Monday, October 13, 2008

Forced Conversions To Hinduism Reported In India's Orissa State

Today's New York Times carries a front-page story on the continuing religious tension and violence in the Kandhamal district of India's Orissa state. Old tribal rivalries underlie the violence. The Kandhas, who are largely Hindu, accuse the Panas, who have embraced Christianity, of cheating to obtain quotas for government jobs, while the Panas say the Kandhas are just resentful of the Panas' success at educating themselves. Violence was triggered by the August killing of charismatic Hindu preacher, Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati. The killers were probably Maoist guerrillas, but radical Hindus blame Christians. Since then, a number of Christians have been forced to embrace Hinduism, under threat of expulsion or death. Subash Chauhan, a leader of the radical Hindu group, Bajrang Dal, accused Christian missionaries of using promises of education and social services to get villagers to convert. He said it was unrealistic to expect the Kandhas to tolerate the Panas living among them as followers of Jesus. (See prior related posting.)