Indian PM denounces forced conversions of Christians Christmas week

by Vanessa Rodriguez, |
These onlookers witness a religion conversion ceremony, where Christian believers are forced to re-convert to Hinduism, at Hasayan town in Uttar Pradesh August 29, 2014. | REUTERS/ADNAN ABIDI

NEW DELHI (Christian Examiner) -- After a forceful mass conversion targeting Christians planned for Christmas day was cancelled because of intervention by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the government's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) announced it intends to support an anti-conversion law and is not in favor of mass conversion ceremonies reportedly taking place.

Meanwhile, a similar group called the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) reportedly "re-converted" 150 more families through the week of Christmas.

As India's notable religious diversity is challenged by a growing trend of forceful Hindu conversions, Modi announced Saturday that the government's 

"BJP is not supportive of any forceful conversions," BJP party president Amit Shah said, according to the Times of India. The statement marks the party's move to distance itself from the conversion issue after critics claimed the government's failure to bridle hard-line Hindu groups eager to convert religious minorities in the nation to Hinduism created a roadblock in economic reform.

Modi's statement comes after India's upper house of parliament demanded Modi to make a statement regarding the conversions issue. Since Modi himself is a Hindu nationalist, some believe that until now Hindu groups like the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, (RSS) and its affiliates, which previously employed Modi, have been allowed to promote their religious agenda through mass conversions without much government opposition.

Earlier this month, an RSS offshoot was credited with a mass conversion of nearly 200 poor Muslims in Agra living in slums that were offered, under false pretense, government rations, voter identity cards, and eligibility for schooling and medical care. A police complaint of the occurrence claimed that the 57 families involved were duped into changing their religion in order to receive the promised assistance.

Shah said in the Times article it was up to the courts whether the conversions were forceful or not.

Hindu nationalists have long claimed that Muslims and Christians forced the conversion of Hindus to their religions. As a result, conversion supporters call their mass events a "homecoming" for families who were formerly Hindu to return to their faith Reuters reported.

While the majority of India's 1.2 billion population are Hindus, the country is also home to roughly 160 million Muslims and a small percentage of Christian believers.