AHMEDABAD, India (AFP) – Hardline Hindu groups came under fire Sunday after some 200 Christians were converted in the Indian prime minister’s home state, amid increasing concern at the right-wing government’s perceived pro-Hindu tilt.
The radical Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP or World Hindu Council) said it converted Christian tribal people to their original Hindu faith in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s western home state of Gujarat late Saturday.
The mass event drew widespread criticism
from Christian groups and Modi’s political opponents on Sunday. They accused radical organisations linked to Modi’s ruling party, like the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), of forcing or enticing religious minorities to convert to Hinduism.
“Extreme right wing is flexing its muscles. VHP/RSS through Hindutatva (“Hinduness”)… rewriting history and economic policies,” Digvijay Singh, a leader of the opposition Congress party, posted on Twitter early Sunday.
A Gujarat-based priest said he could not “accept that anyone who has been a Christian will convert to other religion by personal choice”.
“VHP is forcing people and luring them to convert their religion,” Father Dominic was quoted as saying by Zee News channel’s website.
Saturday’s mass ceremony took place in a tribal village 350 kilometres south of the state capital Ahmedabad.
It happened hours after Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its ideological mentor RSS called for a new law to ban “forced religious conversions”.
“Over 200 people were asked to throw their religious pendants in a holy fire and were given new pendants with the image of (Hindu) Lord Rama,” Ajit Solanki, a Gujarat state VHP secretary, told AFP.