‘Didn’t get minority status, so embraced Hinduism’

Despite converting to Christianity in 2001, seven Valmiki families in Asroi village were not accorded minority status.

Written by Aniruddha Ghosal | Updated: August 30, 2014 8:41 am
The Asroi church, which was converted to a temple, has been locked up by officials.  (Source: Express photo) The Asroi church, which was converted to a temple, has been locked up by officials. (Source: Express photo)

For 10 years, 29-year-old Ram Pal was a practicing Christian, but three days ago he converted and become a Hindu. The change in faith, however, has not tangibly altered his life as the struggle to make ends meet and the worry about the future of his children continue unabated.

Despite converting to Christianity in 2001, seven Valmiki families in Asroi village were not accorded minority status. Instead, the village register – maintained by the district administration – continued to identify them as Scheduled Caste. This continued for over a decade, but Ram Pal said that over the past few years, this ambiguous identity of being neither a Christian nor a Dalit was becoming increasingly difficult.

Ram Pal, who like others in his community raises pigs, said, “We still used our SC identity to get our children admission in schools and avail to various government schemes. We celebrated Holi and Diwali along with Christimas. But people were asking questions. If you’re a Christian, how can you be a Dalit?”

Another such Dalit, 44-year-old Ram Chandra, said, “Our children go to school, on the basis of their SC certificates. But most drop out in their teens and look for work in Hathras and Aligarh. Now that we’re Hindu, at least no can doubt that we’re Dalits.”

On Wednesday, a church belonging to the 7th Day Adventists that functioned from a small room in the village was “converted” into a temple through a “shuddhikaran” (purification) ceremony that saw the “ghar wapsi” (reconversion) of 72 Dalit Valmikis in the seven families by various Hindu groups, including the RSS, VHP, Bajrang Dal and Arya Samaj, said villagers.

Ram Pal said that the Dalit community did not want the puja to take place within the church. “But, they said it was the only way for us to become Hindus again,” he said.

Meanwhile, Khem Chandra, the Sangh pracharak and pramukh of Dharam Jagaran Vivad in Aligarh asserted that the conversion was a “conscious choice made by the Dalit Valimiki community”. However, the news of the appropriation of the church spread tension in the area.

Fearing an outbreak of violence, the district administration locked the room on Thursday. The Shiva poster, which was put up in the place where a framed-photograph of Jesus Christ used to hang, has been taken off “and kept in a safe place”.

The belongings of the church – a cupboard, Christmas-lights and a single copy of the Bible – has also been kept in a locker.

The Christian community has alleged that such conversions were a part of an RSS conspiracy, aimed at reaping electoral benefit. Seeking immediate action against the perpetrators, civil rights activist John Dayal said, “It is the right of an individual to convert to any religion of his choice. But such mass conversions imply political, social and physical coercion and the threat of violence. I condemn the coercion and conspiracy of the Sangh Parivar which is using it polarise the religious environment in the state with an eye on the elections.”

Father Dominic Emmanuel, community leader and the editor of a Christian magazine in Delhi said, “With the BJP in power, these groups have become assertive.”

The village pradhan also pointed out that the BJP, for the first time, had received an overwhelming majority of the votes in the village. “Usually, the votes go for RLD. This time the elections was about Hindus and Muslims and every one voted for Modi. That has been reflected here,” said Vikas Choudhury, pradhan of Asroi.

But, while the RSS and the VHP have been making in-roads into the village by working with the Dalit-Christian community, villagers said that it was not simply a matter of faith, but also economics.

“Over the years, the activities of the Church here have receded. We were promised schools, health care and better lives, but nothing came of it. We haven’t been accorded minority status and soon, we feared, our Dalit status would also be taken away from us,” said 54-year-old Guji Lal, who added that Hindu groups in the past months had been increasingly active in the village, convincing people to ‘reconvert’ to Hinduism.

