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AsiaNews (01/26/06) – Charges of forced conversion leveled by Hindu fundamentalists at the Indian Catholic Church stem from a profound “bias that has existed for almost 50 years, ever since the release of Neoygi commission report,” this according to John Dayal, president of the All India Catholic Council, who was speaking about the education data released on January 21 by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) ahead of its coming plenary meeting scheduled for February 8-15 in Bangalore. The purpose of the meeting is to debunk such charges.

In the January 21 press conference, CBCI Executive Secretary Father D’Souza said he was convinced that studying the Church’s involvement in education “can set straight some false myths that found their way in the majority of the population.”

According to Father D’Souza’s data, the Indian Church runs some 20,000 schools, 66 per cent in rural areas and the rest in the cities. Out of the 6 million-strong student population, only 23 per cent is Catholic and 55 per cent is female, who might otherwise never even get a primary education.

“One interesting fact,” Mr Dayal said, “is that whilst successive governments have approved anti-conversion legislation, accusing the Christian minority of forced or fraudulent conversion, none of them has ever publicly reported the number of priests or nuns convicted under such laws.”

The reality is that “such conversions are impossible in India ,” the human rights activist said. For one thing, “police and district administrations tend to be Hindu-dominated and cover the entire [national] territory with their eyes set on the Church. Furthermore, their focus is such that they, themselves, end up violating the constitutional guarantees of freedom of religion.”

Mr Dayal slams the “RSS and BJP (Hindu nationalist political groups) for having nothing positive to offer the Indian population. They live in their own closed world with no relation to democratic norms and international rules of civil conduct and human dignity.”

“Hate,” he insisted, “is the main weapon in their political armory. Thousands of people from minority communities have been sacrificed to this hate”.

“The time has come,” he concluded, “for [our] society to bring this diatribe to an end. If the BJP wants to consider itself part of a civilized society, the least it can do is grant Indian minorities their religious rights.”