Fear Rules in Tribal Pockets of Madhya Pradesh After Attack on Churches

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The 12-member family of Antulal Murali, whose father had embraced Christianity four decades ago, is living in fear.

Mandla, Madhya Pradesh: 

The rising number of church attacks across the country has become a cause of worry in rural, tribal-dominated areas like Mandla of Madhya Pradesh. Of the 70% tribal population here, almost 50% are Christians.

Fear is the over-riding emotion in the tribal-dominated Khuma village - just 100 km from Jabalpur, where a church was attacked last week allegedly by Hindu Dharma Sena and Bajrang Dal. In this village, there are around 30 Christian families in Khuma - both Catholics and Protestants.
Antulal Murali's father had embraced Christianity four decades ago. His family of 12 now lives in fear. "I have been hearing of the church attacks across India, we fear we may be attacked too. A few years ago, the local members of the Bajrang Dal had threatened us and asked us to convert to Hinduism," he said.

The administration claims the situation is under control.

Officials say there had been a few cases of communal tension or violence against the Christian community over the last one year. In January, a church was attacked but no one has been arrested so far.

Other villagers say they had been lured with benefits and asked to convert to Christianity. "They say if you have faith, then come join us. They promise us benefits like healthcare and education," said one of the villagers, Sukhram.

The villagers say conversions to Christianity take place openly in the village. But the administration has nothing on record. In the last three years, not even a single request of conversion has come to the office of the collector, which is mandatory under the state's Freedom of Religion Act.

The allegations appear to have helped the cause of right wing groups. Satyanarayan Yadav, the district organizer of Bajrang Dal, told NDTV, "The Christians first help innocent tribals here, and then they pressurise them to convert, which is wrong," he said.

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