Sunday, February 12, 2006

Tribals urged to 'return home'

Manas Dasgupta

An estimated three lakh tribals turn up for 'Shabri Kumbh'

AHWA (DANGS): A call for "ghar wapasi," (return home) was issued to the converted tribals from the dais at the inauguration of the three-day "Shabri Kumbh" in the remote tribal-dominated district in south Gujarat on Saturday.

Led by the Chief Cinister, Narendra Modi, who inaugurated the event, prominent sadhus and saints occupying the dais ridiculed the Christian institutions and voluntary organisations for expressing apprehensions about the "safety" of the minorities in the district in the saffron surge and asked the "foreign religious leaders" of other communities to "stay away" from the tribals in the State.

No `force or lure'

Contrary to the earlier claims of the organisers that the "Shabri Kumbh" had nothing to do with re-conversion, the chief organiser of the event, Kailash Sharma, "appealed" to the "misled" tribals to "return home" and tendered an apology if Hinduism had ever "ignored" them in the past emphasising that the tribals were always "an inseparable part of Hinduism." Besides Mr. Sharma, other speakers also supported the call but made it clear that no amount of "force or lure" should be used to reconvert the tribals who had "gone astray."

Mr. Modi went to the extent of suggesting that he saw nothing wrong if even the State government extended support to the "reconversion" efforts pointing out that the country's Constitution had put an obligation on the governments to prevent religious conversions "by force or by lure." But, he said, he would be considered a "criminal" by the over-zealous voluntary organisations and enthusiastic foreign missionaries if he made any such suggestion as the Chief Minister.

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