Asroi village, with its pucca roads and expansive houses, has become obviously prosperous. But the cluster of 10 cramped single-storey structures – away from the rest of the village – belonging to Dalit Valmikis has not been touched by this prosperity. While the backbone of the village economy is farming of cash-intensive crops, the Dalit families almost exclusively rear pigs, selling meat only to other Dalits from nearby villages.

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  1. J
    Joyjeet Chowdhury
    Aug 10, 2015 at 9:39 am
    If we read the article carefully, these people were promised of schools, hospitals etc. Etc. If this is not luring then may be Mr. John dayal could through some light. Why hey needed to be converted to get certain facilities. A complete breakdown of the Govt. Policies rapped in a cover of corruption. When Hindu groups are trying to do the same how it becomes the matter of faith.
    Reply
    1. A
      Avi
      Aug 30, 2014 at 4:25 am
      My dear brothers, I am glad you saw the sham of Christian missionaries. They have no place in India. We are the world oldest civilization, we have a culture of our own, we donot need a foreign religion to show us the way to spirituality. We should ask all missionaries to go back to their countries if they serve anyone with a view to convert them!!!! We our country of inskam seva, twisting Christianity ideology to increase numbers would not work here.
      Reply
      1. S
        subhasis ghosh
        Aug 30, 2014 at 1:40 pm
        I agree with John Dayal that religion is a matter of individual choice. So were was he went these seven families together decided to convert to Christianity? Did it not strike him as strange that how come suddenly so many people found their faith in another religion? Was there any inducement in terms of better material, rather than spiritual, life? And to media I would like to ask, did you people report the original conversion to Christianity?
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        1. G
          Guest
          Aug 30, 2014 at 3:04 am
          Well, this is nothing wrong, unlike the many many evangelical groups (though not all) I have seen who threaten poor innocent villagers of eternal -fire & torture if they do not accept Christ, or they exploit poor by making it mandatory to accept Christ if they want school admissions or medicines for the sick in their family or even a loan. For the very poor, for even 1000 rupees help, conversion to Christianity is demanded.I don't think this is how Christ would have liked to see people flocking to him, he would have cried tears of blood seeing this activity in his name. Nothing wrong in reconverting all those people no matter the number - maybe that will teach militant evangelists & Dawah'ists a moral lesson & learn to preach in dignity & mutual respect without spreading hate against who they call "Infidel".
          Reply
          1. P
            Purohit
            Aug 30, 2014 at 2:42 pm
            Yes, he belongs to rotten RSS
            Reply
            1. B
              Brijkhanna
              Aug 30, 2014 at 4:34 am
              Converting to other religion automatically deprive SC , ST. and OBC themselves the benefits granted to peoples of these depressed communities under the consution.I am not convinced that such benefits under the consution should continue any more.However, if it is still felt that it should continue, then at least families above " CREME Y LAYERS should be excluded. .
              Reply
              1. V
                Venk
                Aug 30, 2014 at 9:48 am
                Shows the utter hypocrisy of the Indian administrative system.
                Reply
                1. V
                  Venk
                  Aug 30, 2014 at 9:45 am
                  This can only happen in India - Mera Bharat Mahaan.
                  Reply
                  1. V
                    Venk
                    Aug 30, 2014 at 9:50 am
                    Well said - Indian society is internally rotten and needs to liberate itself.
                    Reply
                    1. V
                      Venk
                      Aug 30, 2014 at 9:46 am
                      intolerance of the government - people have their right to relogious belief and that should not affect state help to the disadvantaged. Bonkers India.
                      Reply
                      1. C
                        Chakra
                        Aug 30, 2014 at 10:31 am
                        Don't get it. Either conversion is okay - and so is re-conversion. Or Conversion is foul - and so is re-conversion. The media should take a single stand and stick to it.People may convert based on their needs - which may be spiritual / economic / social status or even caused by a misplaced hatred/revolt against the order. The story suggests that these people converted to get a Minority status and move away from caste-ism. They did not get any from the clless religion of Christianity. So they moved back.If this re-conversion has been caused by support from RSS (indicating people are foolish and get swa by external propaa), then the earlier conversion to Christianity must have been caused by Evangelical group, promising these Valmiks to a better deal.So, let us not criticize this event if we have not objected to earlier event.
