25, May 2004
Written by author and activist, John Dayal
The extremist Hindutva Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and its frontal organisation Dharma Jagran Vibhag (religious awakening department) have decided to set up 21-member youth cadres in every village of the tribal Chhattisgarh state in Central India called the Raksha Sena or Defence Army, ostensibly to check conversions to Christianity.
The cadre is being set up under the patronage of Dilip Singh Judeo, who was made Forest Minister by former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee for leading his coercive and often violent Ghar Wapsi (Return Home) movement to convert tribal Christians in India’s central forest belt to Hinduism.
At its peak, the Ghar Wapsi movement consisted of armed men, many of them from outside the state, and most of them non-tribal, upper caste activists, forcibly rounding up tribal villagers into camps where Judeo and others would wash their feet, while gunmen and bow-men watched, and tell them they were now Hindus. This is well documented in a famed documentary Fishers of Men by R K Kamath, a documentary maker from Mumbai. Subsequent research by eminent Chhattisgarh activist Advocate Rajendra Sail, All India Christian Council’s John Dayal and others have exposed the hollowness and criminality of the Ghar Wapsi movement.
Although no official data is available, reports say 5,000 to 20,000 one time Christian tribals may have been converted to Hinduism, often under duress, in the four central Indian states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand in the last five years. There have been sporadic Ghar Wapsi activities in Gujarat and Orissa too, but the Sangh Parivar has not claimed credit for any significant conversion; an instance of the unpopularity of the movement.
There is, however, considerable concern in secular circles over the developments. In the last assembly elections, the four states of Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh have voted out the Congress governments and voted in the right swing Hindu nationalist and fundamentalist Bharatiya Janata Party. The BJP is in firm control of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Chhatisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand, and in Orissa it rules with its ally, the Biju Janata Dal. These four states are the home ground and laboratory of the infamous Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, funded largely by Non-resident Indians in the United Kingdom and the United States, with its programmes of distribution of anti-Muslim and anti-Christian literature, setting up of Hanuman and Shiv temples, and the distribution of tridents, or trishuls.
Giving details of the new Sena, or army, the RSS mouthpiece, The Organiser, said the May meeting in Chhattisgarh capital Raipur decided to set up Shiva and Hanuman temples in every village where pooja, or worship ceremonies, will be performed every day.
Judeo told the meeting that his movement had forced Christians to do a rethink.
Giving details of the formation of the new army, the RSS mouthpiece The Organiser said, “The Sena will target four fronts – religious awakening, social sanskaras, economic prosperity and social security.”
The meeting also decided it is important “to construct Shiva and Hanuman temples in every village, where pooja will be performed everyday.”
Judeo said the Ghar Wapsi operations should continue, “notwithstanding the problem that might come,” in reference to the change of government in New Delhi. He said that the “Dharma Sena is the need of the day as it could play an important role in the Ghar Wapsi programme.” He claimed that his movement had forced Christian nuns to give up their white habits and switch over to saffron saris. He called upon the Sainiks, or soldiers, “to move into the interior parts of the country to check religious conversions” to Christianity.