VHP slams local administrative body of Orissa for allowing conversion

"No action was taken against those who had violated the Orissa Freedom of Religion Act"
( [email protected] ) Dec 30, 2003 08:30 PM EST

Paralakhemundi, Orissa, India., Dec. 31 - Hindu fundamentalist party, VHP, was seen fuming recently in Orissa as they directed their attack on the local administration of the state. The Gajapati district unit of the VHP said that the administration has remained silent about the rapid conversion of Hindus into Christianity.

Protesting against the silence of the administration, VHP local unit chief Mr PC Mahapatra said that a serious issue was being ignored.

Local BJP leader Mr Nalini Patra had lodged a police complaint at Kasinagar police station, but no action has been taken till date, said VHP members. They also listed out specific instances where the attention of the police was drawn, and yet no action was taken against those who had violated the Orissa Freedom of Religion Act (OFRA).

The VHP has also alleged that an organisation which has opened a children’s home, promising free food and education, was coercing the children to attend religious functions and read certain texts.

Citing the cases of a few NGOs involved in conversion, the VHP charged that one such organisation, at Katalakaitha village of the Gosani block, has converted five persons.

When contacted, the Gajapati district SP, Mr Dhirendra S Kuttey, refuted the charges of inaction by the police. “We have to go by the law, and only when there is a forced conversion, the OFRA can be used to arrest the person. But if there is an instance of conversion without the permission of the administration, it attracts sections of the OFRA, where the police can only make a station diary entry and enquire,” he said.

VHP leader Mr PC Mahapatra, however, countered this stand, and insisted that the police were interpreting the rules wrongly. It is a fact that the administration here is afraid to take action under these Sections in order to avoid controversy, he said. Above all there is no record of the number of missionary organisations with the district administration, he said.

With elections in the air, the VHP is bound to step up its activities in these regions, and conversion will become a major issue, according to political circles here.

“In our village, one organisation has managed to convert the inhabitants of three streets by giving free food, clothing and free education for their children,” said Mr Bhavani Shankar Rath, the ex-sarpanch of Katalakaitha.