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US State Government Report slams Gujarat for Anti-Christian activities

The report came down particularly heavily on the draconic anti-conversion law that was passed...
( [email protected] ) Dec 26, 2003 07:57 PM EST

India., Dec. 25 - Gujarat has earned the ire of the 'International Religious Freedom Report 2003' released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour of the US State Department that has hovered on Christian-related issue in Gujarat and specifically mentioned the anti-conversion law passed by the state Assembly earlier this year.



The report released in Washington on Thursday said there was a gradual but continual institutionalisation of Hindutva. "This manifested itself through the spread of anti-conversion laws in some states, the rewriting of textbooks in favour of Hindu extremists' interpretations of history and illegal surveys of Christians by police in some areas of Gujarat to collect statistical information not sought from other religious groups".



It also said that during the period covered by this report, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat passed anti-conversion laws. Under both laws, those "forcing" or "alluring" people to convert are subject to criminal action.



Since what constitutes forced conversions or allurement is not specified, human rights groups, Christian religious leaders, and Dalits have expressed concern that authorities will use these laws selectively in the future to shut down educational, medical, and other social services provided by Christian groups to Dalits and tribals.



The report also said that when one Christian and one Buddhist organisation filed a case in the Ahmedabad High Court against the Act, the court dismissed the petition as premature, since the rules and regulations for the Act had not yet been gazetted.



Also the rules had not been published by the end of the reporting period, it added. It further said that the Gujarat government had aggressively surveyed Christian families and Christian agencies during the reporting period, allegedly under the orders of Chief Minister Narendra Modi. The survey activities were carried out by police, often in the middle of the night. The survey was first taken up in February, which continued through May. This, even after the Gujarat High Court's ruling in March that such a survey was illegal. Apparently, the survey included questions about the number of converts in the household or parish, the circumstances of conversion, and the sources of funding received from abroad, etc.



The report states that the Gujarat State Higher Secondary Board (GSHSB), to which nearly 98 per cent of schools in Gujarat belong, requires the use of certain textbooks in which Nazism is condoned. In the Standard X social studies textbook, the "charismatic personality" of "Hitler-the Supremo" and the "achievements of Nazism" are described at length. But the textbook does not acknowledge Nazi extermination policies or their concentration camps. The Standard IX social studies textbook implies that Muslims, Christians, Parsis, and Jews are "foreigners".



In October 2002, Gujarat minister for social justice and empowerment, Karsan Patel, instructed 400 Dang tribal children, who were boarders at a Christian school in Subir "to decide whether they want to live as Hindus or die as Christians". Patel made this statement at the "Ram Katha" in Subir.



The report also mentions the marriage in Ahmedabad between a Catholic, Anthony Rebello, and a Hindu, Reema Sompura. They were married in a legal Hindu marriage ceremony, but due to strong opposition from Bajrang Dal and their families, the couple was forced into hiding. Search warrants were issued against them when Sompura's mother made a complaint against Rebello. Further, when Sompura testified in court that she went with Rebello willingly, the couple was attacked by VHP and Bajrang Dal members outside the court premises. A pregnant Sompura was kicked in the stomach, which later led to the baby's abortion. At the police station, the couple was separated. Rebello was again beaten by VHP and Bajrang Dal members and Sompura was handed over to her family.