                        Reply
                        1. R
                          ReferencePointGold
                          Aug 30, 2014 at 8:08 am
                          This story is a proof - For Shavasadhaks, its a proof that Christianity (or Islam) can never rise above their history centricity thus the idea of salvation they offer is bunkum. For Sanatani dharmiks, its a proof the reservations is a glue which has kept us together, hence it should be continued but on basis of economics.For far too long we have adopted a consution that is not even ours. And they slipped in the word secular to take it as far away from the idea of Bharata as they could. We must endeavour to ask those rice Shavasadhaks to return to the fold as the Sanatan Dharma offers everything that Abrahamic faiths can offer and a lot more. Sanatan Dharma offers salvation in this life itself while permitting the enjoyment of roop, raasa, ha. spaarsha etc. Unlike Shavasadhak paanth and its sister paanth - Islam.
                          Reply
                          1. D
                            DSFL10
                            Aug 30, 2014 at 1:47 am
                            As long as the rotten caste culture prevails among Indian caste discrimination goes on and on and Dalits will continue to suffer no matter what religion they belong to. We need to change the culture of discrimination that is wide spread among various communities. It is really a national shame caste discrimination among Indian so apparent even among Indian settled overseas for centuries.
                            Reply
                            1. T
                              Truman
                              Aug 30, 2014 at 5:22 pm
                              Good riddance! Please don't come back. We are happy you went back where you belong! Stop giving fodder for all these Hindu s spewing unnecessary venom. And, NO, we are not sad. It is a matter of personal choice! Please give up everything western, stop wearing shoes, wrist watches, stop speaking English, stop sending your kids to Convent schools, stop using western toilets and go in your jungles, stop using toilet paper, stop using credit/debit cards or modern means of medicine, use bullock carts for transportation or chariots, use your bows and arrows for fighting stan and China, stop begging the US to help you every time a little Naxalite s you! BTW, please clean the Ganga. YOU go there, wash your cows and mix that dung and you drink of the same water! You call that civilized??? When it does not work, you blame the Christians. BTW, are not these brown skinned Christian Indians your own Hindu culture children of the soil? Indian Hindus can so dumb!
                              Reply
                              1. T
                                Truman
                                Aug 30, 2014 at 4:37 pm
                                India still has 80 % Hindu majority even after 450 years of British rule. Christianity is only 2%. Majority of HINDUS prefer Anglo countries to better your lives and have never come back. NO Hindu complains of conversion while enjoying Christian freedoms in those countries. There is no record nor will ever be that a Christian will ever touch a Hindu temple or ever think of burning a Hindu religious book.When Christians do fall in love with Hindus, they accord great respect, honor and affection to their spouses unlike Muslims. Fact is most Hindus like Anglo influences in life. Take for example the "English" you use while fomenting hatred. From the time you get up to going to bed 99% is because of Christian Industrial Revolution: your clothes, toiletries, banking, medical utilities, transportation, communication gadgets to name a few. Your Sanskrit, Hindi, Pali, Prakrit does not take you anywhere in life, Does it?
                                Reply
                                1. T
                                  Truman
                                  Aug 30, 2014 at 4:59 pm
                                  ST's were never Hindu. Hinduism was introduced to aboriginals or "adivasis" of India after Hindus pushed them into the jungles. I disagree with you about your Christian Church crying fowl because no person who has a genuine darshan will ever go back to being subservient. No person likes to carry a broom tied around his butt and cry "unclean" as he/she enters the village. No body likes to be discriminated near the water well. If they wanted to be treated like animals, thats their wish! Why cry fowl and blame the Christians and others when upper caste Hindus are raping low caste Hindu women? This has gone on for centuries too, isnt it? Why not blame Christians for bringing a change in the Hindu education system where women were stoned if they wanted to go to school? Why not blame Christians for changing the Hindu society and freeing it of Sati? If you don't want Christianity, GOOD! Sit on the funeral pyre, give dowry and don't cry when your Hindu sage husbands beat the out of you to be subservient. Yes, please shave your head when you become a widow and stay in your ed kitchen please! You ungrateful beast! Is not English a Christian missionary language that you used in your comment?
                                  Reply
                                  1. T
                                    Truman
                                    Aug 30, 2014 at 5:08 pm
                                    They are not increasing numbers. They are already world no 1 without converting Hindus to Christianity. If it weren't for Christians, today Hindus wouldnt exist after the British left. The Muslims would have made mincemeat out of you. You talk so much about your chivalry, your religion didnt even save our fatherland. If brahmans performed their dharma properly in the temples without poking their noses into administrative matters, if Kshatriyas didnt turn tail and run at the first sign of Muslim invaders on horse back, then we still would have an India intact. Look at the Vaishyas stealing from your own govt. You ask for a real genuine receipt no shopkeeper in India gives a about his/her god when he/she cheats day in and out! You go to any Christian country, there is law and order because they were founded on Christian principles and allows for Hindus to live freely there. With a majority 80 % Hinduism in India, you still are concerned and scared of 2% Christianity? Now, thats plain stupid. Christians have only 1 God and you have so many and you want to stop them! Of course when you have ONLY ONE , no doubt you will defend your God, don't you? When you have so many, even your murgus are like dal, use and throw. Just look at Ganesh Chaturti, you worship him and then you throw him into the water and crush him under your feet! Then you blame the Christians for all the problems in your lives. Ever take responsibility for your own weaknesses?
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                                    1. T
                                      Truman
                                      Aug 30, 2014 at 4:50 pm
                                      They can be what they want to be. In the first instance, they became Christian because they wanted everything free. They didnt get it from Christians now they have gone back to begging in Hinduism where they will kiss the brahmans and the high castes. Nothing to do with Christianity. Good riddance. People need to stay Hindus and not become Christians because you don't become a Christian by begging for material gains. Its a matter of your heart when your spirit has a genuine "darshan" from the Divine.By wearing western garments or by speaking in English Hindus don't become Christians. SC's and ST's are opportunists who will do anything to get ahead in life. If they don't get what they want, they will either blame Christians or they will find fault with the Hindu upper castes! What a joke of a religion!
                                      Reply
                                      1. T
                                        Truman
                                        Aug 30, 2014 at 4:43 pm
                                        Why don't you do something about your bloody caste system? Where were you when your great Hindu sages burnt your women alive on burning wood? Where were your Hindu social reformers when they were killing your wives with kerosene in your bloody kitchens for dowry? Where were you when they stuffed tobacco and choked innocent little Hindu baby girls just because they were female? What are you doing when Hindu males rape Hindu women and you aren't even ashamed? Were you there when Christians introduced coeducation? Do you remember when your Hindu religious ignoramuses stoned Hindu women just because they wanted to go to school? You don't like CONVERSION? Eh? Isn't English a "missionary" language? Why don't you use Sanskrit then, hypocrite!!!
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                                        1. G
                                          Gangu true
                                          Aug 30, 2014 at 3:26 am
                                          to recognize Hindusim is not a monolithic block. We need to grant minority status to sections of Hindusim that do not form a numerical majority. These groups are being unfarily treated because they can not form a vote bank due to lack of numbers.
                                          Reply
                                          1. K
                                            kumar
                                            Aug 30, 2014 at 10:09 am
                                            i think you belong to a rotten belief and have very sick mind.
                                            Reply
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