Radical Hindu groups in India urge the country's government to stop giving benefits to tribal or indigenous people who converted to Christianity.
A group of radical Hindus in India are moving to prevent, or at least discourage, tribal Indians from converting to Christianity. The group insisted that the government should deprive the tribal people of educational rights and employment opportunities across the nation should they be proven to turn away from Hinduism to embrace Christ.
Narendra Modi, India's Prime Minister, and President Ram Nath Kovind received a letter of request from the group Janajati Suraksha Manch (Tribal Security Forum) in eastern Odisha state this month, the Christian Post reported.
The letter requested the Indian President and the Prime Minister to prevent tribal people who converted to Christianity from securing reservations in educational institutions, jobs in government and in the public sector, as well as other benefits that the constitution would grant an Indian citizen.
This letter of request is not the first of its kind. Similar demands have also been made in other Indian states, namely Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Jharkhand.
In September, Nishikant Dubey, a Member of Parliament from Jharkhand's Godda constituency, and a member of the governing Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, demanded the same thing: for the government to deny those who convert to Christianity the benefits that belong to those who do not leave Hinduism.
Megha Oraon, an official of the Janajati Suraksha Manch, said in a statement that people from other religions enjoying the benefits reserved for scheduled tribes must be stopped. The official also strongly urged Indians to "maintain your religion, culture and traditions."
However, Ratan Tirkey, a Catholic member of the Tribes Advisory Committee of Jharkhand said the groups' petition is but an attempt to "harass tribal Christian people who are considered outsiders and anti-government," UCA News reported.
Reports revealed that though the Indian census records the tribals and indigenous as Hindus, not all of them are actually Hindu. Majority of them, in fact, do not practice Hinduism. Furthermore, a portion of the population are of those who worship nature.
Tirkey said the radical Hindu groups "are not ready" to follow the Constitution and the bills that the authorities passed in order to provide assistance to the tribal people.
"Being tribal is by birth but religion is choice. It is quite surprising that right-wing groups are not ready to follow what has been written in the constitution and bills passed in parliament on the scheme to help tribal people," Tirkey said.
Stopping the government from giving aid meant for tribal Christians is "challenging the constitution and Supreme Court," Tirkey said. This is because the scheme wasn't created in the name of any religion. It was meant for the poor, Tirkey stressed.
"If it is a case of religion, then what about the tribal people who have become Hindus, Muslim or follow the Sarna tribal religion? Why are only Christians targeted?" Tirkey said.
Hindu groups launched a campaign meant to prevent indigenous Christians from receiving benefits from the government. Currently, the campaign is active in several places, namely Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha states.
Although reports say that India ranks at number 10 among the countries where it is difficult to convert to Christianity, the number of Indians turning to Christ continues to rise, Open Doors USA reported.