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BosNewsLife (01/23/06) – The government of India’s largest northwestern state, Rajasthan, has withdrawn criminal procedures against most militants of an influential Hindu nationalist organization involved in the massive distribution of ‘tridents’, three-sponged spears that have reportedly been used to intimidate the Christian minority, BosNewsLife learned Monday, January 23.

It came as a victory for Hindu radicals of the Viswa Hindu Parishad (VHP) or ‘World Hindu Council’, who were prosecuted by the previous state government for distributing the feared weapons at public ceremonies.

“The government has begun the withdrawal [of cases] as files on cases against VHP activists are increasingly being cleared,” said Rajasthan’s Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria in a statement monitored by BosNewsLife.

Six activists were already cleared from wrongdoing under the new government guidelines, however criminal procedures against VHP International General Secretary Praveen Togadia, have not yet been withdrawn, he added.

The government, led by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) or ‘Indian People’s Party’, already lifted a ban on special Hindu ceremonies, known as ‘trishul diksha’, where the tridents are distributed. While church groups stress they are intended to create fear among Christians, Hindu activists argue that the weapons are part of a long tradition and allowed under arms legislation.

The developments came as in the neighboring state of Gujarat the VHP warned it would take steps to prevent conversions of Hindus to other religions, especially Christianity, BosNewsLife established. In a 10-point resolution adopted over the weekend at a VHP congress the organization also urged Hindus to have more than two children “as they would be a minority in the country [because] non-Hindus were producing children at a much faster pace”.

The congress also decided to build a Hindu god Ram temple among other plans, according to a statement released in Ahmedabad, the largest city in Gujarat . It comes amid worries among Indian Christians about alleged attempts by Hindu nationalist groups to crackdown on missionaries and churches in especially rural areas of India , the world’s largest Hindu nation.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) and other religious rights groups have also expressed concern over plans by Hindu groups to organize a new religious festival for 500,000 people, to be held February 11-13, to commemorate the mythological story of Shabri and Ram in which the latter kills the demon Ravana.

The Hindu nationalist organizers of the festival have called for the same treatment for Christians, “describing it as a dangerous foreign faith,” CSW added. The Indian authorities have come under international and domestic pressure to either ban the festival or to ensure the protection of religious minorities, including Christians, as well as Muslims.