Banners and boards have sprung up in Navsari district’s Gandeva village, dominated by tribals, announcing a “ban on entry of outsider Christians”. Local Hindu tribals, who have put up the banners, said that the “ban” was to prevent “outsiders from coming to the village and converting tribal Hindus”.
Written in Gujarati, a banner at the village entry point on Haripura street read: “Christi dharm parnara tamam bhai-behano Gandeva Haripura faliya ma baharno koipan vyakti e faliya ma pravesh karvo nahi (All the outsider brothers-sisters of Christian religion, should not enter into Haripura street).”
The village has a population of 7,500 with majority of them belonging to Halpati community, a Scheduled Tribe, while others are Bakshipanch.
“Local Hindus are fed up with the spread of Christianity in our village. At present, there are over 900 Christians in our village. There are 70 tribal houses, out of which 12 families have converted to Christianity. On every Sunday morning, Christian priests from different neighbouring districts come and preache Christianity, and lures innocent tribals to get converted into Christianity,” said Jayanti Mistry, the deputy sarpanch of the village.
According the village sarpanch, Satish Katariya, the conversion began around eight years ago when first prayer hall of Christians was built. “Five years later, a second prayer hall was built, then the third prayer hall was built on Hathwada street, and the fourth prayer hall was built around one and half year ago on Kharel street. Local Hindu tribals do not want that such prayer hall to be built on Haripura street. So, they may have hanged such banners. Those who convert to Christianity are farm labourers or do petty jobs,” he said.
The sarpanch said that till date, no one has opposed such banners. “But we have come to know that Christians in our village are unhappy. We have urged the villagers to maintain peace,” he added.
Meanwhile, a police team visited Gandeva village on Monday afternoon and took statements of the villagers. “We visited the village and talked to the residents of Haripura street, where such banners have been put up. We spoke to Hindu tribals and those who have converted. They all have given assurance that there would no problem of law and order in the village. We have not told the villagers to bring the banners or board down. Some of the villagers are against the outsiders spreading Christianity. Therefore, such boards and banners have installed by them,” Sub-Inspector B L Raizada, who visited the village, told The Indian Express.