January 5, 2014
Pousha Shukla Panchami, Kaliyug Varsha 5115
RAIPUR: Five months after the death of BJP leader and Jashpur scion Dilip Singh Judeo, his 34-year-old son is all set to follow in the footsteps of his father by organising ‘ghar wapsi’ campaigns in tribal areas of North Chhattisgarh. This ritual is part of the Sangh drive to re-convert Christians to Hinduism.
Prabal Pratap Singh Judeo, who returned toJashpur from the US after 12 years, following the death of his brother and father last year, is now gearing up to campaign aggressively on the anti-conversion theme on which his father gained popularity among tribals.
“The ‘ghar wapsi’ programme will be held during a Hindu Sammelan scheduled for January 12 at Pathalgaon. We are trying to motivate and convince people from different parts of Jashpur to return to Hinduism,” Dr Heena Judeo, wife of Prabal Pratap Singh Judeo, told TOI over telephone from Jashpur.
“The idea is to carry forward the good work done by late Dilip Singh Judeo, who championed the Hindu cause among tribals,” she said.
Dilip Singh Judeo had built upon the foundation laid by Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram — the Sangh Parivar’s answer to Christian missionaries— by organising home-coming operations to re-convert tribal Christians. The campaign, which began more than two decades ago during undivided Madhya Pradesh, had often sparked controversies as organisers claimed to bring Christians “back to” Hinduism which they said had been their original religion. However, critics dubbed the programme as a stunt for political gains.
Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, with which the late BJP leader was closely associated, runs a chain of schools and hospitals among tribals. To a great extent, Judeo has been successful in encouraging tribals to identify themselves as part of the majority community through his aggressive anti-conversion movements.
As Dilip Singh Judeo led the campaign, the BJP government in 2006 enacted a legislation —Chhattisgarh Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Act, 2006 — that provides anyone who converts a person to his faith will need to seek permission from the local district magistrate (DM) at least 30 days in advance. The district collector is to allow conversion only if threats or allurements have not been offered.
However, the law doesn’t apply to those who come back to their original religion, obviously referring to Hinduism. The then law minister Brijmohan Agrawal had defended the provision saying, “If somebody comes back to his religion or to the religion of his ancestors, it can’t be called conversion, it is home-coming or ghar wapsi.”
Anybody found guilty of contravening the DM’s decision is liable to imprisonment for up to three years and a fine of up to Rs 20,000. Violation of the provision is a non-bailable offence. Chhattisgarh has more than 1.93% Christians.