With little to offer, the BJP throws in the “conversion” card: Chhattisgarh elections ( Sabrang India )

Another poll-bound state, Chhattisgarh, which is set to see voting for the state assembly elections on November 7 and 17, 2023, sees attempts at a communal campaign, by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), again.

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Home Minister for the Union government, Amit Shah in his speech on November 3 accused  the Congress of inaction against the alleged cases of conversion in the state. He has also further alleged that the state machinery was being “misused to convert impoverished tribal communities.” During the rally held in the Pandariya Assembly constituency in the upcoming poll-bound state, he asserted, along with a discussion on corruption, “Our Constitution guarantees every citizen the right to worship their chosen God. However, using government machinery to convert poor tribal people is detrimental to Chhattisgarh, resulting in conflicts in homes and villages and a disturbed law and order situation.”

However, the case of tribals in Chhattisgarh is more complicated. On January 2, 2023, Newslaundry reported of an instance where a church in Chhattisgarh’s Narayanpur faced vandalism, ostensibly due to allegations of engaging in “conversions.” Furthermore, between December 9 and 18, a distressing situation unfolded where nearly 1,000 Adivasi Christians were subjected to persecution, resulting in their displacement from their homes. These findings were documented by a fact-finding committee, led by the Centre for Study of Society and Secularism. According to a press release by the United Christian Forum, about 520 Christians have been in turn arrested on accusations of forced conversions without any concrete evidence.

In March earlier this year, the situation became tense and complicated when two groups disputed over the burial rites of a tribal woman in the Christian tribal populated region of Bastar. About two percent of Chhattisgarh’s Christian population, primarily resides in the southern Bastar region of the state. The situation of the burial soon escalated and became a law and order situation after the police tried to control the two groups, one of which also started stone pelting at the police. According to Times of India, it took about 24 hours for the police to maintain control over the situation. Slogans against religious conversion were also raised.

The incident took place in the Parpa area of Bhejpadar village when at the death of an elderly woman, Mate Bekko, on March 19 a disagreement arose among the villagers over the question of how to lay her to rest. While the deceased woman’s family wished to perform a burial in their backyard the following day, a faction of villagers arrived at the site to voice their objections. They argued that despite the tribal family’s conversion to Christianity, a burial should not be the chosen method for the final rites.

After the law and order situation came under control, the burial was slated to take place as per the family’s wishes. However, even the burial ceremony had to be conducted under the protection of the police, which also witnessed heated events given the large number of people who arrived at the burial. It was only after the burial was prevented and the body was handed over to the police that the mob of people gathered calmed down.

This story was originally published in sabrangindia.in. Read the full story here .


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