Chhattisgarh funding tribal places of worship to prevent conversions: Minister

For the last one year, administration in Chhattisgarh’s Bastar region have been funding beautification and maintenance of Devgudis-- a temple-like structure housing deities of the tribal community and where their rituals take place.

PUBLISHED ON AUG 11, 2021 03:30 PM IST

Chhattisgarh govt has been funding beautification and maintenance of Devgudis in Bastar region. (PTI Photo/representative use)
Chhattisgarh govt has been funding beautification and maintenance of Devgudis in Bastar region. (PTI Photo/representative use)

The Chhattisgarh government has been funding tribal communities to develop and maintain their traditional places of worship, known as Devgudis, so that they aren’t lured by anyone to convert to another religion, said state industry minister Kawasi Lakma on Tuesday.

Lakma, a senior Congress leader from Bastar, which has a large tribal population, also claimed that no tribal has converted to Christianity during the past 2.5 years of Congress rule in the state.

Lakhma was responding to allegations by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that religious conversions were taking place in Bastar.

“During the 15 years of BJP rule, 30 churches were constructed (in Sukma district) but not a single one came up in the last two years. To ensure that conversions do not take place and people do not visit churches, the state government has been providing 5 lakh (each) to ‘Devgudis’ and 10 lakh to ‘Ghotuls’ in Bastar…We want our temples and Devgudis to be in good shape. In the last two years, no religious conversion has taken place,” Lakhma said during an interaction with the local media.

For the last one year, the Bastar district administration has been funding the beautification and maintenance of Devgudis that are temple-like structures housing deities of the tribal community and where their rituals take place. Devgudis play a pivotal role in the lives of the Bastar tribals. The local administration has also been developing Ghotuls, the place where tribal boys and girls celebrate festivals and meet to choose life partners.

BJP spokesperson Gauri Shankar Srivas claimed that Lakma’s statement was “contradictory to the realities on the ground”.

“A month ago, the Sukma police chief asked officials for strict surveillance over the activities of Christian missionaries and the converted tribals, and now Lakhma is saying that no conversion is taking place. Both the statements are contradictory. The Congress is trying to propagate soft Hindutva to win elections but they have no faith in Hinduism,” said Srivas.

Reacting to Lakma’s statement, Chhattisgarh Christian Forum said it was “unfortunate” and “far from the truth”.

“The fact is that the Congress government is providing funds for the construction of temples in tribal villages. Newly constructed temples of Lord Ram and Lord Shiva have been appearing in the tribal villages. The saffron fundamentalists are trying to claim that the tribals are Hindus. We perceive that the minister’s statement is part of the strategy to declare tribals as Hindus,” said Arun Pannalal, president of Chhattisgarh Christian Forum.

Pannalal added that Christians are falsely accused of forcing people to convert by vested interests who want to take away lands and rights of the tribal community by falsely establishing them as Hindus as against the Supreme Court’s opinion that the tribals were religiously independent hence enjoyed the benefits of government reservations.

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