Tuesday, December 16, 2014

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Vishva Hate Parishad, VHP Saffron brigade puts 'ghar wapsi ...

6 hours ago - Vishva Hate Parishad, VHP Saffron brigade puts 'ghar wapsi' on hold Rajeev Dikshit ,TNN | Dec 16, 2014, 11.06 AM IST READ MORE Vishwa Hindu Parishad' ...

Where do Indian Muslims come from: RSS' Ghar Wapsi rests on colonial history of conversion

 by Ajaz Ashraf  Dec 16, 2014 15:56 IST


The Sangh Parivar’s fervour for reconverting Muslims and Christians to Hinduism, euphemistically described as Ghar Wapsi programme, is linked to its narrow, even flawed, reading of history. It is ironical that the Sangh should be closer to colonial interpretation of India’s past than even the ‘sicularists’ whom they love to deride.
In embracing this colonial interpretation, the Sangh has been inspired to attempt the impossible – convince or compel people to accept the myth that the past of Hinduism was not only glorious but also perfect and incomparable.
Critics of the Sangh’s imagining of the idyllic past point to the presence of Muslims and Christians in large numbers to ask: If the past was perfect, then why did a large segment of India’s population leave Hinduism to embrace Islam or Christianity?
The Sangh theory of conversion
It’s a question that irritates the Sangh no end. In its imagining, a people bestowed with such knowledge as to write the Vedas and the Upanishads, and also master the science of plastic surgery and nuclear tests, could not but have organised their society harmoniously. For it, therefore, the four-fold varna system was merely a division of labour to maximize the efficiency of the social system. It did not segregate people, nor was it discriminatory and exploitative.
But to impart credibility to this narrative the Sangh has to explain the conversion of Muslims and Christians as their presence in today’s India is an indelible blot on the picture of it having a perfect past. Thus they cite two reasons for their proselytization, reasons which do not indict Hindu society for evolving the exploitative caste system.
One, the Muslim rulers of India, zealots all but for a few exceptions, offered the Hindu subjects the stark choice between being slaughtered and converting to Islam. In such circumstances, who wouldn’t opt for conversion? Two, the Hindu were lured into converting to Islam, and later to Christianity, through the offer of state patronage – such as land grants or jobs or measures which could facilitate trade or craft they were engaged in. In other words, both fear and allurement were deployed as state policies to wean away the Hindus from their religion.
Both these theories suffer from palpable weaknesses. If Muslim rulers were converting people ‘by the sword’, and had no qualms about shedding blood to fulfil their religious duties, why did they not covert all, particularly in those areas over which they enjoyed complete supremacy for centuries? Why did they not root out Hinduism altogether or substantially? Again, the theory of patronage may explain the conversion of some notable Hindu rajas and their followers, but can’t account for mass conversion.
The colonial view of conversion
These two theories – proselytizing by force and allurement – as well as the one which claims conversion was a consequence of certain social groups seeking liberation from the caste system were propounded during British rule. Colonial historians were then analysing the past to explain, as also justify, the advent of the British in India, besides harping on the inevitability of animosities between two religious communities – Hindus and Muslims.
Thus, from the perspective of these writers, Hindu society was weak – and therefore susceptible to conquest – because it had been organised to suit the interests of Brahmins and other upper castes. Such a social system created an oppressive social context from which lower castes sought to escape as soon as Muslims became India’s paramount power. This was because, it was argued, Islam emphasised on the equality of all.
Then again, since Muslims enjoyed power and unlike the new foreign rulers, the British, were barbaric, they used the sword to win new converts to their faith, believing proselytization was a noble act which endeared them to Allah. This theory had the inherent advantages of portraying British rule as benevolent as well as enabling it to harvest the past for the seeds of discord that could be sowed between Hindus and Muslims.
As Indians began to transform themselves into a nation and, as elsewhere, sought to tailor the past for this project, the theories about conversion had their distinct appeal for different sections. For the Hindu Right, or the Sangh, conversion by force and allurement skirted around the problems of the caste system and didn’t challenge its imagining of the idyllic past. It also neatly dovetailed with the Sangh’s idea, articulated so often in the last few months, that every Muslim or Christian was in the past a Hindu and should therefore call himself or herself as one.
So who became a Muslim?
