ALIGARH(TOI): A day after the “re-conversion” of 72 Valmikis in an Asroi (Aligarh) church, the pastor at the headquarters of the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Mumbai, Habil Gyan, said members of the denomination will soon lock up the church. A Shiva poster had been put up inside the church soon after the re-conversion. But it was taken away as news of the incident spread and threatened to turn into a communal fracas.
Image source: TOI
“We have sent our boys to take control of the church building and lock it,” Gyan told TOI over phone from Mumbai. “I was told that there was no harm done to the church, and the ‘shuddhi karan (purification ceremony)’ took place a km away from the church building.”
In Aligarh, meanwhile, Christians said they feared more such takeovers of their churches. “Seeing that the district administration has done little to protect the church in Asroi village, which was turned into a temple, we fear for the safety of our other properties,” a Christian teacher in Aligarh, requesting anonymity, said.
Advocate Osmond Charles added, “The havan took place inside the church. Christians don’t feel safe regarding their properties. Tomorrow, another church may see a ‘shuddhi karan’ exercise. The issue is not about leaving a faith, but about maintaining the sanctity of a place of worship.”
Christians in other parts of Uttar Pradesh joined in the protest and said they would send delegations to the UP chief minister Akhilesh Yadav. Vincent Joel, treasurer of Christian organization Rashtriya Isai Maha Sabha, said, “This is slow poisoning. This kind of act can create larger problems. We call it communalism. Leaders like Mulayam Singh Yadav present themselves as secular.
Nikhil Jatin Kumar, who leads the youth wing of the same organization, said, “If the state government were sensitive to our sentiments, it would have sent representatives to repair the damage done by communal elements. This would then have been a case between the communal elements and the government. But it is clearly not that. We are not going into action-reaction mode, and will not take recourse to arson. Our pastors and priests will assemble in Aligarh and a course of action will be planned.”
Christians of Aligarh have prepared a memorandum to be presented to the district administration, too, asking for support in this matter. They have also asked the head of the Seventh Day Adventist Church to meet them in Aligarh, and visit the minority commission in Delhi.
But while the Christians have reacted with hurt and outrage at the conversion of the church into a temple, members of the Dharam Jagran Vivad, Aligarh, who conducted the re-conversion ceremony of the Valmikis, said nothing will stop them from having a temple in the area.
“We have found a place near the chabootra (verandah). That is where we will set up the temple. I don’t have anything to say for the church. We have done the shuddhi karan in the building, whether they want to uproot the church or raze it to the ground is their headache. We will not let another church come up because there is no Christian left,” said the pramukh of the Dharam Jagran Vivad, Rajeshwar Singh, who had arrived in Aligarh from Uttarakhand for the re-conversion.
Khem Chandra, a local member of the Vivad group, added, “We will think about the church building.
A local policeman, wishing not to be named, said, “No FIR has been filed. People appear to have willingly embraced a certain religion. There is little for the police to do in such a situation.”