New Delhi (AsiaNews) - Yesterday, 1,793 tribal Christians reconverted to Hinduism in a ceremony in Borivli (Mumbai), presided over by Hindu leader Swami Narendra Maharaj. Maharaj, who led the ritual of shuddikaran (purification), said that 42,200 people have been reconverted, above all in the tribal areas of Maharashtra and Gujarat. He accused Christians of using "luring and misleading" methods to convert Hindus, and said that "an anti-conversion law is needed," because "nobody should be converted, whatsoever be his religion". He criticised the political parties that "have refused to take a firm stand on the government’s conversion bill", and expressed his hopes for the creation of a "pressure group" that would protect Hindu "interests". He also blamed the Hindu fundamentalist parties Bharathiya Janata and Shiv Sena for not being decisive enough.
There are laws in various Indian states punishing the activity of proselytism. In general, these are interpreted in the sense that it is not prohibited to convince someone to renounce other religions in order to return to Hinduism, which is considered the "natural" religion for Indians.
On April 14, in the city of Tirunelveli (Tamil Nadu), over one thousand Christian Dalits reverted to Hinduism, and the organisers of the ceremony announced their intentions to reconvert another 20,000 Christians in Villupuram in upcoming months.
The auxiliary bishop of Mumbai, Percival Fernandez, told AsiaNews yesterday that "two points must be clarified: 1) no adult can receive or be given the sacrament of baptism without his or her free consent. Baptism given by coercive methods is totally invalid, hence the person so baptised cannot be numbered among Catholics. 2) We have been asking persons who are shouting from the house-tops that we are converting people to Christianity by force or other coercive methods, that they should produce before us persons who have been thus baptised and received into the Catholic Church: so far not a single person has been produced. If they feel shy to do so before us Catholics, let them produce such persons before the courts of law in our country".
On the state anti-conversion laws, Bishop Percival, who is also the chairman of the St. John's National Academy of Health Sciences, maintains that it is more important that "legislators spend their precious time in the legislatures to plan and execute projects that get drinking water, decent housing, daily affordable bread and primary education to the millions who are deprived of these basic requirements for which they have a right. Instead of wasting precious time in working out anti-conversion laws, it would be much more profitable if they appointed a high level commission consisting of excellent judges that we have in plenty in the country, identify the persons converted by the Catholics by force and allurements and identify the person who did such a condemnable deed, and punish both concerned with laws that are already available in the constitution of our beloved country".