Amid multiple incidents of foreigners flouting tourist visa rules to attend religious events in Assam, Hindu organizations have alleged “manipulative conversions to Christianity”, particularly in the Upper Assam region. The local church denied it, calling it a “conspiracy”.
At least three Swedish nationals and seven German nationals were found attending religious ceremonies and giving religious speeches at receptions organized by the Church Association. These nationals traveled to several predominantly tribal areas of Assam on tourist visas, the organizations said.
The tourist visa prohibits attending religious functions.
After the three Swedish nationals were expelled from Dibrugarh Assam, seven German nationals, staying at the Wild Grass Resort in Kaziranga National Park, were found giving speeches at functions hosted by the Golaghat Church and the Karbi Anglong district in Assam and were to travel to Tezpur, they alleged. All of these areas are dominated by tea garden workers and the Adivasi population, as well as indigenous tribes. They were fined US$500 and deported.
Speaking to CNN-NEWS18, Pastor Amor Rongohar said, “Seven Germans had come here. They visited various places and they came here too. They met about 20 to 30 people. We greeted them. There was no conversion. But they spoke publicly in Naharkatia.
When the CNN-NEWS18 team attempted to speak to an area church, they said it was “a conspiracy against them” and that they are “not in some kind of manipulative conversion. “. They admitted that foreigners had come to speak at two locations near Tinsukia in Assam. “We had informed the local police station before organizing the event,” they said.
Hindu Yuva Parishad, however, alleged that such cases had been happening for a long time and that it was a “religious conspiracy against Hindus in Assam, especially in Upper Assam”.
Deepjyoti Duwarah, General Secretary of Hindu Yuva Parishad, Golaghat, said, “The missionaries target the tribals, the poor and the illiterate. They say that any kind of sickness, any kind of poverty can only be cured if the tribals start believing in Jesus. They use their illiteracy as a tool to convert Hindus. They target northern (upper) Assam, while Muslim conversions occur in southern (lower) Assam. An entire Majuli village has now been converted to Christianity. It is very alarming.
Pankaj Phukan, President of Hindu Yuva Parishad, Golaghat, said: “They follow a module. People are first given the Bible to read. A preacher makes sure it is read, organizes prayers and the last big event is when influential people and strangers participate and give speeches.
However, ADGP GP Singh has strictly ordered all superintendents of police in districts where such incidents occur to keep an eye out for those flouting tourist visa rules to attend religious programs.
Singh said: “We have enough evidence of them participating in religious activities on a tourist visa. We also test the conversion angle. All SPs in the district have been ordered to keep an eye on it.
VOICE FROM THE FIELD
Speaking to CNN-News18, a resident of a tea tribe in Khumtai, Biju Urang said, “Earlier, I was sick. I had to get help from tantriks. I was told that if I believe in Jesus, it will go away. After visiting the church and talking to preachers, I was converted. Many families in our villages have converted to Christianity.
“Congregations happen from time to time. A few big ones come, sometimes even foreigners. We have no business there, we just have to sit and listen,” said another local Raju.
Another local convert, Binita Morang, said, “I started believing in Jesus after watching a Youtube video. The day I watched the video, I found the Bible at my doorstep. The local preacher asked me to read it… My husband got a promotion, I got a piece of land, a lot of things changed.
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