//Delhi emissary in tense Gujarat district

Delhi emissary in tense Gujarat district

AHMEDABAD —A top-drawer official of the federal government has been airdashed to Gujarat after Christian leaders last week met and complained to the Home Minister Shivraj Patil that next month’s massive religious congregation of Hindu activists in Dangs district of Gujarat could incite communal passions in the peaceful area.

A.K. Mitra, special secretary in Ministry of Home Affairs (New Delhi), was taken to tribal-dominated Dangs, one of India’s poorest regions, in a helicopter this morning to study the situation prevailing in the all-forest district with the frenzied volunteers of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) making frantic preparations for its three-day ‘Shabari Kumbh Mela’ opening on February 11.

The official on Monday met the Dangs collector and local leaders and will also meet Gujarat government officials and high-ranking police officers tomorrow to know the security measures planned on the occasion. Since 40 churches were burnt down, allegedly by Hindu hardliners, during clashes in 1998, the 80,000 Christian inhabitants among Dangs’s 185,000 population fear that the RSS’s grandiose plans for forcibly re-converting members of their community to Hinduism could spark a communal carnage. However, the Hindu leaders have ruled out the possibility of holding such a programme and promised to maintain peace in the serene region.

But the federal administration is worried that the presence of some 500,000 tribals and Hindu activists in the protected forests of Dangs could not only create social disturbances but also cause damage to the trees.