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India: Shabri Kumbh Mela Threatens 8000 Christians in Dangs

February 8, 2006

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin - No. 364 - Wed 08 Feb 2006

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INDIA: SHABRI KUMBH MELA THREATENS 8000 CHRISTIANS IN DANGS
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Over the weekend 11-13 February, Hindu nationalist groups and their
militant factions will hold a major Kumbh (Hindu festival) in Dangs
district, Gujarat, northwest India. Called \'Shabri Kumbh Mela\', in
future it is to be held every four years. Its official website openly
declares the aim is to \'...deal a death blow to such anti-dharmic and
anti-national activities\' as Christian missions. The central slogan
for the Kumbh is \'Hindu Jago, Christi Bhagao\' (Hindus arise, throw
out the Christians). The two main aims of the Kumbh are to convert
the tribals to militant Hindu nationalism, and to get rid of
Christianity because it challenges the status quo and threatens to
liberate the enslaved tribals. Dangs is being targeted because
Gujarat is 0.05 percent Christian whilst Dangs is 5 percent
Christian. Moreover, the Hindu elites have political and economic
interests in either co-opting or ridding themselves of the despised,
sub-caste tribals. So they will co-opt as many as possible into
militant Hindu nationalism, and then set them against the Christians.


The strategy the Hindu nationalists use is to convince the tribals
that, though they think they are indigenous animists or Christians,
historically they are Hindu forest dwellers who will be better off
returning to the Hindu fold. Hindu nationalists have been busy
Hinduising tribal rituals by giving them Hindu names, saying they are
just corrupted Hindu practices and then adjusting them to suit Hindu
sensitivities. They have also invented a whole new mythology to
justify creating a Hindu pilgrimage site and festival to the Hindu
goddess Shabri in Dangs.

The Hindu nationalists have produced high quality CDs that exhort the
tribals to kill Christians as the Hindu god Ram killed the demon
Ravana. The NGO \'ANHAD\' (Act Now for Harmony and Democracy) filed a
petition concerning the CD, which suggests Christians should be
attacked and beheaded. On Friday 3 February, the Supreme Court viewed
the CD and sought responses from the central government, the state
governments of Maharashtra and Gujarat, and the Shabri Kumbh Mela
organising committee. According to ANHAD, the disc has been widely
distributed and openly sold in Gujarat, Maharashtra and in
northeastern states. ANHAD states the CD \'makes constant references
to the evil forces and foreign powers that are out to destroy the
Hindu religion, while simultaneously flashing pictures of churches
and the cross on the screen as if to insinuate that the Christian
community is the evil force and the foreign power that the Hindu
community has to reckon with\'. They say it also encourages viewers to
adopt aggressive attitudes and militant methods. The CD also has \'a
caricature of a headless Christian priest wearing a cassock and
holding a cross. In place of the head is a question mark symbol. The
caption on the top of this picture literally translates into church:
in the name of service\'.

Swami Aseemanand, one of the key instigators of the Kumbh, believes
the Shabri Kumbh Mela will \'...end missionary activity in Dangs\'. In
1999 Aseemanand told the Times of India, \'Dangs cannot know peace so
long as even a single tribal remains Christian.\'

The Hindu nationalist state government in Gujarat is actively
supporting this initiative. They have given Hindus saffron coloured
flags to fly outside their homes, making Christian homes easy to
identify. While the government has refused to cancel the event,
advocacy from Indian and foreign groups has forced them to increase
security. However, when Hindus massacred Muslims in Gujarat in 2002,
police with Hindu nationalist sentiments joined in the pogrom. The
Dangs population of 186,000 includes 8000 Christians. The Hindu
nationalists plan to bring in some half million Hindus for the
festival. Please fast and pray for the safety of the Dangi Christian
community this weekend.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR:

* the Spirit of God to breathe great peace into the Dangi Christians
and great spiritual wisdom into their Christian leaders; may he
draw them into prayer and increase their faith.

* God to spread his protection over each Christian family and
individual, surrounding them with his favour as with a shield.

\'Let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy.
Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may
rejoice in you. Surely Lord you bless the righteous; you surround
them with your favour as with a shield.\' Psalm 5:11,12

* God to intervene profoundly so that wicked, exploitative, violent
schemes will be frustrated and scuttled. Psalm 146:9

* God to bless the advocacy of Indian and Christians worldwide,
working through the Supreme Court and central government, and
putting an end to the crimes of the Hindu nationalists: their
incitement to violence; their forced conversion campaigns; and
their intimidation and violent persecution of religious minorities.


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SUMMARY TO USE IN BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE: -
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SHABRI KUMBH MELA THREATENS 8000 CHRISTIANS IN INDIA

Hindu nationalists will hold a \'Shabri Kumbh Mela\' in Dangs district,
Gujarat, northwest India, over the weekend 11-13 February. For this
festival, the Hindu nationalists are bringing some half million
Hindus into Dangs, where the population of 186,000 includes 8000
Christians. They aim to convert as many tribals as possible to
militant Hindu nationalism, and then set them against the Christians.
They have distributed throughout Dangs high quality CDs that
encourage Hindus to kill Christians, whom they portray as an evil,
foreign threat. Hindu homes have been given saffron coloured flags,
so Christian homes are easily identified. The Shabri Kumbh Mela
website declares the aim is to \'...deal a death blow to such anti-
dharmic and anti-national activities\' as Christian missions. The
central slogan for the Kumbh is, \'Hindu Jago, Christi Bhagao\' (Hindus
arise, throw out the Christians). Please pray for God\'s intervention