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Wednesday, December 30, 1998
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Centre sends team to Gujarat
Tribune News Service and agencies

NEW DELHI, Dec 29 — The Union Home Ministry has sent a two-member team led by its Special Secretary, Mr Mukund Behari Kaushal to assess law and order situation in Gujarat following reports of attacks on Christian missionary schools and churches in the state.

The team, which includes Joint Secretary, Mr Sandeep Bagchi, left here this morning and would also assist the State Government in solving the problem, a ministry spokesman said today.

The Home Ministry despatched its team following a decision to seek a report from the State Government on the present situation.

Several political parties, including the Congress, the Left parties and the Telugu Desam Party, had condemned attacks on minorities particularly Christians in the state.

There were also reports of clashes between two communities in Ahwa town and nearly villages in Dangs District of south Gujarat, where churches and Christian institutions had come under attack.

The Congress today charged that what was happening in Gujarat was the resurfacing of the "hidden agenda" of the Sangh Parivar.

"The states where the BJP is in power, the party has been unable to govern and discharge its duty. The happenings in Gujarat indicate that the Sangh Parivar is trying to cast off its mask and bring forth the hidden agenda," the Congress spokesperson Dr Girija Vyas said today.

She charged that the BJP and the Sangh Parivar were surrounded by inner-contradictions and now trying to come out of the present mess by trying to revive its "hidden agenda".

The Congress, she said, once again urges the state government of Gujarat to protect life and property of all citizens particularly the weaker sections and minorities.

GANDHINAGAR: Normalcy has been restored in Ahwa town and nearby villages in the Dangs district of south Gujarat, where churches and Christian institutions had come under attack in the last few days, with no untoward incident being reported in the last 24 hours, Gujarat Minister for Home Haren Pandya, said today.

He told newsmen that Special Secretary in the Union Home Ministry M.B. Kaushal would visit Gandhinagar tomorrow to have discussions following the Gujarat government’s report on the incidents and the action taken by it submitted to the Centre yesterday.

Number of arrests in connection with the incidents had, meanwhile, gone up to 43 with the police picking up five more involved in the arson and violence that followed protests over alleged conversion of tribals, official sources said.

Meanwhile, a delegation of leaders of Christian community led by Bishop of Ahmedabad S. Fernandes, Bishop Malavia of CNI Church and Cedric Prakash of Xavier’s Social Service Society met Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel and Additional Chief Secretary (Home) V.V.R. Subbarao and held discussions on the incidents.

The delegation demanded stringent action against those responsible for torching, damaging and desecrating places of worship.

Bishop Fernandes told reporters later that the Chief Minister had assured them of measures to protect the members of the minority communities and their institutions from attacks.

Asked about the conversion of tribals to Christianity the bishop said everybody had the right to propagate ones religion.

SURAT: Eleven persons have been arrested for allegedly attacking a chapel in a remote village of Dadakvan in Yvara taluka of the district on Sunday night.

Miscreants attacked the chapel when the tribals, who had reportedly embraced Christianity, assembled there for a "night vigil", the police said here today.

Following the incident, a strict police bandobust has been made in the village and security beefed up at other chapels in the region.

Meanwhile, Congress Seva Dal workers yesterday took out a silent march at Ahwa in Dangs district in protest against the attacks on chapels.

JAIPUR: The Vishwa Hindu Parishad today decided to launch a countrywide campaign to "counteract the programme of Christian churches for evangelization of India.’’

Hindus will face the onslaught by churches with vigour and the VHP will launch a countrywide campaign to counteract this assault not only on Hindu religion but also on the Hindu culture, a resolution passed at the meeting of board of trustees of the VHP said here today.

The resolution, issued to the media by the working president of VHP Ashok Singhal and its general secretary Giriraj Kishore, said the Christian churches had announced that the 21st century is for evangelization of Asia. In this programme the main target will be the Hindus of India, it said.

It alleged that on various platforms all churches were lamenting that only two per cent of the Hindus had adopted Christianity.

Condemning the evangelization programme as "nothing but a programme of conversion’’, the resolution quoted cardinals Arinzed and Ratzinger as saying that conversion is the prime activity of the Catholic church.

Other Christian churches operating in India have also expressed similar sentiments, it added.

The VHP said the conversion of people had invariably led to secessionist movements and added "the funds allegedly brought in India for propagation of Christianity are used for purchase of arms and equipment to conduct a violent assault on the Indian state.

In addition, the resolution said, there is concerted attempt to defame the VHP and other Hindu organisations by falsely accusing them of being responsible for various attacks on Christians.

This is being done to "hide their true face and divert the attention of the Hindus away from their evangelization and anti-national programmes’’, the resolution added.

The resolution appealed to Hindus and the nationalist Christians to be aware of the danger and support the VHP.

HYDERABAD: The Telugu Desam and the CPM today strongly condemned recent attacks on churches and missionary schools in Gujarat and said such "senseless exhibition of religious bigotry" was a blot on the country’s secular fabric.

Attacks on hospitals and places of worship in Surat and Dangs districts under the pretext of opposing religious conversions were most reprehensible, TDP general secretary Lal Jan Basha said in a statement here.

He said religious conversions were not violative of the Constitution and people have every right to practice religious faith of their choice.

"It is shameful that hooligans have targeted places of worship and hospitals. Such incidents are an assault on human rights," Basha said.back

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