Zealots target future of poor kids from Bidar

Bajrang Dal campaign has delayed the process of their school admission

A group of men from the Bajrang Dal, a fringe outfit of the Sangh Parivar, have raised a controversy over the children from the district studying in a Christian institution in Mangalore, alleging that they were being converted to Christianity.

The Carmel Vocational Training Centre here has been sending girl students of non-orphan destitute families, many of them dalits, every year to Stella Maris Children’s Home in Mangalore for their higher primary and secondary studies since 1999.

Till 2010, the programme went on smoothly, with a large number of children getting the benefit of the scheme supported by the State government. The Social Welfare Department pays a scholarship of Rs 350 a month to each child, besides recommending the children for issue of destitute certificates by the revenue authorities.

Every year, about 40 children are sent for admission to class five and lodged in Stella Maris Hostel in Mangalore. So far about 400 children have benefited.

But on April 8, as the children were travelling from Mangalore to their homes in Bidar, a group of Bajrang Dal men tried to prevent the children from travelling, holding them up for nine hours.

Following the incident the children are now being sent along with their parents with the district administration and the police firmly standing by their interests.

However, taking advantage of the development, certain officials are delaying the issue of destitute certificates essential for the children’s admission. By June 15, the beneficiary children are required to submit their destitute certificates to the school authorities in Mangalore. But so far, only five out of 18 applications have been cleared. The remaining 13 will run the risk of losing the opportunity if they don’t get destitute certificates by the due date.

Stoutly denying allegations of conversions, Sr Christine Misquith, Head of the Carmel Vocational Training Centre, challenged anyone to show a single case of conversion in the last 40 years of their activities.

“It is an absurd allegation. May be a Methodist has been converted into a Catholic. That is a different issue. There is absolutely no conversion of a Hindu to Christianity,’’ Sr Misquith says.  

“If we had indulged in conversions all these years and decades, how is that the population of Christians has come down from 2.3 per cent to 1.8 per cent in the recent census?’’ the Catholic nun asks.

Alcoholism and poverty among SCs, particularly Madigas, has affected children the most. Shantavva (60) who was instrumental in sending three of her nieces to Mangalore, recalls that had they not been sent to Mangalore, they would have become cheap labourers elsewhere. She sees a systematic conspiracy behind the attack. “The upper caste people are scared of our progress. They are not getting people to do their work.
They want us to remain submissive to them and serve their needs,” Shantavva rues.
Subhash (43), a resident of Shaha Gunj in Bidar and a convert, insists that there has never been pressure on anyone to convert. “The low castes, fed up with untouchability and inequality, are drawn towards Christianity when the latter come to serve them.”
His sentiments were echoed by Shantavva. “Out of gratitude, some families embrace Christianity. We hardly go to church, but no one objects to that,” she points out.

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