu among others.

The inauguration of the Shabari Kumbh at the sprawling site in the forests of Ahwa-Dangs proved what it was supposed to: a show of Hindutva strength, and a warning to missionaries to stay away from conversions.

Supported by the state government, the religious heads wanted all induced conversions -poaching, as they term it - stopped. Calling the missionaries and their supporters pakhandis and hypocrites, Morari Bapu chose to remind them of the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Addressing a crowd of more than two lakh devotees, Morari Bapu quoted from the Gospel of Luke in the Bible to say that even Christ's word forbade conversions. "It is hypocrisy to not follow what you preach. When the Bible says do not convert, please don't. It is great that you are good doctors, and have the money to help poor and ailing. But once they have been healed, let them go back home (re-convert) as good doctors do."

Raising the rhetorical pitch, Morari Bapu went on to ask, "Are induced conversions are good but is coming back home bad? Plane-loads from the Vatican can come here and carry out conversions, but if we organise a ghar vaapsi, it is bad. Let everyone be clear that this programme is about peace and tolerance as characterised by the Hindu ethos. No one should be scared of it," he said.

Modi for his part ridiculed those who opposed the Kumbh as "Macaulay's sons". "Mahatma Gandhi fought conversions," he said. "Our Constitution disapproves of them, and yet some people turn a blind eye."

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