A forum for Christians in West Bengal Wednesday said the alleged forced religious reconversion of tribals was a “big bluff” and a “cunningly organised drama” to falsely propagate the so-called “ghar wapsi” ceremony.
The claims by the Bangiya Christiya Pariseba (BCP) – or the United State Forum for all denominational Christians – comes amid reports of alleged forced religious conversion of over 100 tribals in Bengal.
A police complaint was earlier registered against Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) chief Pravin Togadia and functionary Jugal Kishore for hurting religious sentiments.
“The incident of reconversion of some Christians in a Hindu ‘ghar wapsi’ programme at Kharmadanga in Birbhum Jan 28 was a big bluff. It was a cunningly organised drama to make a false propagation of so-called ‘ghar wapsi’ ceremony,” said BCP’s state working president Herod Mullick while releasing the findings.
“According to the record of the nearest church located three km from Kharmadanga, no Christian family has ever lived in that village,” said Mullick.
He said a BCP fact-finding team reached Rampurhat Feb 2 to collect facts, but the team was surprised to find that the information of their visit had somehow leaked.
They visited Barpahari Catholic Church, three-four km from the village where the ‘ghar wapsi’ programme was held.
All the nearby Christian families are attached to that church as its registered bona fide members, he said.
The team spoke to Father Peter Munna Soren, assistant parish priest, and some Christians from two villages – Bhatina and Matimahal – adjacent to Kharmadanga.
Mullick said that despite “invitations and allurement”, no one from the 32 Christian families from surrounding villages attended the Jan 28 Kharmadanga Hindu ‘ghar wapsi’ ceremony.
He said an identical Hindu programme, aimed at false propagation, was undertaken in the nearby tribal village Bhatina Feb 27, 2000.
Another ‘ghar wapsi’ was held in Popra village, 15 km from Malda town in April 2002.
“The team was convinced that the so-called ‘ghar wapsi’ programme of Kharmadanga was a carefully engineered drama, similar to the incidents in Bhatina and Popra, to supplement the reconversion programme with three primary mischievous goals,” Mullick said.
He said the three reasons were “to demoralise and put pressure on Christians and priests, including nuns and other church workers, to encourage and motivate their various Hindu wings and branches across the country to organise identical programmes aimed at cornering Christians further, and to deliver an innocent message to the nation that the ethnic tribal people are originally Hindu”.
He said the BCP has decided to send a memorandum to the state and union home ministers, Human Rights Watch and other international rights groups to make a proper inquiry to unearth the truth behind the incident in Kharmadanga.
The Trinamool Congress has alleged that the VHP conducted a “ghar wapsi” ceremony in Kharmadanga village in Birbhum district during which over 100 Christians were “forcibly” converted.
The VHP has denied the charges of conversion but claimed that a Hindu religious ceremony was conducted that saw the participation of more than 1,000 people from the village, including Muslims and Christians.