Over 50 Villages Ban Christian Missionaries in Bastar Region

Christians denied ration –  

More than 50 villages in Bastar region of Chhattisgarh have banned the entry and propaganda by non-Hindu missionaries, especially Christians in the last six months which is credited to the aggressive campaign launched by Hindu nationalist organization – Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). Some Christian villagers also have been denied ration. 

According to Suresh Yadav, Bastar district president of the VHP, over 50 gram panchayats in Bastar have passed orders under Section 129 (G) of the Chhattisgarh Panchayat Raj Act banning all "non-Hindu religious propaganda, prayers and speeches in the villages."

The Sirisguda gram panchayat (village council) in the Tokapal block of Bastar passed the order at a special Gram Sabha organised on May 10. 

The order passed at Sirisguda gram panchayat (village council) in the Tokapal block of Bastar at a special Gram Sabha on May 10 which is made available to the media reads, "To stop the forced conversion by some outsider religious campaigners and to prevent them from using derogatory language against Hindu deities and customs, the Sirisguda Gram Sabha bans religious activities such as prayers, meetings and propaganda of all non-Hindu religions." 

Some sources claimed the dispute in Sirisguda started when Christian families refused donations for an annual Hindu religious festival. 

"They refused donations and used derogatory language against Hindu gods so the Gram Sabha banned them," claimed Sirisguda sarpanch Jamuna Baghel. 

However, Christians claimed that is just an excuse and the VHP has been campaigning for a long time to reconvert Christians and also to ban Christian missionaries; otherwise, rations will be denied to such families. 

For the past two months, some Christians have been denied ration and allegedly attacked when they went to collect the ration on the orders of the village panchayat. 

According to Sonoru Mandavi, whose family converted to Christianity in 2002 claimed, "It's been over two months now that we have been denied ration in the village. 10 Christians were attacked when they went to collect ration," he said. 

Meanwhile, the Chhattisgarh Christian Forum (CCF) has strongly condemned the ban. It said the ban is "illegal and unconstitutional". 

"It is similar to what khap panchayats do. How can you ask us to block our religious activities on the basis of a panchayat Act?" asked Arun Pannalal, CCF president. He said the Constitution guaranteed the freedom of religion to all. 

The district collector Ankit Anand assured the media that they will ensure the distribution of ration to the villages. 

Anand said, "In Bastar, religious conversion is not such a big issue. We will ensure that distribution of ration to the villagers is not interrupted."

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