The tenability of any theory about the past is always difficult to prove. This is also true of the three theories of conversion, which Richard M Eaton, professor at the University of Arizona, tears apart. In his essay, Approaches to the Study of Conversion to Islam in India, he raises a seminal question: Why is it that there is an “inverse relationship between the degree of Muslim political penetration and the degree of conversion to Islam?”
This question Eaton answers thus: “If conversion to Islam had ever been a function of military or political force (however these might have been expressed) one would expect that those areas of heaviest conversion would correspond to those areas of South Asia exposed most intensely and over the longest period to rule by Muslim dynasties.”
Citing data, he says the opposite seems to have been the case: “Those regions of the most dramatic conversion of the population, such as Eastern Bengal or Western Punjab, lay on the fringes of Indo-Muslim rule, whereas the heartland of that rule, the upper Gangetic Plain, saw a much lower incidence of conversion.”
Obviously, Eaton is talking of undivided, or pre-1947, India. Then the most densely populated Muslim areas were Eastern Bengal, Western Punjab, the Northwest Frontier, and Baluchistan. The bulk of the Muslim population in the Northwest Frontier and Baluchistan was not converted communities, but descendants of the immigrants from Iran. This means East Bengal and West Punjab witnessed the highest incidence of conversion, quite surprising as these two were the farthest from the epicenter of Muslim rule – the Agra-Delhi belt.
The other interesting aspect of this phenomenon, according to Eaton, is that the communities which converted to Islam in these two regions were not fully integrated into the Hindu social system at the time of their contact with Islam. In East Bengal, such social groups he identified were Rajbansi, Pod, Chandal, Koch, etc. In Punjab, innumerable Jat clans converted.
The Sangh should note what Eaton says, “Since the greatest incidence of Muslim conversions occurred among groups that were not fully Hindu in the first place, for the vast majority of South Asian Muslims the question of ‘liberation’ from the ‘oppressive’ Hindu social order was simply not an issue.” It may just be that the Sangh’s imagining of the past has been motivated by a fact it thinks is embarrassing and which it wants to camouflage, but which most likely wasn’t a significant factor in conversion.
So why did these communities in East Bengal and West Punjab convert? As Muslim rule pushed from the Centre, or the Delhi-Agra belt, to the periphery, it sought to settle its frontiers, claim arable land and establish an agriculture infrastructure to extract surplus revenue from the land. These communities were largely pastrol or forest-dwellers and their integration into the Hindu social system was nominal. They were not converted to Islam in the sense we understand today.
Moreover, their conversion was over centuries of socialization, brought about through Sufi saints, who were their immediate figures of veneration. For many of them, for centuries, Allah may have just an addition to the pantheon of deities endowed with supernatural powers.
Thus, for instance, in Bengal, the Ganges silted and shifted course in the 16th century, making huge tracts of land available for cultivation. This was also the period in which the Mughals had established their rule over Bengal. With the colonizing power moved Muslims and Sufis from North India. Those who were pastoral became peasants and were subsequently incorporated into the socio-economic structure. Since they weren’t integrated into Hinduism, as peasants in Uttar Pradesh were, and as Islam was the ideology of the state, their conversion to the new faith, from which they stood to gain, gradually happened, spread over centuries.
Much the same happened in west Punjab, where Jats migrated from Sindh. It appears they may have become agriculturists relatively quicker than their self-identity of being Muslim was formed and institutionalized. As Eaton notes, “In the early fifteenth century, 10 percent of recorded Sial (a Jat clan) males had Muslim names; for the mid-seventeenth century, 56 percent; for the mid-eighteenth century, 75 percent, and for the early nineteenth century, 100 percent. This is, I think, a most revealing index of the gradual process of group identity formation.”
After laying out the broad patterns of conversion centuries ago, and pointing to the ecological, political, and cultural-religious dimensions of the phenomenon, Eaton declares, “To the extent that this was the case, Islam, in India at least, may properly be termed more a religion of the plough than a religion of the sword, as formerly conceived. (Italics mine)”
But tell this to the Sangh activist and all that you will harvest are abuses. Indeed, there is no one history, but multiple histories; no one imagining of the past, but a bewildering multiplicity. The Sangh’s choice of a vision of the past is as self-serving, blinkered and unidimensional as that of the British.

