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VHP to reconvert 80,000 Dalits in Uttar Pradesh PDF Print E-mail
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Tuesday, 30 November 1999

Hindu extremists have launched a mass campaign to "reconvert" Christians from Dalit backgrounds in Uttar Pradesh. According to sources, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) plans to convert at least 80,000 Dalit Christians to Hinduism in Agra division of Uttar Pradesh by the end of 2005.


Agra division is composed of seven districts, including the tourist town of Agra where the Taj Mahal, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, is located. The division is also home to 638,000 Dalits.


The announcement of the new ghar vapsi or "homecoming" programme comes in the wake of a survey conducted by Hindu organisations in Agra division. The survey claims that over 200,000 Dalits in the region had converted to Christianity. "Almost 90 per cent of Dalits from the Valmiki community have come under the sway of baptism drive," the source points out.


Indrajit Arya, regional coordinator of Hindu Jagran Vibhag, an arm of VHP, says a large number of Christian converts still follow Hindu customs even after their conversion. "The women still observe the karwachauth fast [an annual fast carried out by wives for their husbands], the cross on their necks notwithstanding."


The source claims VHP has already "reconverted" more than 18,000 Dalit Christians in the region over the past year.


According to John Dayal, a member of the National Integration Council and president of the All India Christian Council, he is "amused" by the VHP's goals. "Which caste will [these Dalits] profess after they become Hindus?" Dayal wonders. "Will VHP make them all Brahmins [the highest caste in Hinduism] so they can live with dignity ... Or will they be forced to live with other Dalits in filthy ghettos?"


Contrary to the allegations of Hindu groups, Dayal says Agra has a Christian population of fewer than 100,000. However, it does have a 400-year-old Christian tradition. He objects to the term reconversion, a phrase that "has no legal or theological meaning in India." Most Dalits are traditionally animists or follow tribal religions and therefore cannot be "reconverted" back to Hinduism, he explains.


"The homecoming ceremonies are a strategy of Hindu fundamentalist groups ... based on deceit and force, and often done under the supervision of armed thugs. I hope some day the state and federal governments will wake up to this danger, and instead of harassing Indian-born evangelists and priests, take due action against this political brigandry,” he says.

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