26 March 2023: Thousands of people from tribal communities in Assam took part in a major demonstration in the capital Guwahati today demanding a ban on religious conversion of tribals across the state.
Held under the banner of the Janajati Dharma Sanskriti Suraksha Manch, an offshoot of the BJP’s ideological mentor the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), participants hailed from at least 30 districts in Assam.
Their key demand is to eliminate tribes who have undergone religious conversion as Scheduled Tribes (STs), which entitles them to reservation in jobs and other government benefits.
The organization demanded amendment of Article 342A of the Constitution.
“Religious conversion in India has been a constant threat to STs since pre-independence. Conversion of Assam tribals to foreign religions is not a new development,” said Binud Kumbang, head of the umbrella body for tribal communities.
“In the last few decades, the rate (of religious conversions) has increased drastically. ST people in particular are the easiest prey for conversion in India, which is mainly targeted by highly communal theocratic foreign religious groups,” Kumbang said.
Political analysts say it could be an attempt by the RSS-affiliate to create a stir for the anti-conversion law in Assam.
The tribal organization said that the Northeast has become the main region of Christianity in India. Of the 2.78 million Christians in India in the 2011 census, about 78 million are from this region, including Assam.
“The proportion of Christians in Meghalaya has been growing for a decade and reached nearly 75 percent in 2011. Some tribes in Meghalaya seem to be still resisting conversion,” Kumbang said.