Source: First Post

Saffron brigade puts ‘ghar wapsi’ on hold

VARANASI: Giving a hint to put 'ghar wapsi' campaign on backburner till the end of the winter session of Parliament, the saffron brigade will now focus on creating atmosphere to achieve its target of 're-converting' 10,000 people in east UP during events being organized as a part of Vishwa Hindu Parishad's golden jubilee year celebrations.

Why the VHP is changing tone on its 'ghar wapsi' (home coming) campaign became clear on Monday when its Kashi Pranth unit organizing secretary Manoj Srivastava refused to talk on the issue. Sources in the saffron brigade revealed that in view of the uproar being made by opposition in both houses of Parliament, the top leadership wants to keep the campaign in pause mode till the winter session ends.

The tightening of noose on saffron brigade's local units by the district administration and police in Ghazipur district has also compelled organizations like VHP and Hindu Yuva Vahini to go on backfoot. District magistrate of Ghazipur Narendra Singh Patel said that leaders of both organizations were called at Sadar Kotwali police station on Monday to provide details of their proposed programmes on December 17 and 18. The two organizations gave it in writing that 'Ghar Wapsi' is not the part of their events. After getting this declaration, the district administration and police allowed them to hold their meetings.

Srivastava said that nobody can stop VHP from creating atmosphere for 'ghar wapsi' as it is a part of its agenda. The issue would also be discussed during Wednesday's `Dharm Sabha' being organized as part of VHP's golden jubilee programmes at Lanka ground in Ghazipur. For the preparations of 'Dharm Sabha' a senior office-bearer of VHP is camping in Ghazipur. "We have 370 ekal-vidyalaya (school with single teacher) in Ghazipur district and multi-member committees monitor these schools. The network of committees is mobilizing the people to take part in the proposed meeting at Lanka ground," he said.

Making it clear that 'ghar wapsi' has been excluded from this meeting, VHP leader Sudarshanji said, "Our activities are not aimed at creating communal tension but the authorities will have to clear their stand on the missionaries that go for large-scale conversion from December 25 to 31 across the country, including Ghazipur." The VHP leaders are claiming that many Muslim families are in contact with them in this district, who know very well that their ancestors were Hindus. This brigade is focusing on those converted people who are being termed as Muslim backwards or Christian Dalits. He said that the converted people kept in these categories are really dissatisfied due to no change in their social status even after conversion.

The HYV's Ghazipur unit chief Rasbihari Rai said, "We have given it in writing that Ghar Wapsi is not the part of our proposed meeting at Misirpur Gohna on December 18. But, we will keep eyes on district administration and police to see their action when conversion session would be organized by the missionaries."

The DM said, "We have taken declaration from both organizations but extra precautions like videography of their meeting would be initiated. Apart from regular staff of intelligence wings, the revenue department employees are also being engaged for intelligence collection by keeping sharp vigil in the areas concerned."

On the basis of inputs received so far by the officials they do not see possibility of huge participation in both the meetings of the saffron brigade.

