Christians Concerned Hindu Festival in Gujarat May Turn Violent

February 7, 2006

Source: BBC News

On February 7, 2006 BBC News reported, "Hundreds of thousands of Hindu faithful are making their way towards the tribal-dominated Dangs district in the western Indian state of Gujarat for a newly-discovered pilgrimage. Many in the minority Christian community in the region are on tenterhooks. Some hardline Hindu groups, including the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) and the VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad or World Hindu Council), have called a gathering of the devout at the tiny Subir village for a three-day event beginning 11 February. Officials estimate more than half a million will visit the area during the festival, named the Shabri Kumbh. Christian missionaries have been working in this impoverished tribal land for the best part of a century and Dangs has had a history of religious trouble. Some Hindu groups accuse the missionaries of using job offers and money to lure poor Hindus to convert... Some Hindu groups have announced they will welcome the 'grih-vapasi' (or the homecoming) of those who have converted to Christianity. This has also led to rumours that the organisers of the festival will attempt large-scale 're-conversion' to Hinduism... But Hindu groups deny any plans for 're-conversion'. Prem Sharda is the former vice chancellor of the South Gujarat University and an RSS activist. 'The Christian community need not worry,' he says. 'The purpose of this festival is to create a brotherly feeling, and if they are here to welcome people coming from all parts of the country, why should there be trouble?'"