Stepping up its ‘ghar wapsi’ campaign to mark its golden jubilee Saturday, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad “officially brought back to the Hindu fold” some 100 Christian tribals who had “embraced Hinduism earlier” in south Gujarat.
VHP activists later claimed as many as 900 had been “reconverted”.
The ‘ghar wapsi’ ceremony was conducted this afternoon at Arnai, a village in Kaprada taluka of Valsad district.
VHP members and some religious leaders watched as tribals from six villages were taken to a hot spring stream, made to take a dip. They were then made to sit for a ‘havan’ and told to throw rosaries into the fire as a confirmation of quitting Christianity. Religious leaders sprinkled ‘Gangajal’ on them for “purification”.
“This is a homecoming,” announced ‘kathakar’ (story teller) Praful Shukla who performed the rituals. “Hindustan Hindu ka desh aur Hindu ka desh hi rahega (Hindustan is a country of Hindus and will remain so),” Shukla told the gathering. He said those “reconverted” had embraced Hinduism a couple of years ago and the Saturday event was their “official entry” into Hinduism again.
Rankaben Somabhai Kadat, one of the “reconverted” told The Sunday Express: “I wanted to return to Hinduism. I had converted to Christianity after my brother fell ill and went to a ‘father’ (Christian priest) for treatment. He was cured and he became a Christian. My brother and his children are Christians even today. But I decided to become a Hindu again. Nobody forced me do so.”
Gujarat VHP chief Kaushik Mehta said the Arnai event had “nothing to do with religious conversion” and was “a homecoming” for which people had “volunteered without greed”.
“Yeh ghar wapsi ka karyakram hai, dharm parivartan ka nahin. Jo log lobh aur bhay se doosare dharm me chale gaye the, wo wapis aa gaye hain. Ye log mukhyadhara me aa rahe hain (It is a homecoming event, not religious conversion. Those who were lured by money or intimidated to convert have returned. These people are coming back into the mainstream),” Mehta said.
Dharmendra Bhavani, chief of Dharm Prasar Vibhag of the VHP in Gujarat, claimed 170 families who had embraced Christianity were “reconverted” into Hinduism. “The event should not be read as dharm parivartan (religious conversion). These people wanted to return to Hinduism, the religion of their ancestors. For them, it is ghar wapsi,” he said.