Christian people in India have strongly condemned Jharkhand state in Eastern India, amending a law which allows the acquisition of tribal lands for industries and mining. The church and other social forums working for natives held many protests against the move. This law orders to ignore the widespread protest from poor tribal people against the law. The amendment “will hurt the poor tribal people in the state and their existence itself will come under jeopardy,” said Auxiliary Bishop Telesphore Bilung of Ranchi, based in the state capital.
State chief Minister Raghubar Das told the state assembly that the amendment was in the interest of the state and the people. He blamed the Christian community for inflaming the protest and said that Christian missionaries’ motive behind all such moves is to convert the poor natives to Christianity.
There are around nine million native people living in Jharkhand and the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) rules it. Jharkhand has some 1.5 million Christians in a population of 33 million, most of them are the originator or indigenous population and almost half of them are Catholics. Repeatedly, missionaries are accused of religious conversion activities by Hindu groups in India. Some Christian leaders claimed about the political plotting which is designed to divide tribal people.
Catholic Nabore Ekka, president of the Delhi region of the Bharatiya Adivasi Sangamam (Indian Indigenous People’s Forum), noted that native groups led by Church workers had successfully fought against the government taking over of native land. He added that extremist Hindus target missionaries to prevent the education and development of native people.
Sarna Samiti (a conference of indigenous religions), at a meeting held on Nov. 19 accused foreign Christian missionaries of interfering with their culture by indulging in religious conversions. Sarna is the name given to local animist religions. The state Jharkhand in August 2017 passed an anti conversion law targeting Christian missionary work as offering temptations for people to convert from other religions. The forum said to oppose the local Christians celebrating Christmas this year.
Father Nicholas Barla, the secretary of the Indian Catholic bishops’ Commission for Tribal Affairs said that the aim was advance division in order to create a vote bank for national elections of 2019. He said that BJP portrayed Christians as enemies because they opposed some government policies.