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Sid Harth
Vishva Hndu Parishad of Vishva Hate Parishad? bunch of idiots. ...and I am Sid Harth
Sid Harth
The atrocity, about which the State government has not gone public, has outraged and terrified Christian organisations working in Kandhamal district. News of it was brought to the notice of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik by Raphael Cheenath, Archbishop of the Cuttack-Bhubaneswar diocese. Sister Nirmala wrote letters to the Orissa Chief Minister and the Prime Minister on this and other brutal attacks on Christians in Orissa. In her letter, dated August 28, 2008, to Chief Minister Patnaik, she took up “a very sad incident, soon after the eruption of the violence” of “one young sister, consecrated to God, who was administrator of an institute, being hunted out of her hiding place and stripped naked by the mob and her virginity grossly violated in public, without any help from the police present there.” In her appeal for protection to Christians, Sister Nirmala urged the Chief Minister to “ask the Central Govt. for as many extra forces from the Centre as they are willing to give and you need.” When contacted, Praveen Kumar, Superintendent of Police, Kandhamal district, told The Hindu that investigations into the episode by a Deputy Superintendent of Police were on and “the law will take its course.” He confirmed that no arrests have been made in connection with the incidents. Source: Hindu ...and I am Sid Harth
Sid Harth
The brutalisation of the nun and the priest by a mob raising anti-Christian, Hindutva slogans took place around 1 p.m. at the site of the Divya Jyothi Pastor Centre. The church was burnt the previous day in reprisal against the murder of an RSS activist, Lakshmanananda Saraswathi, and four of his associates on August 23. The gang rape of the young nun, whose “virginity [was] grossly violated in public” (and whose identity is being withheld by this newspaper to protect her privacy) took place in front of a police outpost with 12 policemen from the Orissa State Armed Police present and watching, according to Father Thomas Chellan, the priest who was dragged out and badly beaten. “Around 1 p.m., a gang came and pulled me and the Sister out of the house where we had taken shelter and started assaulting us,” Father Chellan told The Hindu in a telephonic interview from Kerala where he is recuperating. “My appeals to the policemen who were standing nearby and watching only resulted in further beating. At one point the nun slipped away to plead with the police for help but she was dragged back by the mob and her blouse torn,” he said. The nun was gang raped in a nearby building, and he was doused with kerosene by the mob, which threatened to set him on fire. They were saved by a group of youth who took them to the police outpost where “one among the attackers was present with the police between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m.,” Father Chellan said. News of the K. Nuagaon atrocity was conveyed through mobile phones to several priests and nuns hiding in the forests, fearing for their lives as the anti-Christian hunt was on. The victims were taken to the Baliguda police station around 9 p.m. where they lodged First Information Reports. “I believe the Sister wrote in her complaint that she was raped,” Father Chellan said.
Sid Harth
Today's Paper September 30, 2008 Nun was gang raped and priest brutally assaulted in Kandhamal Parvathi Menon FIRs lodged but no arrests by State government; no response from Centre; Sister Nirmala wrote to CM and PM appealing for protection to Christians Bhubaneswar: The Orissa government has failed to take any action, under the law of the land, against those who committed crimes — the g*** r*** of a 28-year-old Catholic nun and the brutal attack on a Catholic priest who courageously resisted their attempts to force him to participate in the atrocity. These incidents took place on August 25 at K. Nuagaon, 12 km from the Baliguda subdivision in Kandhamal district. Both victims filed First Information Reports at the Baliguda police station. Sister Nirmala, Superior-General of the Missionaries of Charity, wrote to the Orissa Chief Minister and the Prime Minister specifying the atrocities.
Sid Harth
He alleged that these church groups have specifically chosen the border areas for conversions so that in future, once the converts gather strength as in North Eastern states, they could raise voice of separate nation with outside help. Khanna, while sensing a deep rooted conspiracy behind the conversion demanded that government should swing into action to look into the funds flowing to these groups and inquire whether they were being judiously used or not. Khanna said they would also be preparing a data base to know the rate of conversions , number of churches recently erected in villages of border areas of Punjab. Rakesh Madan, state vice president of Bajrang Dal alleged that these church groups propagate alleviating from their miseries of people if they embraces Christianity through their changiai sabha's. He said BD had prevented these sabha's to be held . Lajpat Rai another BD leader said that they would now be laying more stress on their dharma jagran and dharma parchar programmes besides going deep into the ground realities so that appropriate measures could be taken to check conversions. He said the conversions have also led to trade of cow slaughtering in the border areas.
Sid Harth
VHP against conversions in Punjab Yudhvir Rana, TNN | Mar 31, 2005, 11.27PM IST inShare AMRITSAR: Vishwa Hindu Parishad and other Hindu organizations would intensify their missionary work to check the conversion of dalit and majhbi Sikhs to Christianity in the border areas of Punjab besides persuading for re conversions to those who had already embraced Christianity. VHP had already demanded to put a ban on conversions. A new strategy is being chalked out by local leaders of these organizations to step up their efforts especially after the visit of RSS's spokesperson Ram Madhav who had recently visited the border areas of Punjab from where dalit's and majhbi Sikhs have been reported to be converting en mass to Christianity. Notably SGPC had also advised Sikhs to not convert into Christianity after reports that a large number of majhbi Sikh's were embracing Christianity. Arun Khanna, joint secretary of Punjab unit of VHP while talking to TNN on Thursday said that certain church groups were targeting economically weaker sections for conversions either through enticements, helping them economically and also promising them of miraculous healings of diseases if they adopted Christianity.
Sid Harth
Pradhan was arrested in October 2008 on several charges, including murder, rioting and arson. He fought the assembly elections in April 2009 from jail and defeated senior Congress leader Ajaynti Pradhan. Pradhan faced 14 criminal cases, including six cases of murder. He was earlier convicted by another fast tract court in the same district in another murder case June 29. The government has set up two fast track courts in the district to try criminal cases related to communal riots. IANS
Sid Harth
BJP lawmaker gets jail for murder in Kandhamal riots September 9, 2010 | Accident / Crime / Disaster | Written by Kayanush 0 inShare Bhubaneswar, Sep 9 – A fast-track court in Orissa Thursday sentenced Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislator Manoj Pradhan to six years’ rigorous imprisonment for a murder during the 2008 communal riots in Kandhamal district, a lawyer said. Judge C.R. Das of the the fast-track court II at Phulbani, the district headquarters of Kandhamal, handed down the sentence to Pradhan for the murder of Bikram Nayak at Tiangia village under Raikia police station area Aug 25, 2008. ‘The court sentenced him to six years’ rigorous imprisonment. A fine of Rs.15,500 was also slapped on him,’ Pradhan’s lawyer Ajit Patnaik told IANS. Kandhamal district, about 200 km from here, witnessed widespread violence after the murder of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati and four of his aides at his ashram Aug 23, 2008. At least 38 people were killed and more than 25,000 Christians were forced to flee their homes after their houses were attacked by rampaging mobs that held Christians responsible for Saraswati’s killing, although the police blamed the Maoists. Pradhan, who represents G Udaygiri assembly constituency, will appeal against the judgment in a higher court, Patnaik said. ‘His (Pradhan) name was not mentioned in the first information report (FIR). His name was added by the police later after the incident,’ he said.
Sid Harth 13155

But are things changing under his successor Anandiben Patel? A communal skirmish took place in Bhuj ahead of Eid, while a temple was allegedly desecrated in Idar in north Gujarat during Shravan leading to a tense situation.

