Scores of Christians convert to Hinduism in Orissa’s Kandhamal (Lead)

October 17th, 2008 - 9:59 pm ICT by IANS  

Phulbani (Orissa), Oct 17 (IANS) Scores of Christians have converted to Hinduism in Orissa’s Kandhamal district in the past few weeks to save their lives and properties, a government official admitted Friday.”We have received over 50 complaints where people alleged that Hindu villagers are forcing them to convert to Hinduism if want to save their lives and properties,” a senior district administration official told IANS.

“Over 30 people have informed us in writing that they changed their religion to Hinduism on their own and without any force,” he said, adding that all the complaints were being investigated and action would be taken as per law.

However, Sajan K. George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), said that the number of people who converted to Hinduism forcibly would be more than 600.

“The villagers tonsured my head and forced me to drink cow dung water,” a victim claimed in a relief camp in this town, the district headquarters of the volatile Kandhamal district.

“We need to practice a religion what others too in our village are practicing,” Krishna Nayak, a resident of Sarangad where over a dozen Christians converted to Hinduism had said.

“The barbaric killings of Swamiji who worked for decades for Dalits and tribals in the region has shocked people,” said a Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader.

The villagers were now returning to Hinduism because they realised that Christianity promotes violence and killing, he claimed.

The region has borne the brunt of the communal violence following the killing of VHP leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati and four of his aides Aug 23 at his Jalespata Ashram.

Hindus in the region blamed Christians for the killing and went on a rampage against the community. The state government says Maoists were behind Saraswati’s murder.

At least 36 people, mostly Christians, were killed and thousands of homes burnt in the district during the violence. Over 20,000 people, mainly Christians, have taken shelter in relief camps after their houses were torched by rampaging Hindu mobs.

Although there has been no violence since past over two weeks, tension continues in the region over religious conversions.

While night curfew is in force in nine towns in Kandhamal, prohibitory orders banning any gathering of four and more people are in force across the district.

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