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Chhattisgarh on a double edged sword of conversion

Pankaj Singh

Pankaj SinghSep 07, 2021, 09:12 AM IST

Chhattisgarh on a double edged sword of conversion

After the formation of a separate state of Chhattisgarh in the year 2000, the situation regarding conversion in the state worsened when Ajit Jogi, the first Chief Minister of the state, complied with Christianity throughout his life and came into power.

 

Another challenge has now taken its toll on the state, which has been facing the brunt of the conversion being run by the Christian Mission for years. In fact, in the last few years, the way people of a particular community from Jharkhand and West Bengal are being settled in different parts of the state strategically, it is clear that it is part of some bigger conspiracy.

By turning the pages of history, one can assess that the state has a long conversion history. Christian missionaries laid their foundation during British rule in the early twentieth century. This was when Christian missionaries, with the support of the British government, started promoting conversion by making the then Central Provinces and the northeastern part of present-day Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand their bastion. The senior English officers ensured the establishment of the churches to the posting of the pastors. Gradually, as part of the strategy by the missionaries, the tribal society was misled about their faith, and they were encouraged to convert.

For centuries, the society, which had a deep understanding of the significance of worshipping nature, and protecting flora and fauna, was not only humiliated by being termed as uncivilized, but their resources were also captured and exploited. The biggest challenge for these tribal groups living in inaccessible areas was to preserve their customs and traditions. It is no exaggeration that the tribal society not only remained faithful to its religion even in such adverse circumstances, but it also protected its religious traditions and customs very well. Perhaps this is why, despite spending resources and money, Christian missionaries could convert very few people from the tribal group in about 150 years.

Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes dominated rural areas have been more affected

But there is no doubt that even after independence, the wrong policies of the then central and state governments not only allowed the missionaries to continue their work but knowingly or unknowingly helped in their misdeeds. The rapid conversions in the Jashpur, Surguja and Raigad areas in the 1960s and the establishment of large-scale church houses in the name of religious autonomy, in collaboration with the administration, attest to this. This was the time when the erstwhile undivided Raigad district witnessed rapid conversions, and the Christian population increased from 2% to 10% in just two decades, and also in the nearby Sundargarh and Santhal areas, there was a lot of promotion for conversion. Between the 1990s and the 2000s, when Raigad district was bifurcated to form Jashpur district, the Christian population in this tribal-dominated area was around 20%, which is still around 22.6%.

If you look at the statistics, a large part of the country's Christian population lives in these areas. Talking about the figures revealed in the 21st note of the Centre for Policy Studies, a large part of India's total Christian population of two crores, 78 lakh lives in Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, and Orissa. A significant proportion of these people, who were misguided from Hindu to Christian by missionaries, come from areas that have always been tribal-dominated areas. The number of people of these tribal groups living here are about 2.5 million, which is 9.1% of the total Christian population of India. Out of which, the population of about 14.8 lakh lives in the surrounding areas of Raigad Sundergarh and Ranchi.

If we talk about Chhattisgarh itself, Christian missionaries have encouraged more conversions in areas that have already been tribal group-dominated areas. Let's talk about the census figures released by the central government. About 62% of these people who were converted after getting trapped by the inveigle of missionaries are living in Jashpur, Surguja and Raigad districts. Significantly, these districts have a notable population of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, most of whom live in rural areas. Altogether, about 87% of the population of these districts lives in backward rural areas where Christian missionaries have been tempted to convert them.

After the formation of a separate state of Chhattisgarh in the year 2000, the situation regarding conversion in the state worsened when Ajit Jogi, the first Chief Minister of the state, complied with Christianity throughout his life and came into power. During his tenure, there were several reports related to the conversion of people of the Urao community by the Christian missionaries with the administration's help. Most of these conversions were done in Koriya, Jashpur, Marwahi, Korba of the Surguja division. Although an anti-conversion law was passed in the assembly to prevent illegal conversions since the Bharatiya Janata Party the government came to power in the state; it does not have a wide impact on preventing grassroots conversion because of weak provisions.

Various conspiracies are hatched for conversion

There is no doubt that Christian missionaries have been hatching various conspiracies for conversion. To convert the tribal groups, the missionaries sometimes call beloved Budhadev the incarnation of Jesus Christ, and sometimes they tell Shiva as the form of Jesus Christ. They also encourage the people of the poor tribal group to convert by luring them with money. If it still does not work, these people instigate the demand for a separate religion within the tribal groups. These tribal groups, which are an integral part of Sanatan culture in every form, should be removed from their identity and customs.

The missionaries are following pastime-tested policy by nurturing the demand for a separate religion among the tribal groups. Under which they converted a large population in the northeastern states of India and gradually inspired them to adopt Christianity. In Jharkhand, the Christian missionaries used to instigate tribal groups to become the followers of the Sarna religion, which now makes up about 13% of the total population of Jharkhand.

