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Hindu festival intimidating the Christian minority in India

23 January, 2006

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NEW DELHI, Jan 22: Activists on Sunday called on the Indian government to ban a Hindu festival which they allege is aimed at intimidating the Christian minority and converting tribals in the western state of Gujarat. The three-day Shabri Kumbh Mela (Urn Festival) is scheduled to begin on Feb 11 in Dangs district where Christians were attacked in the past, allegedly by right-wing Hindus.

“It is nothing but a process of Hinduisation of tribal people, who do not belong to Hinduism,” said Shabnam Hashmi of the group Act Now for Harmony and Democracy.

“We want the (national) government to ban the festival,” Hashmi said, noting that the state’s Hindu nationalist-led government was unlikely to do so.

She said festival organisers plan to mobilise around 500,000 tribals and Hindu activists for the gathering in the protected forests of Dangs district, which has a population of 185,000 including around 8,000 Christians.

“The organisers are launching a major campaign against Christians,” she said.

Hashmi has separately filed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking a ban on a VCD promoting the festival. It shows anti-Christianity scenes.

The festival is being organised by the right-wing Hindu Rashtriya Swyamsevak Sangh (RSS), which has ties with the Bharatiya Janata Party.

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