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Youth in India Abducted, Tonsured for Receiving Christ

Independent report reveals alarming presence of Hindu extremists in Orissa state.

by Vishal Arora

NEW DELHI, October 6 (Compass Direct News) – Hindu extremists in the western state of Orissa on Wednesday (October 4) abducted a Christian youth from his house and tortured and tonsured him, allegedly to punish him for accepting Christianity.

Ranjan Dangua of Gokulpur village, in Tihidi block of Orissa’s Bhadrak district, remained missing at press time.

Bhadrak district Superintendent of Police Diptesh Kumar Patnaik told Compass, “Some Hindu activists had allegedly tonsured Dangua, who later went missing.” He said police were searching for Dangua, a laborer.

But Dr. Sajan K. George, national president of the Global Council of Indian Christians, told Compass that the extremists tonsured Dangua after abducting and torturing him.

“The radicals on October 4 stormed into Dangua’s house and abducted him,” George said. “Later, they beat him very badly and then tonsured him. They also took him around the village after tonsuring him.”

He said the situation in the village, where two platoons of policemen have reportedly been deployed, is “very tense.”

George added that Dangua, his family and other Christian families in the village have faced fierce opposition from Hindu extremists of neighboring villages since they became Christians a few years ago.

Two days before the kidnapping, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP or World Hindu Council) reportedly had “reconverted” 129 tribal Christians, including 40 women and 29 children, in the presence of leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The reconversion ceremony took place on Monday (October 2) in Chengua Mangalpur in Mayurbhanj district, according to Indo-Asian News Service.

“All of them were Hindus who had been forcibly converted to Christianity,” VHP state secretary Gouri Rath was quoted as saying. “Now they have returned to their own religion.”

Those “reconverted” belonged to seven villages – Bhandara, Serengisahi, Saradiha, Baghadhapa, Prasannachandrapur and Gokulachandrapur in Mayurbhanj district, and Durgadevi in Balasore district.

A Hindu cleric, Swamy Adwaitananda Brahmachari, reportedly performed the rituals as a large number of people, including Bhagirathi Majhi, a member of parliament from BJP, and party legislator Pratap Sarangi attended the program.

The Hindu nationalist BJP is part of the ruling coalition in Orissa.

Persecution Report

A report released on Wednesday (October 4) highlights the growing activities of Hindu extremist organizations in Orissa, including persecution of Christian and Muslim minority communities.

The Indian People’s Tribunal on Communalism (IPTC), an independent group of social activists, released the 80-page report titled, “Communalism in Orissa.” It shows that the Sangh Parivar (family of organizations linked to the Hindu extremist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, or RSS) is active in 25 of the 30 districts of Orissa with “several million” members.

Justice K.K. Usha, former chief justice of the Kerala High Court who led the IPTC investigation, stated, “As elsewhere in India, these groups legitimize their actions against minorities by invoking specific and fabricated threats to Hindus from Muslims and Christians.”

Dr. Angana Chatterji, convener of the IPTC and associate professor at the California Institute of Integral Studies, said the Sangh Parivar has established centers at “every level of civic life, ranging from villages to cities.”

She said Hindu groups operate through 35 primary organizations, including ideological, service, and charitable institutions, militant and educational groups, trade and student unions and political and women’s organizations.

Chatterji added that forcible conversions to “dominant Hinduism,” social and economic boycotts, tonsuring, physical intimidation, violence, arson, and even murder are the “weapons” that Sangh Parivar use against religious minorities.

The IPTC urged the Central Bureau of Investigation to investigate the activities of the Hindu extremist Bajrang Dal, VHP and RSS under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act of 1967.

It called for the repeal of the Orissa Freedom of Religion Act of 1967, or anti-conversion law, “which has been used by communal groups to target and prohibit voluntary conversion within minority communities.”

It also urged citizens to recognize their duty to respond to violations and to challenge the “existing culture of impunity.”

The culmination of nearly 20 months of research, the IPTC inquiry was commissioned in June 2005 to gauge the strength, reach, and impact of extremist groups in the state.

According to the 2001 Census, there are 897,861 Christians out of the total population of more than 36 million in the state.