Indian soldiers march past the historic Red Fort during Independence Day celebrations in Delhi..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Indian police prevented a mass conversion of Christians and Muslims set for Christmas Day in the Uttar Pradesh state.
The nationalist group known as Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) had planned a “re-conversion” ceremony for Christmas day, during which more than 4,000 Christians would become Hindus.
In early December, RSS offshoots began distributing pamphlets seeking donations for converting Christians and Muslims to Hinduism. According to the pamphlets it costs Rupees 2 lakh to convert a Christian and Rupees 5 lakh to convert a Muslim and the set conversion date was December 25.
Indian police halted the ceremony in its tracks after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi warned his lawmakers for the first time to stop promoting controversial issues such as religious conversions and to focus on economic reforms, as he struggles to pass legislation needed to kick-start the economy.
"Religious conversion is a matter of personal choice and the law permits it. However, if certain groups deliberately try to provoke communal sentiments by misusing this provision, then we will certainly not allow this to take place," District Magistrate Abhishek Prakash said on Friday.
More than 50 Muslims reportedly converted to Hinduism last week against their will in the town of Agra. Many of those who converted live in extreme poverty, and converted under the promise of food ration cards.
"Under no circumstances will we allow the proposed mass conservation program slated for December 25," Prakash said. He said, "The so-called 'ghar waapsi' (home return) program organized by the Dharam Jagran Samiti can become a law and order issue for the state and irrespective of the finer details of this event it cannot be allowed to be held."
Critics believe that such nationalistic factions are testing their boundaries under the current pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government, led by Modi. sign up to our newsletter