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By John Malhotra

(ChristianityToday) – With conversion as its prime motive, the three-day Narmada Samajik Kumbh at Mandla in Madhya Pradesh began on Thursday even as officials and church activists expressed apprehensions over the mass gathering.

Tens of thousands of people assembled at the February 10-12 event organised by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh to allegedly convert local Christians to Hinduism despite Madhya Pradesh’s Freedom of Religion Act which requires prior notice of such actions.

The Sangh Friday claimed that the main focus of the gathering was to increase awareness and religiosity among people converting to Christianity.

Media quoted Sharad Dhole, the West-South India chief of the Dharma Jagaran wing of the RSS, saying that similar gatherings in Gujarat turned out to be a great success as about 15,000 Christians had reconverted to Hinduism in the Dangs district.

The event, attended by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, former chief KS Sudarshan and RSS leader Suresh Soni along with chief ministers of neighboring states, saw provocative speeches and slogans spreading hate against Christians. A month before the event, pamphlets and hoardings were seen goading people to oppose works of Christian missionaries.

“Reports emanating from Mandla say that every day, small rallies, called “Kalash Yatras” are being taken out in which anti-Christian slogans are raised. The slogans warn the Christians of “counter-action, if they do not stop their nefarious activities. The statements and sayings yesteryears Indian leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi, Swami Vivekananda and Dr. B. R. Ambedkar have been invoked by the RSS to convey its warning message to the Church,” informs Pervez Bari, a journalist based in Bhopal.

“Media reports from the region say that provocative slogans are being raised by the cadres of RSS and its various affiliates while roaming the tribal Christian localities and brow-beating them to fill up forms for the “Ghar Wapsi” function to be held during the congregation.”

Father Anand Muttungal, spokesperson of the Catholic Church in the state, earlier met Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and sought security for the community.

“Christians in the State are upset over the virulent campaign against their community and their faith by the organizers of the Kumbh. We fear that the distribution of pamphlets may trigger off another Kandhamal like situation in the tribal-dominated Mandla,” he told at a press conference.

The church leadership also had sent urgent representations to the Governor and Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh apprising them of the sinister developments and calling on the State to ensure that there is no outbreak of violence.

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