Apart from this, on Eid day, the chief minister performed an aarti that had been organized by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation on the banks of the Sabarmati river. Religion seems to be gaining a bigger space in the public discourse in Gujarat after Modi's departure for Delhi, according to some observers.

A source in the BJP said that while it's too early to determine a wider trend, the efforts of the Sangh parivar to re-establish its grip over Gujarat is more than a possibility.

Modi dealt with the VHP with an iron hand in the last few years, rendering the international secretary of the outfit Pravin Togadia a political pariah. As a matter of fact, Modi ensured a split in VHP with the anti-Togadia faction supporting the chief minister. This cut the outfit to size in a state where it used to have immense political clout.

In 2009, when the temples were demolished, the state police even arrested a VHP leader from north Gujarat just ahead of Diwali and kept him behind bars for a long time. It will be recalled that a controversy broke out in April after Togadia exhorted an audience in Bhavnagar to harass the Muslim buyer of a building in a Hindu area to force him to abandon the purchase.

But the VHP, uncharacteristically, doesn't seem to be keen on making any public statements that could be seen as exploiting events to inflame opinion right now. Still, VHP state president Trivedi said, "Things are as it is getting bad." He also raised the issue of cow slaughter.

"There are regular reports of seizure of beef and cow slaughter too has not stopped," he said, adding that VHP will decide on its course of action after its leaders meet.
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Sid Harth 13155

Raghava Reddy takes over as VHP International chief
Dec 20 ,2011 15:18 PM
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Raghava Reddy takes over as VHP International chief

Hyderabad based sweets maker Mr G. Raghava Reddy was unanimously elected as the International President of the Viswa Hindu Parishad (VHP) at its Trust Board meeting at Kochi in Kerala on Monday.

Mr Raghava Reddy, owner of the internationally famous G. Pulla Reddy Sweets and son of the late Mr G. Pulla Reddy, arrived in Hyderabad last night after his election to the top post of the VHP.

Responding to a rousing reception at the Samshabad airport, Mr Raghava reddy said he would strive to discharge his responsibilities in the most befitting manner and vowed to protect the culture and traditions of the Hindus and the Hinduism world over.

Reports said Mr. Praveen Togadia, till now General Secretary, was appointed as the working president of the international wing of the VHP at the 3-day meeting of its Trust Board. Ashok Singhal, who worked as the International President of the organization for the last two decades, will now officiate as an advisor along with Mr Vedantam. (JUBS)
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Sid Harth 13155

Back on the main road, the men were waiting. 'Put your notebook and your cameras away. You will take no pictures and record nothing,' the VHP man said. 'You want to know what is happening? Now I will tell you why this is happening.' He blamed the Christians for taking the jobs of Hindus, for the murder of the Swami. The only solution was for Christians to convert, he said. 'This is a Hindu community. Everyone can stay here, as long as they are part of that community. And now you should go.'

Source: Guardian

...and I am Sid Harth
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Sid Harth 13155

Before the violence started, Christians outnumbered Hindus in Minia: now 115 have converted, roughly half of their original number. The rest have fled.

Burn your Bibles, the men told Ashish Digal. He told them he had, but hid them instead. Every couple of days people come to his house to search, hoping to catch him out. Those people are not strangers; they are his neighbours.

They had been sitting idly in the main road when The Observer's car pulled up. Now the young driver, Sudhir, was rushing down the path that led to what remained of Sujata Digal's house, holding his head, visibly shaken. 'We must leave now,' he said.

He had been standing by the car when the men closed in around him. They left the talking to Prashant Digal, a teacher and organiser for the local VHP youth wing. 'Why did you bring these people here?', he demanded, punching Sudhir in the head. 'Take the vehicle and go. Leave them here for us.' They surrounded him, a young Hindu, and slapped him around again. No one came to his aid. 'If you stay, we will burn you with them in the car. You will all be killed. Just leave them,' they told him. But he did not, which was a decent thing for a frightened boy to do. He drove a little way down the road and parked around a corner, out of sight, and came back to raise the alarm.
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Sid Harth 13155

A few miles down the road from Sankarakhole, in the village of Minia, Sujata Digal, 38, stood outside her own burnt-out home. The mob had arrived at 3am, she said. She and her husband Hari hid in the forest and watched the house burn. When they came out of the forest, the mob returned and told them to convert, and it was not a hard decision.

