Amid Pandemic scare, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) on Sunday sparked off a fresh controversy alleging that Christian missionaries and Church in State were conducting religious conversion of tribals during lockdown period. The religious outfit also hit out at the JMM/Congress government for not acting against Christian missionaries.
VHP kshetra sangathan mantri, Keshav Raju (Bihar-Jharkhand) said, “Ever since the JMM/Congress government headed by Hemant Soren came to power religious conversion has gained momentum in the state. However, in the past few months this illegal act has gone up during lockdown. During lockdown, organizations such as VHP are in selfless service helping the poor and needy. Some Christian missionaries are secretly engaged in religious conversion.” “The Church and missionaries’ organization are luring innocent tribal communities in their fold by different means.” The VHP leader even threatened to launch agitation if the state government does not act against the Church and missionaries in this connection.
The VHP leader claimed that as Jharkhand is a tribal state such type of religious conversion is going on across the state, but in districts such as Gumla, Loharadaga, Khunti, West and East Singhbhum, Church and Christian missionaries are more active.
VHP kshetra sangathan mantri, Keshav Raju also claimed that they have information about religious conversion at Bhandra block of Loharadaga district where Asur tribe families are being targeted by the Church. The VHP has also threatened to launch agitation by building opinion on social media.
Religious conversion is illegal in the state as the Freedom of Religion Act passed in Jharkhand in 2017 makes any ‘fraudulent’ or ‘forcible’ conversion of an individual a non-bailable offence, with a penalty of a 3-year sentence and a fine of Rs 50,000. The bill was passed by then Raghubar Das government, however, the opposition had protested against the act terming it as anti-constitutional.
However, in December last year when JMM/Congress lead government headed by Hemant Soren came to power, he announced that the JMM-led state government will look into the strict anti-conversion law, passed by the outgoing Bharatiya Janata Party government in September 2017.
Freedom of Religion Acts - also referred to as anti-conversion laws, are state-level statutes that restrict the number of religious conversions. Currently, laws are in place across eight out of India's twenty-nine states. These include Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Gujarat, Arunachal Pradesh, and more recently, Jharkhand.
The Opposition then had opposed the act claiming that it was an effort of the BJP government to create rift between the Christian minority tribes within the state, and the majority Sarna and Hindu tribals.
The JMM/Congress had stated that Christian Adivasis are educating and creating awareness among tribals, however, the BJP government, on the other hand, had maintained that the work and service of the state's Christian missionaries in education and healthcare, were a guise to convert poor tribals.