//Business, not conversions, is what the Dangis expect at Shabari Kumbh

Business, not conversions, is what the Dangis expect at Shabari Kumbh

While Christians are apprehensive, most others view it as a lucrative opportunity

Ahwa (Dangs), February 4: A week before the three-day Shabri Kumbh begins at Dangs, there is a flurry of activity, and the residents are excited about the possible business opportunities that may come with the event. But the Christian community is apprehensive.

The Purna river site, now rechristianed the ‘Pampa Sarovar’, and Jarsol village is abuzz with preparations. More than 300 karsevaks and the walkie-talkie wielding administrators of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh are stationed at Jarsol. Close to 150 contractors and several government agencies are busy, trying to finish their work as quickly as possible.
The rocky face of the Purna riverbed has been changed beyond recognition and a concrete platform, complete with steps and havan kunds, is now there, along with a Shabari temple.

The secretary of the Shabhari Kumbh Committee, RSS’s Suresh Raoji prefers not to talk about reconversions. ‘‘There will be no reconversions here. The government is arranging for electricity and the water pipelines for all our 40 camps where more than 2 lakh pilgrims are expected to stay,’’ said Raoji. ‘‘The organisers will charge around Rs 1,300 per day for a stall at the three-day Kumbh. We are here to sell crockery,’’ said a businessman from Navapur in Maharashtra, who stood outisde the Kumbh office.

‘‘The Dangis are peace-loving people. We do not want any violence. Hopefully business will be good and shopkeepers are stocking up on goods,’’ said Ahwa municipal corporator Salim Panwala. ‘‘It is the media reports which are scaring the wits out of us. Is it true there are going to be policemen all around?’’ he asks.

The saffron flags distributed by the kar sevaks in villages around Subir and Ahwa have become a cause of concern among Christians. ‘‘They have not approached all households, the ones they approached have been instructed to keep the flags hoisted above their house till the Kumbh. We wonder if this is some sort of system to mark out Christian households,’’ said Father M V Anthony, one of the missionaries working in the region.

‘‘We did not approach the Christians because they might accuse us of trying reconversion. The Hindus were asked to put up the flags as a mark of respect for the visiting devotees and dignitaries,’’ said Raoji.

In the video shows and the CDs circulated to collect funds and manpower for the three-day event, the missionaries were reportedly described as asurik shakti who wanted to promote factionalism and terrorism among people on the lines of the North-East.

Before the visit of the special secretary in the Union Home Ministry and the Gujarat DGP last week, the circulation of these CDs was stopped and a Ram Rath van which went around villages with the film was grounded, it is said.
At Lavchali village, tribal youth Suresh Pawar, who is a graduate, feels not everything is right even though there is no apparent tension between Hindus and Christians. ‘‘We are peaceloving people but our trust has often been betrayed. We are apprehensive about outsiders creating trouble’’, said Pawar.
The five Dangi tribal kings have been made vice-presidents of the Shabri Kumbh Samiti. ‘‘We tried our best to dissaude our king but to no avail’’, said Pawar.

State Government not taking any chances
GANDHINAGAR: The Sangh Parivar may have claimed that its “gharwapsi” theory has been misjudged, but the Modi Government is not taking any chances. The government has directed the Dangs district collector to ensure that no attempt for reconversion is made during the three-day religious assembly being organised by the Shabari Kumbh Ayojan Samiti in the Dangs from February 11.
Following instructions from the Home Department, the collector has made it clear to the Samiti, while granting permission to it for organising the Shabari Kumbh, that they would not indulge in reconversion activity, a senior home official said on Saturday. The official said, “We have asked the collector to ensure that the Kumbh lake, where pilgrims are to take a holy dip, is used purely for religious purposes, and not for reconversion of tribal Christians”.
On Friday, Pravin Maniar of the RSS had told Newsline “The Hindu religion has no detailed ritual to eiher convert or reconvert. Conversion is done by Christians in the name of crusades and by Muslims in the name of jehad. After a holy dip, if someone feels like coming to our mandir, they are welcome. There will be no forced conversion”. The government has also asked the police to seize any CDs or other material which could potentially create discord.

Soumik Dey, Indian Express