'They said, 'If you don't become Hindu, we'll burn your houses too and start killing you',' said Ashish Digal, the former Christian pastor. 'I've been forced to convert. Everyone is being converted. They beat us in the fields. I went to the temple. We had to say that we belonged to the Hindu state of Orissa, and that from this day we are Hindus.'
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Sid Harth 13155

Sumani Naik, 18, stands beneath a torn Christian poster in her fire-damaged house in Kandhamal district after being forced to convert. Photograph: Gethin Chamberlain

Relations between the Hindu and Christian communities were already at a low ebb when the killing of VHP leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati on 23 August provided the trigger for the current wave of violence. The VHP blamed Christians and the mobs descended on the homes of neighbours and friends. Those who were too slow to get away were killed. Amid the savagery, two incidents stood out: a young Hindu woman working in a Christian orphanage was burnt alive and a nun was gang-raped.

Yet the VHP is unrepentant and appears to be involved, at least at grassroots level, with the campaign of forced conversions. One priest who converted 18 Christians in the village of Sankarakhole last week told The Observer that he had been approached by local VHP representatives to carry out the ceremony.
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Sid Harth 13155

The priest had given them cow dung to eat during the ceremony, they said, telling them it would purify them. 'We were doing that, but we were crying,' Jaspina said.

The roads between the villages are rough and potholed, adding to the difficulties in accessing what is already a remote region, a six-hour drive from the state capital, Bhubaneshwar. The remoteness has undoubtedly played a part in the continuation of the violence, making it harder for police to move about quickly, even if they were minded to do so. Christian leaders, though, have accused the authorities of dragging their feet, claiming they are reluctant to antagonise the majority Hindu community in the run-up to parliamentary elections next year.
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Sid Harth 13155

Standing in the ashes of her neighbour's house in the village of Sarangagada, Jaspina Naik, 32, spoke nervously, glancing towards a group of Hindu men watching her suspiciously. 'My neighbours said, "If you go on being Christians, we will burn your houses and your children in front of you, so make up your minds quickly",' she said. 'I was scared. Christians have no place in this area now.'

On her forehead, she wore a gash of vermilion denoting a married Hindu woman, placed there by the priest at the conversion ceremony she had been obliged to attend a day earlier, along with her husband and three young children. 'I'm totally broken,' she said. 'I have always been a Christian. Inside I am still praying for Jesus to give me peace and to take me out of this situation.'

She and her neighbour, Kumari Naik, 35, gazed forlornly at the charred remains of the house. The mob that arrived one evening in the first week of the violence, armed with swords and axes, had looted what they wanted before dousing the building with petrol and setting it alight. Kumari had fled into the nearby forest with her husband, Umesh, and 14-year-old son Santosh. A smoke-damaged child's drawing of Mickey Mouse pinned to one wall was all that remained of their former lives. Shattered roof tiles crunched underfoot as the women moved through the blackened rooms.
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Sid Harth 13155

Convert or we will kill you, Hindu lynch mobs tell fleeing Christians
As a fresh wave of sectarian violence is unleashed across the Indian state of Orissa, Gethin Chamberlain talks to homeless survivors in Kandhamal district who were forced to abandon their religion
Kumari Naik
Kumari Naik with her son Santosh amid the ashes of their home. Photograph: Gethin Chamberlain Gethin Chamberlain/Guardian

Gethin Chamberlain

Saturday 18 October 2008 19.01 EDT

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Hundreds of Christians in the Indian state of Orissa have been forced to renounce their religion and become Hindus after lynch mobs issued them with a stark ultimatum: convert or die.

The wave of forced conversions marks a dramatic escalation in a two-month orgy of sectarian violence which has left at least 59 people dead, 50,000 homeless and thousands of houses and churches burnt to the ground. As neighbour has turned on neighbour, thousands more Christians have sought sanctuary in refugee camps, unable to return to the wreckage of their homes unless they, too, agree to abandon their faith.

Last week, in the worst-affected Kandhamal district, The Observer encountered compelling evidence of the scale of the violence employed in a conversion programme apparently sanctioned by members of one of the most powerful Hindu groups in India, the 6.8-million member Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) - the World Hindu Council.
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Sid Harth 13155

Presence outside India

Vishwa Hindu Parishad is active in many countries outside of India.
United States

Known as VHPA, the VHP in the United States advocates for human rights for Hindus around the world. They also offer Hindu Pandits to serve the Hindu community, and usually hold rituals around the nation where members are invited. The VHPA has also organised many charitable causes, such as raising money for the victims of Typhoon Haiyan in 2013, and the Fiji flood victims of 2012.[40]
United Kingdom

The VHPUK, is the British branch of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, which has held demonstrations in London for the rights of Hindus in Bangladesh and Pakistan. It offers many Hindu services such as priests and matrimonial services. VHPUK has been vocal advocates of the pro-life movement, and stands against abortion.[41]

