The Sindhi community in Ulhasnagar, north-east of Mumbai, is enduring a social turmoil, for the last few years, a sizable number in the township – primarily created for Sindhis who came in as refugees from Pakistan’s Sindh province after partition – have drifted away from Hinduism and embraced Christianity. In Ulhasnagar and other places surrounding Thane, many Hindu Sindhis have been lured into Christianity. Though, the estimated number of converted Sindhis varies according to different sources, one can safely assume that at least 20,000-30,000 Sindhis have been converted in past few years.
Nikhil Namdeo Bhole a resident of Ulhasnagar told this paper, “The Christian missionaries are organising several gatherings and most of the participants are Hindu. No one knows how it started, but it has spread like wildfire.”
Another resident and social worker for Kalyan, Mrs Manju said, “The missionaries are going door to door and convincing people for conversion to Christianity, which is very dangerous trend. They lure people exploiting their weaknesses.”
It is reported that there are many mini-churches operational in and around Ulhasnagar area and they look similar to temples; and Jesus Christ is depicted as Bhagwan Isu/Yeshu, to bait the Hindus into thinking that it is quite similar to Hinduism. In fact, a sub-group has been created in a famous matrimonial website citing the title of “Sindhi Christian”.
A Sindhi “Pastor” – Soni Basantani has effectively lured many Hindu Sindhis into Christianity in Ulhasnagar and nearby area. These Sindhis were either poor, or they were going through a rough patch in life and were offered a solution to their life “problems” through “Christ” by the said Pastor. Carols have been made in Sindhi for deeper penetration in the community and propagate the spread of Christianity among Sindhi language speakers.
The “conversions” have sent shockwaves among the community elders, especially since Indian Sindhis, weighed down by the scars of partition, are known to be staunch followers of Hinduism. Most of those who are shifting their faith allegiance to Christianity are in their 40s and, in fact, had been devout followers of Hinduism. Ulhasnagar is largely a business township, full of small scale industries and traders. The Christian missionaries helped the small businessmen rebuild their businesses. Since then, there has been a wave of conversion. However, when AV spoke to Ulhasnagar MLA and BJP city President Kumar Ailani, he said, “Nothing of this sort is happening. The Christian missionaries aren’t forcing anyone to convert their religion. There might be a very small number who have got converted. Poor people at times do convert for the need of money.”
The Sindhi-speaking Hindus are so worried about the conversion trend that they are on the verge of boycotting newly converted entities. A feud took place regarding the fact that many of these newly converted Christians retained their old Hindu names. This angered the Hindu community, particularly the Sindhi Hindus, who are staunch supporter of Hinduism throughout history. However, Dr. Abraham Mathai, the vice-president of State Minorities Commission has commented that any such attempt to make the newly converted Christian Sindhis change their name against the will should be cited as unconstitutional.
Looking at these ramped conversions, Sanatan Sanstha has demanded that government should impose anti-conversion law and bring uniform civil code. These days, Sanatan Sanstha is very much aggressive on various fronts. They think that Secularism is a poison of the worst kind in Indian politics and that is the reason they want the word ‘Secular’ to be removed from the constitution of India. Speaking to AV, the Sanatan Sanstha spokesperson Chetan Rajhans said, “The Sindhi community is the original branch of the Hindu community and that is why it has been targeted by the imperialistic force of Christian missionaries. Hence, the Santan Sanstha and other Hindu organisations have taken an initiative to come together in Ulhasnagar and create religious awareness sessions because the main crisis that is faced by the Sindhi community is that they lack religious awareness. Also, conversion should be banned by the law. If you try to gain followers through alluring them with money and other such temptations, then you are as wrong as a deceiver and this should be punishable under the Indian Penal Code.”
Every nation has a unique identity. India’s is of “Sanathan dharma”, essentially based on Hindu culture and tradition. France, UK, USA, Australia – all have the word ‘Secular’ in their constitution but they all claim that they are Christian nations and are proud of their heritages. Rather, we, the Indians believe in equality in diversions. We cannot call our own country a Hindu Rashtra as Pakistan calls itself a Muslim country, no matter if the other religious people residing there.
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