RAIPUR: Amid controversy over right wing groups motivating gram sabhas or village councils to adopt resolutions banning non-Hindu religious activities in villages in tribal Bastar, Chhattisgarh government seem to be adopting wait and watch policy on how to deal with the situation.
Yet another village, Belar in Lohandiguda block of Bastar district, convened its gram sabha on Sunday and passed a resolution banning all non-Hindu religious activities. On May 10, gram sabha at village Sirisguda in Tongpal block convened under the provisions of 129 (G) of Chhattisgarh Panchayati Raj Act, adopted a similar resolution banning non-Hindu missionaries. The resolution stated that "To stop the forced conversion by some outsider religious campaigners and to prevent them from using derogatory language against Hindu deities and customs, the Sirisguda Gram Sabha bans religious activities such as prayers, meetings and propaganda of all non-Hindu religions."
Bastar's district Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) president Suresh Yadav claimed that village councils of more than 50 gram panchayats has already adopted such resolutions to ban outsider missionaries from their respective villages.
However, Bastar district collector Ankit Anand told TOI, "To our knowledge, only three gram panchayats have passed such a resolution but it is not being enforced anywhere." "Initially, it was brought to our notice that some outsiders were trying to attend gram sabha meeting. Gram sabha is a body of locals and outsiders cannot attend it," he pointed out, admitting that "any resolution by village council banning people from any particular religion or community from the village is legally null and void." He maintained that there was no tension in any of the villages.
Chhattisgarh Christian Forum president Arun Pannalal said it's the latest strategy of right wing groups to use the influential gram sabhas to adopt such controversial resolutions to mislead the locals to believe that banning non-Hindus is well within the law. Pointing out that panchayat bodies cannot override Article 25 of the constitution that guarantees freedom of religion to all, Pannalal said the state government was silent on the issue for the last three months even as right wing groups were trying to influence gram panchayats in other districts to adopt similar resolution.
Veteran Communist Party of India (CPI) leader Chhiaranjan Bakshi told TOI that the matter has been brought up with the Adivasi Mahasabha, a body of local tribals in Bastar, which has registered its strong protest against adopting such resolutions. "CPI national leadership has been apprised about the development and we will do something more against such tactics by right wing groups," he said it's an attempt divide the tribals on religious lines and create trouble.
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