By Santosh Digal, BosNewsLife Asia Correspondent reporting from India
NEW DELHI, INDIA (BosNewsLife)– A key advisor to the Indian government and Christian investigators warned Friday, February 4, of imminent threats against minority Christians in India’s central state of Madhya Pradesh, where millions of people are to attend a controversial Hindu “reconversion” event.
Some two million people will participate in the Narmada Samajik Kumbh, or ‘Mother Narmada Social Pot’ in English, scheduled for February 10-12 in the city of Jabalpur, said advisor John Dayal, a member of the government’s National Integration Council.
He said his fact-finding team, which recently spent three days in the region, uncovered plans for a massive conversion to Hinduism of local Christians, dubbed a “homecoming celebration” by organizers. The ceremonies are to be held on the Narmada, a river that flows through Madhya Pradesh and neighboring Gujarat state.
Additionally, he said, his team found literature distributed near the site talking about “purging the region of Christian missionaries” who Dayal added are “falsely accused” of large-scale conversions of local tribals, mostly Gonds people.
“We support the freedom of the majority community to hold massive religious events. But, we fear that, even if there is no violence or a forcible conversion of Christians to Hinduism during the Kumbh, the [nationalist Hindu campaign known as] ‘Hindutva’…has poisoned the atmosphere in Madhya Pradesh.”
Dayal said, “This will negatively impact relationships between Christian and other tribals in the hamlets, villages, and townships of the region.”
A similar event, held in 2006 in Dangs district of Gujarat state, was filled with Christian hate speech and violence against Christians, witnesses said at the time. Hindu leaders have reportedly also spoken out against foreign Christians and renewed their oath to obtain “re-conversions” from Hindus who had become Christians.
Dayal said Hindu activists have “threatened to wipe out Christianity from the region and convert the region’s Christians to Hinduism through ritual cleansing,” in the river.
With millions of people expected to attend, local police reportedly issued orders in December telling churches, and other groups, they must close their institutions to house visiting dignitaries and women police.
The local police leadership now claims it did not sign the order, but the fact finding team said it has found what appears to be an authentic copy.
“We are deeply concerned because Mandla [region] police have a history of questionable demands of Christians,” said Dayal. He said they even ordered a nun, Sister Olga Lucas of the Deenbandhudham Convent, to give details of nuns in the convent that included bank accounts, land-line, and mobile telephone numbers, as well as details of patients undergoing treatment in the hospital and clinics.
The team also visited an embankement of the Narmada River, where the investogators said houses and fields have been “leveled” to make way for toilets, and other hospitality arrangements for the massive Hindu event. Christian leaders have urged the local government to protect Christians at a time when the Roman Catholic Church is particularly active in the region in areas such as education, health, and development projects.
Christian leaders fear a repeat of anti Christian violence that killed scores of people since 2008 in the state of Orissa following the death of Hindu leader Swami Lakshmananda Saraswati. A decade earlier, dozens of churches were destroyed in arson attacks during Christmas in Gujarat state. (With editing and additional reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos).