Christians in Chhattisgarh have accused iron ore mafia behind the recent ban on non-Hindu missionaries in the five tribal villages of Bastar.
Recently, gram sabhas of the villages passed orders under the Panchayat Act prohibiting non-Hindus from practising religious activities and prayers in their villages. While various Christian bodies have condemned the act, local Christians claimed that it is a systematic ploy by mining barons to clear the area, muffle the dissent and hand it over to the miners.
“The real reason behind the ban is iron ore. This region is rich in iron ore, and some local mafias want to evict people who are aware of the issue and can stall the mining,” Arun Pannalal, president Chhattisgarh Christian Forum told The Indian Express.
Terming the ban as “a blatant misuse of the Panchayat Act that violates fundamental rights of freedom of religion”, Pannalal said they are planning to move the High Court against the gram sabha’s ban.
Christians have also alleged that the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) provoked people to pass the order and the state government is protecting them. According to Pannalal, around 52 Christians were attacked by VHP cadres in the recent days. “People are holding mahapanchayats in other parts of the state for the last six months. Several sarpanch have issued circulars against the missionaries,” he said.
Delhi Archbishop Anil J T Couto also expressed his deep concern over the ban on “non-Hindu missionaries at the behest of some fundamentalist groups”. “This seriously impacts the secular ethos of India and damages its international reputation,” Couto said.
Calling for an immediate reversal of the ban and intervention of the BJP-led government in the matter, Couto said: “In the past, largescale violence against the Christians has been preceded by such hate campaigns.”