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Mass conversion in PM Narendra Modi's home state sparks anger

Published Dec 21, 2014, 8:31 pm IST
Updated Mar 30, 2019, 5:38 am IST
Conversion of 200 Christians to Hinduism in Gujarat sparked anger among people
A religious conversion that happened earlier in Agra. (Photo: PTI)
 A religious conversion that happened earlier in Agra. (Photo: PTI)

Ahmedabad: Hardline Hindu groups came under fire Sunday after some 200 Christians were converted in Gujarat, amid increasing concern at the government's perceived pro-Hindu tilt.

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad said it converted Christian tribal people to Hinduism in Gujarat late Saturday.


The mass event drew widespread criticism from Christian groups and Modi's political opponents on Sunday. They accused 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, rewriting history and economic policies," Congress leader Digvijay Singh,  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 (215 miles) south of Ahmedabad.

It happened hours after Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the 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 Lord Rama," Ajit Solanki, Gujarat state VHP secretary, told AFP.

Solanki however denied using any kind of force or monetary promises, maintaining that the conversions were voluntary.

The world's most populous democracy is a secular country under the constitution and religious freedom is considered a fundamental right.

The issue of mass conversions has paralysed India's parliament, with opposition lawmakers demanding Modi make a statement on earlier reports of poor Muslims being coerced into Hinduism.

A hardline group linked to the BJP was accused of converting some 50 slum-dwelling Muslim families about a week ago in the Taj Mahal city of Agra.

One of the converts told AFP they were promised ration cards and other financial incentives if they switched religions.

Critics say Hindu hardline groups have become emboldened since the BJP was elected, promoting a Hindu-dominant agenda.

Modi, who spent his early years in the RSS, has made no comment on religious issues since becoming premier.

He was himself accused of failing to curb 2002 anti-Muslim riots that claimed at least 1,000 lives when he was chief minister of Gujarat.

He has always rejected the accusations and India's Supreme Court found no evidence to prosecute him.

India is 80 percent Hindu while Muslims make up 13.4 percent of the 1.2 billion population. Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs and other religions account for the rest.