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‘Step to avert violence over conversions’: Sukma SP after order to track missionaries sparks row

Sukma SP Sunil Sharma's 12 July letter directing all police stations to track Christian missionaries and new converts to check forced religious conversions had sparked a row.

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Raipur: Days after his letter asking police stations to keep track of Christian missionaries sparked a row in Chhattisgarh’s Sukma, Sunil Sharma, the superintendent of police in the Naxal-hit district, said the directions were issued after assessing the law and order situation in the region. He, however, said there is no immediate fear of communal violence.

Responding to the outrage sparked by the letter, the Sukma SP said while there was no immediate threat, the letter was written to avoid any future violence among tribals that local residents allegedly feared.

“The letter was written to police station in-charges after an assessment meeting to understand prevailing issues in the area. It was a preventive measure for the future. There is no immediate reason to believe that religious conversion will lead to any violence here but locals do have some fear,” Sharma told ThePrint.

He added: “Attempts were made to read more than true contents of the letter. Our idea was to keep the police stations alert towards their basic responsibilities of maintaining law and order and prevent commissioning of violence in light of the meeting held and similar controversy brewing up in Kondagaon district.”

A church was dismantled in the Telanga Para village, 20 kilometres off the district headquarters in Kondagaon, by the local administration last week because it was allegedly illegal, built on a government land. This was after about 20 families in the village embraced Christianity.

Issued on 12 July, Sharma’s letter asked all police stations in the district to keep track of Christian missionaries and recently converted tribals for illegal religious conversions and asked them to strengthen intelligence systems.

In the letter, Sharma, who took over as the district’s police chief earlier this month, had also said Christian missionaries were “trying to entice and encourage local tribals for religious conversions in interiors areas”.

“As per information received, their activities are seen more in Gudra Patinayikraas, Kakdiamaa and Laundipara Baarupata villages of police station Chhindgarh. Disputes between local tribals and converts’ community cannot be ruled out in future,” the letter read.

Also read: Why BJP fighting 2023 Chhattisgarh polls without CM face is not good news for Raman Singh

Congress says forced conversion will invite strict action

Deepak Baij, the Congress MP from Bastar, said he wasn’t sure why the letter was sent by the SP, but noted that legal action should be taken against enticed or forced conversion of the tribals.

“I do not know why Sukma SP wrote the letter or what intelligence he had but at present there is no emergent threat as to communal clash owing to religious conversions there. However, religious conversions forced or via cajoling and enticement will invite strict legal action. This has also been made clear by Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel,” Baij told ThePrint.

He added that those willing to embrace other faiths cannot be stopped but allurements or taking advantage of the tribals’ innocence will not be allowed.

The MP also stressed that the tribal community must launch an awareness campaign against forced religious conversions in the state.

Meanwhile, the Bharatiya Janata Party alleged that the Baghel-led government condones illegal religious conversions in the state’s tribal areas.

“Religious conversions in tribal dominated areas of the state have complete involvement and patronage of the state government. Why else are religious conversions more rampant during Congress rule,” Ramvichar Netam, Rajya Sabha MP and former state home minister, told ThePrint.

BJP spokesperson Kedar Kashyap noted that tribals feared illegal religious conversions because of the threat they posed to their culture and traditions.

“Letter by Sukma SP is just a stamp on the activities of Christian missionaries from other states working in Chhattisgarh. Situation is almost on the boil here and may precipitate into violence and clashes in coming days. State government must resort to serious preventive measures before it’s too late,” said Kashyap.

(Edited by Rachel John)

Also read: 2.5 yrs in office but CM Baghel yet to frame ‘anti-Naxal’ policy, BJP says he is clueless


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