Christian missionaries and indigenous peoples in the southern tip of India’s Chhattisgarh state have been placed under police surveillance, said a report from AsiaNews.
Divine Word missionary priest Babu Joseph, former spokesman for the Indian Bishops’ Conference, told the news site that the circular issued by the chief of police of the Sukma district “smacks of partiality and arbitrariness.”
Sunil Sharma, chief of police of the district, has issued a circular instructing officers to maintain strict surveillance on the activities of Christian missionaries and indigenous peoples.
“Christian missionaries and tribal Christians usually venture into the inner areas of the district and persuade non-Christian tribals to convert by offering them flattery,” the report quoted the circular.
“For this reason it cannot be excluded that the situation may lead to conflicts between local tribals and those converted (to Christianity),” it added.
The circular also urges police officers “to maintain a consistent vigilance on the activities of Christian missionaries and converted tribals residing in the district.”
The officers are also instructed “to report if any of their acts are perceived as suspicious.”
The AsiaNews report said the police chief admitted that he sent the letter, saying that it is “of a preventive rather than a repressive nature.”
“Taking into account that in some neighboring districts conflicts have been reported due to religious conversions, I wanted a such a situation did not occur in Sukma,” he reportedly said.
Sharma said his police officers were only instructed “to gather information through its network on flattery religious conversion activities.”
“From his circular it appears that the main cause of social tensions in the district under his jurisdiction is the alleged activity of religious conversion of Christian missionaries,” note Father Joseph.
The priest, however, said “no social tension is one-sided, it is always bilateral or even multilateral.”
“This being the case, the police chief’s move to point to Christian missionaries and not to mention the troublemakers belonging to the majority is nothing more than playing the game of existing powers,” said Father Joseph.
The priest said it has become “routine for some organizations and some in the administration” to target Christian missionaries under the pretext of religious conversion.
“I’ve always wondered why some right-wing organizations have rediscovered a love for tribals whose lives have improved thanks to the intervention of Christian missionaries,” said the priest.
He said the indigenous peoples “have been there all this time and no Christian missionary forbids anyone from helping the tribals improve their lot.”
“But when a Christian missionary helps the tribals he is always labeled as an act of conversion for corruption?” said the priest.
“It is this hypocrisy that we must challenge,” he added.