Gujarat: Hindu outfit calls for religious identification, say tribals activists

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Gujarat: Hindu outfit calls for religious identification, say tribals activists

Tension is brewing in Dang district after alleged calls for an upcoming rally on December 16, where Hindu outfits are demanding “proper identification” of people belonging to the Scheduled Tribe (ST) who have converted to Christianity.

Tribal activists allege that a Hindu tribal outfit, Rashtriya Janjati Sangh, backed by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and a tribal king, Dhanrajsinh Suryavanshi, who is also a member of the BJP, is trying to create communal tension before Christmas. However, the district administration has denied giving permission for such a rally and said that any attempts to create unrest in the district will be dealt with strictly.

The Rashtriya Janjati Sangh has called for a rally on December 16 at Ahwa sunset point in Dang, with the primary demand that all tribal Christians must change their religion on their school’s leaving certificate (LC) from Hindu ST to Christian ST, as a way of “marking” ahead of the 2021 census drive.

According to the last census carried out in Dang, the population of the entire district was marked at 2,28,291 people, of which Hindus constitute 89.16% with 2,03,545 people, followed by Christians at 8.77% with roughly 20,029 people and 1.57% Muslims with 3,593 people. However, Hindu outfits allege that a large chunk of the population had been shown as Hindu in the last census because irrespective of one’s faith, tribal people get “Hindu ST” printed on the school LCs.

Speaking to The Indian Express, tribal king Dhanrajsinh Suryavanshi said, “We have just one demand that those who are Hindu must write ST Hindu on LC, Muslims must write ST Muslim and Christians must write ST Christian.” Dang has a history of Anti-Christian riots in 1999, when violence erupted in the district and churches were attacked after alleged conversion of tribal people.

Activists based in Dang allege that the upcoming rally is an excuse by Hindu outfits to create tension before Christmas and develop a climate of fear for the tribals who have converted to Christianity.

“The message of this rally is clear: If you have converted to Christianity, then you can no longer avail the benefits of reservation policy as given in the Constitution of India. Moreover, the BJP suspects that ST Christians do not vote for them so by such marking, they will be identify their vote bank areas in Dang easily,” said Suryakant Gavit, an activist in Dang.

NK Damor, Collector, Dang, told The Indian Express, “Even if an organisation demands that the religion column in the LC must be changed, it cannot be done. Dang is a small district with a sizeable population and we have ample security measures to ensure that the law and order isn’t disturbed.”