Vishwa Hindu Parishad has a temple in Frankfurt, offers Bhagavad Gita classes and recites the Ramayana.[42][43][verification needed]

The VHP is active in Vancouver, Toronto, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Ottawa and other major Canadian cities.[44]
Australia, New Zealand & Fiji

The Vishva Hindu Parishad is gaining popularity in these countries. The Australia wing of Vishva Hindu Parishad conducts activities such conducting weekend schools, language classes, cultural workshops, festivals. The festivals are also organised for open to all communities promoting Unity in Diversity.[45] The press release from city council of Holroyd state that Vishva Hindu Parishad is active in supporting multiculturalism in the same region.[46] In March 2014, the VHP had its first National Hindu Council in Fiji and New Zealand. The VHP has established a Vedic school in Sydney, has temples and organised 3 National Hindu conferences in 2014.[47]
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Sid Harth 13155

Reconversion activity

VHP organises programmes to reconvert Hindus who had previously converted to Christianity or Islam through their trained missionaries called Dharma Prasaar Vibhag (Dharma Propagation Unit), some of them were sent to remote villages and tribal areas which have substantial Christians and Muslims population. On 4 March 2004, more than 200 Christians were reconverted in a ceremony organised by the VHP in the state of Orissa, part of its plan to reconvert 400,000 tribal Christians.[citation needed] According to them, the tribal folk were lured for monetary benefits and Christian missionaries were there to convert them under the pretext of community service. They claim that Vanvasis (Tribals) are part of Hindu culture.[25] The Christian community denied this and six women were beaten for refusing to reconvert to Hinduism. Religious conversions is a debated topic in Orissa.[26]

In Punjab, the VHP has played an active role to prevent conversions of Sikhs. Majority of them are low caste Sikhs converting to Christianity. This may be a result of oppression by high caste Sikhs but there are considerable free will conversions among the higher class Sikhs too; however, the VHP have forcibly stopped Christian missionaries from converting Sikhs.[27]

The VHP collaborated with Christian Association for Social Action and played an active part in providing relief to both Hindu and Christian families affected by the Love Jihad activity in Kerala during 2003 – 2013 period.[28]

The then vice-president[29] of VHP Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati was killed in 2008 in his Ashram. The VHP accused Christians for the murder of Swami Lakshmanananda,[30] Maoist militants had claimed responsibility for the killing. Later the VHP engaged in reconversion program, involving both voluntary and forced reconversion.[2][26] In the resulting disorder, Christian settlements were set on fire,[31] and 250 Christians were forced to flee their villages.[32] A Catholic nun was raped during the violence and Roman Catholic Church said that at least 7 Christians were killed.[30][33][34][35] A judicial commission probing the violence said that conversion and re-conversion were among the major factors that led to the disorder, without blaming any religious groups or the CPI (Maoist).[36] All the seven accused in the murder case were found guilty and awarded life imprisonment.[37][38][39]
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Child organisations
Local office of Vishva Hindu Parishad, at Haridwar

The Bajrang Dal is the youth wing of the VHP, and it is organised in many states in major training camps called shakhas, where thousands of young men simultaneously train in various activities, receive sports, education in Hindutva and cultural education. The Durga Vahini, founded in 1991 under the tutelage of Sadhvi Rithambara as its founding chairperson and the support of the VHP, is described as the "female arm of the Dal". Members of the Vahini contend that the portrayal of their group as a branch of the Bajrang Dal is an oversimplification, and that their goals are to "dedicate ourselves to spiritual, physical, mental and knowledge development".[22] The VHP also have divisions made up of women. VHP secretary Giri Raj Kishore charted out highly visible roles for women in the group. He charted out two "satyagrahas" for women during their demonstrations.[23]

The VHP has been a prime backer of the World Hindu Conference in which issues such as casteism, sectarianism, and the future of Hindus were discussed. Prior Conferences have included Hindu Groups such as Parisada Hindu Dharma.[24]
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Ayodhya dispute
Main articles: Ayodhya debate, Ram Janmabhoomi and Babri Mosque

The VHP had been involved in the dispute over the Ram Janmabhoomi, or Babri Mosque, for twenty years before its demolition. This activity involved demonstrations, petitions and litigation. According to the VHP and its affiliated organisations, the Babri Mosque was built by demolishing the temple at the birthplace of Rama (Ram Janmabhoomi) by the Mughal Emperor Babur in the 16th century. It further stated in Allahabad court documentation that the building was in a dilapidated condition. It was in ruins and could not be used for worship or any activities .[20][21]
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Social activities

Vishva Hindu Parishad is active in social welfare work[14][15]