There is no doubt that such efforts have shown their colours in Chhattisgarh, too. This is why about 5 lakh people of the state, which is 1.94 per cent of its population, have not chosen Sanatan Dharma as their religion during the census. Most of these people have been made victims of a conspiracy by the Christian mission to choose a different religion.

Apart from this, missionaries also adopt various methods of conversion. During the Corona period itself, grinded allopathic medicines were widely publicized in the tribal areas by describing them as the offerings of Lord Jesus Christ.

Global organizations are also part of the conspiracy

It should be noted that these Christian missionaries, who have done the abominable act of converting people of gullible tribal groups, have their penetration among the local leaders and the senior officials of the administration. Along with this, these people also have a deep hold on the international community. Whenever their dark exploits come to the fore, such people shout in their defence. Articles are written in their favour in newspapers internationally. Apart from this, certain writers strongly support their black exploits in the name of religious autonomy. Chad.M.Bauman's(a professor at Butler University in Indiana) book Christian Identity and Dalit Religion reflects this very mindset.

In fact, given the amount of money and resources that have been channelled to Christian missionaries over the years, it is not difficult to believe that they have an accomplice in the international community. Their international reach can also be gauged from the fact that the then US President Barack Obama, who was visiting India, had to associate the damaged window of a Delhi based church with intolerance.

Now the looming threat of extremism and Rohingyas

Now another challenge has spread its feet in the state. In fact, in the last few years, the way suspected people of a particular community of Jharkhand and West Bengal are being settled in the state clearly shows that some big conspiracy is being carried out to change the demography of the region. These illegal immigrants (mostly Bengali speaking) are not only different from the local people, but their behaviour is also suspicious. Apart from cities like Raipur, Bilaspur, there is a steady increase in the number of these people who have been brought from outside, mainly in Ambikapur, a city in the northeast of Chhattisgarh. There are speculations that most of these people belong to the Rohingya community from Myanmar.

It is also that not only these people have now slowly made their settlements, but with the help of local administration and sympathizers, they have also collected necessary documents like Aadhar card, Ration card, Voter ID card for themselves. Recently, during the assembly session, Brijmohan Agrawal said that there is a need to investigate all these immigrants who came from outside the state.

He also feared that many of these infiltrators from outside are those Rohingyas, whom the central government has barred from entering India. He further claimed that around 5000 infiltrators have been settled in his own constituency. Out of which Aadhar card has been provided to about two and a half thousand people.

It is worth noting that the issue of infiltration of the Rohingya community is being raised continuously by many opposition leaders in the state. Apart from this, such news has been continuously published in local newspapers. In the year 2017, an inquiry was set up in the Surguja division on the orders of Brijmohan Agarwal, the then minister in charge, but after the administration's lax attitude and later after the administration formation of the new government, this investigation was put on hold.

A retired senior officer of Raipur Police says it is not that the terrorists have not been caught in the state. There is no doubt that their sympathizers are present in large numbers here. But the attitude of the state government regarding such a serious issue is shocking, which can prove fatal for our internal security.

Professor Saurabh Upadhyay, who has been working in Ambikapur for years, says that there used to be a dense forest in the areas of Mahamaya hills, but in the last few years, about 80% of the forests have been cut, and settlements of infiltrators from outside have been established there. These people also have statutory documents provided by the administration. Along with this, all kinds of help are provided to them by the administration. Apart from this, illegal settlements have also been constructed in many areas of the city, including Khairwar, Lundra, Gananjhadand Bansa. He fears that with no political cooperation, it is impossible to settle the people of a particular community from outside on such a large scale and arrange necessary documents for them.

It should be noted that last year itself, the BJP councillor of Ambikapur, Alok Dubey, wrote a letter to Collector Surguja on the illegal occupation of the government land in the protected forest area of Mahamaya Pahar, Khairbar, and Ghutrapara adjoining the city. Councilor Dubey had also said in his letter that the law and order situation is being deteriorated in these areas day by day. There may be a possibility of communal conflict in the future.

Apart from all this, it is evident from the cases related to love jihad from different parts of the state in recent days that radical extremism has spread its feet in the state of dense forests and peaceful people. Incidents of love jihad from Jashpur, Korea, Bilaspur, Korba and even the capital Raipur is not only shocking but it is also being speculated that funding and resources are also being provided by the extremist forces for them in the state.

State governments surrounded by strife will have to make decisions

It will not be an exaggeration if it is said that whether it is Christian missionaries promoting conversions among tribal groups or extremists encouraging hateful acts like love jihad, all these are aimed at changing the demography within this peaceful region so that the very existence of the indigenous tribes here can be challenged. The irony is that while taking lessons from other states on these serious issues, the state government should try to bring a strict law against conversion is busy resolving the squabbles within its own party.

The state government should curb the activities of such organizations and ensure that the administration does not participate in such heinous acts in the future. At the same time, bringing strict laws against love jihad and conversion to protect the tribal religious traditions and customs, which are the state's identity, so that the original identity of this state can be kept untouched.

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