An aggressive campaign by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad had led to a ban on the entry of and propaganda by non-Hindu missionaries, especially Christians, in more than 50 villages of Chhattisgarh’s Bastar region in the last six months.
According to Suresh Yadav, Bastar district president of the VHP, over 50 gram panchayats in Bastar have passed orders under Section 129 (G) of the Chhattisgarh Panchayat Raj Act banning all “non-Hindu religious propaganda, prayers and speeches in the villages.”
The Sirisguda gram panchayat in the Tokapal block of Bastar passed the order at a special Gram Sabha organised on May 10.
The order, a copy of which is available with The Hindu, says, “To stop the forced conversion by some outsider religious campaigners and to prevent them from using derogatory language against Hindu deities and customs, the Sirisguda Gram Sabha bans religious activities such as prayers, meetings and propaganda of all non-Hindu religions.”
In Sirisguda, the dispute started when Christian families refused donations for an annual Hindu religious festival.
“They refused donations and used derogatory language against Hindu gods so the Gram Sabha banned them,” claimed Sirisguda sarpanch Jamuna Baghel.
PDS rations denied
In the recent past, some Christians were allegedly attacked in the village and have been denied ration on the orders of the village panchayat.
“It’s been over two months now that we have been denied ration in the village and 10 Christians were attacked when they went to collect ration,” claimed Sonuru Mandavi, whose family converted to Christianity in 2002.
“The villagers came to us with their problems. The VHP only told them about the law. Now that the gram panchayats have passed the orders, it is the responsibility of the district administration to implement it otherwise we will protest. We will also approach the CM and the Governor to get the ban imposed,” asserted Mr. Yadav.
The Chhattisgarh Christian Forum (CCF), however, has alleged that the ban is “illegal and unconstitutional”.
“It is similar to what khap panchayats do. How can you ask us to block our religious activities on the basis of a panchayat Act?” asked Arun Pannalal, CCF president. He said the Constitution guaranteed the freedom of religion to all.
To a question, Bastar Collector Ankit Anand said, “In Bastar, religious conversion is not such a big issue. We will ensure that distribution of ration to the villagers is not interrupted.”