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Organizers of the Maa Narmada Samajik Kumbh on the banks of the Narmada River hope to draw 2 million pilgrims to the event. Christian leaders said that the Kumbh is the latest in a series of anti-Christian propaganda events that Hindu nationalist organizations have held in recent years.
A similar event in Dangs district, Gujarat state in 2006 was filled with hate speech against Christians and attempted mass “reconversions.” Area media in Mandla district have already begun carrying false stories of “forced conversion” and other malicious accusations against Christians.
A local tribal party known as the Gond Mahasabha (Great Assembly of the Gonds) has vehemently opposed the Kumbh. The Gonds, whose origins predate Hindu presence in the area, have stated that they are not Hindus and are against the proposed ghar wapasi or “homecoming” ceremony – a “reconversion” drive by the Hindu extremist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). The RSS umbrella group of hard-line Hindu extremist groups asserts that all people born in India are Hindus, and that therefore anyone who believes otherwise must be “reconverted” back to Hinduism.
The Gonds have delivered an ultimatum to the RSS, threatening violence should even one case of “reconversion” occur at the Kumbh. They have called for a protest today, and clashes are expected.
Dr. John Dayal, secretary general of the All India Christian Council (AICC), told Compass that the RSS and its affiliates “have left no one in any doubt” that the main reason for the Kumbh “is to purge the region of ‘Christian missionaries’ they accuse of carrying on large-scale conversions of tribals, mostly Gonds, in this part of the country.”
Sources in the region have indicated to Compass that a hate campaign against Christians is already underway, fanned by local-language media reports hostile to Christian workers.
The current Kumbh is a follow-up of the Shabri Kumbh held February 11-13, 2006, in tribal-dominated Dangs district of Gujarat state.
Besides hate speeches before, during and after the event, the Kumbh also led to the beating of Christians, with many abandoning the area, and much loss of Christian property, including graveyards. Christian graves were reportedly dug up and crosses desecrated.
You can read the full report here.
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