Around 40 Scheduled Caste Manjhi families, whose conversion to Christianity became public this Christmas, said they embraced the religion between 2007 and 2010 because missionaries promised them better healthcare, education and livelihood. The families, however, said they would agree to VHP’s “ghar wapsi” offer if they get the same deal.
A day after the conversion of Atiya villagers came to light, local BJP MP Hari Manjhi and VHP leaders reached out to them with “ghar wapsi” request. The converted families, however, first demanded better facilities from the Hindu leaders and the Bihar government that otherwise has failed to provide them free decimal land to construct houses and old-age pensions.
Bhuiyan (Manjhi) tola of Atiya village under Bodhgaya police station now has a church that doubles up as Promise Mission School, which claims to be “purely English medium” school offering “continuous comprehensive education” and computer facilities.
The village community hall, constructed as part of PM Adarsh Gram Yojana, houses pastor Rajkishore’s family, living in the village for three years and taking care of Sunday prayers.
However, Bodh Manjhi (60), at whose house had Christmas celebrations were arranged on Thursday, vehemently denied having converted and displayed his “Durga pendant”, saying he was still a Hindu. But, fellow villagers admitted that they had stopped going to temples around seven years ago.
“We came in contact of some good people (who came from a missionary) and they first convinced us to quit drinking and started giving our children good education,” said Anil Manjhi (35), who attributed his better health to this “good company”.
Safet Manjhi(22), a mason, said: “Around 40 families hold Sunday prayers under guidance of pastor Rajkishore, who is from Sasaram. One Ramesh from Bodhgaya was the first person from the missionary who contacted us and told about the benefits of conversion.” The pastor, whose family was at the village, had left the village after Christmas celebrations.
Asked if they could reconvert to Hinduism, Safet said: “Yes, we can. But, local VHP leaders and state government will have to take better care of us, should give us hospital and land to raise homes.”
Other villagers showed a plaque that said the village was under”PM Adarsh Gram Yojana”. Pointing at electric poles without wires, they said the benefits promised by the government do not them. “We have a Manjhi CM (Jeetan Ram Manjhi), but we have not yet got free three decimal land to raise homes,” said Vinod Manjhi, a daily wager.
Atiya has over 250 households of OBCs and SCs.
A group of Manjhi women, who looked livid at so many people questioning them now. They got into arguement with a local VHP leader, asking why the saffron outfit did not come to village even once in past to ask about their well being. “Now that you have heard about conversion, you are here,” said an angry woman.
The VHP leader, Barik, told women: “We need to listen to your problems. We will sort it out but please come back to your home (Hinduism).”
Gaya BJP MP Hari Manjhi, who held meeting with representatives of converted Manjhi families, told them: “Hindu is sanatan dharma… You should tell your problems and let us sort it out.”