Medical - People are trained in villages to provide primary health care and referral services. The organisation also conducts Medical check-up camps.[15]
Vocational training - Organisation is running self-employment training camps in Bihar, Punjab, Rajasthan, Maha Kaushal, Assam, Brij Pradesh, Orissa and Maharashtra. The training areas involve farming techniques, bee-keeping, agriculture, horticultural techniques, animal husbandry and sewing.[16] There are 959 training centres currently operating.[15]
Education - It tried to provide educational facilities in remote area. It supports 3266 educational facilities.[15]
Social welfare - Organisation runs 45 Orphanages, Marriage Bureau, Help Centres, Rescue Centres, Working Women Hostels. VHP is also active in environmental causes such as Tree Plantations. Social Services are provided in religious pilgrimages, emergency help during natural calamities and rural development.[15][17]
Relief services - Vishwa Hindu Parishad has provided emergency Relief services. In 2014 Jammu and Kashmir floods, Vishwa Hindu Parishad organised medical and relief camps. These services provided relief via medical camps to 1400 patients.[18][19]
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The world has been divided to Christian, Islam and communist. All of them view Hindu society as very fine rich food on which to feast and fatten themselves. It is necessary in this age of conflict to think of and organise the Hindu world to save it from the evils of all the three.[12]

Its main objective is "to organise, consolidate the Hindu society and to serve, protect the Hindu Dharma."[1] It has been involved in social service projects and in encouraging the construction and renovation of Hindu temples. It is against the caste system, opposes cow slaughter and conversions to other religions. Defending Hindus around the world and Hindu rights has been one of its stated objectives.[13] The other main objective which it has been involved with is the Ayodhya dispute.[1]

The organisation acts under the guidance from Dharma Sansad a religious parliament of Gurus.[10] The VHP is associated with the Sangh Parivar, an umbrella of Hindu nationalist. Its slogan is Dharmo rakṣati rakṣitaḥ, which means "Dharma protects its protector" and its symbol is the banyan tree. The current international president of VHP is Raghava Reddy,[3] while its executive president is Praveen Togadia.[3]
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The VHP was founded in 1964 by RSS leaders M. S. Golwalkar and S. S. Apte in collaboration with the Hindu spiritual leader Chinmayananda.[8][9] The delegation of the founders included Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan founder K. M. Munshi, Gujarati scholar Keshavram Kashiram Shastri, Sikh leader Master Tara Singh, Namdhari Sikh leader Satguru Jagjit Singh and eminent politicians such as C. P. Ramaswamy Iyer.[10][11] Chinmayananda was nominated as its founding President, while Apte was nominated as its founding General Secretary. It was decided at the meeting that the name of the proposed organization would be "Vishva Hindu Parishad" and that a world convention of Hindus was to be held at Prayag (Allahabad) during Kumbha Mela of 1966 for its launch. It was further decided that it would be a non-political organization and that no office bearer of any political party shall be simultaneously an office bearer in the Parishad.[11]

The VHP, which considers Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs as well as native tribal religions as part of the greater Hindu fraternity, officially mentions that it was founded by the "Saint Shakti of Bharat". The VHP was first mooted at a conference in Pawai, Sandipani Sadhanalaya, Bombay on 29 August 1964. The conference was hosted by RSS chief M. S. Golwalkar. The date was chosen to coincide with the festival of Janmashtami. Several representatives from the Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist and Jain faiths were present in the meeting, as well as the Dalai Lama. Golwalkar explained that "all faiths of Indian origins need to unite", saying that the word "Hindu" (people of "Hindustan") applied to adherents of all the above religions.[12] Apte declared:
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With a malice in mind, Golwalkar, one Pillay, S S Apte-RSS, ....The Vishva Hindu Parishad (pronunciation: /vɪʃv(ə) hɪnd̪uː pərɪʃəd̪/, English: World Hindu Council), abbreviated VHP, is an Indian right-wing Hindu nationalist non-governmental organization based on the ideology of Hindutva. It was founded in 1964 by M. S. Golwalkar and S. S. Apte in collaboration with Swami Chinmayananda. Its main objective is "to organise, consolidate the Hindu society and to serve, protect the Hindu Dharma."[1] It belongs to the Sangh Parivar,[4][5] an umbrella of Hindu nationalist organisations. It has been involved in social service projects,[6][7] construction and renovation of Hindu temples and in issues such as cow slaughter, conversions to other religions, the Ayodhya dispute and its role in the Babri Masjid demolition. The VHP has been involved in reconverting Hindus who had previously converted to Christianity or Islam.
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Modi's tough talk to MPs: Don't cross 'laxman rekha' in speeches
HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times New Delhi, December 16, 2014
First Published: 12:32 IST(16/12/2014) | Last Updated: 12:34 IST(16/12/2014)

Source: TOI

...and I am Sid Harth

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