Christian evangelical activities in tribal areas are set to come under the scanner with Sukma SP passing orders instructing his subordinates and officers in charge of all the police stations in the district to maintain strict surveillance over the activities of the Christian missionaries and the converted tribals.
The official letter issued to his subordinates by Sukma SP Sunil Sharma says:
The Christian missionaries and the tribal Christians are routinely venturing into internal areas of the district and persuading the non-Christian tribals to get converted by enticing and offering them allurement. Owing to this, the situation resulting in a conflict between the local tribals and those converted (to Christianity) can’t be ruled out. Maintain a consistent watch over the activities of Christian missionaries and converted tribals residing in the district and report if any of their acts are perceived as suspicious.
The New Indian Express quotes Sharma as saying:
“The circular is more as preventive in nature rather than prohibitory. Keeping in view some nearby districts where conflicts were reported owing to religious conversions, I intended such a situation shouldn’t arise in Sukma and the social harmony prevails. The police have been asked to gather its own information through their network on religious conversion activities by enticement”, said Sharma and added that all have the right to follow their faiths.
This is a welcome step keeping in view the fact that tribal regions are particularly targeted by Christian evangelicals who attempt to lure the vanvasis (tribals) into conversion often leading to clashes between those who have converted and those who still follow their traditional indigenous faith.
Recently, a missionary pastor, who was actively involved in conversion activities in Raisimla Village located in Khunti district’s Torpa Tehsil, was driven away by Sarna villagers. The villagers accused the pastor of luring innocent villagers and converting them to Christianity. During the campaign against the pastor, they raised slogans “Sarna ko bachana hai, Isaai ko bhagana hai” (Save Sarna, drive the pastor away).
There have been regular demands from those tribals following the Indic faith to ensure that benefits meant for tribals don’t accrue to Christian converts. There is a long history of the struggles undertaken by Bharat’s tribal population against Christian missionaries in a bid to save their traditional way of life.
The one name that automatically crops up when one speaks of tribal revolts is that of Birsa Munda. Having understood the exploitative nature of Christian missionaries and how evangelists belittled the tribal people and their culture, Munda rose against the British and outsiders.
Vanvasis of Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh have become increasingly vocal against the Christian missionary threat. Organiser quotes a tribal convert “We follow the Hindu customs and traditions, even though there is pressure from the chaplain to leave them. He further explains that people are slowly becoming aware now. They have understood that our customs and deities have nothing to do with Christianity”.
Missionaries have also been attempting to drive a wedge among the vanvasis by driving a small yet significant tribal population away from their traditional customs and egging them to demand a separate identity thereby fragmenting the tribal society. Having realized the divisive nature of the missionaries, several tribal groups especially in Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh have started movements against them.
Missionaries have been active even in those villages where outsiders aren’t allowed as per Schedule 6 of the Bharatiya Constitution. FCRA funds are being misused by the Christian missionaries and diverted to conversion activities illegally. In view of all these violations, the order by the Sukma SP is a welcome step.
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