–By Usha Rawat —
Tribal groups in Uttarakhand have become most vulnerable to religious conversations. Not only Christian missionaries but activists from all major religions are engaged in forcing them to deviate from their original faith. This is proving to be detrimental to the unique cultural diversity and the rich heritage of these tribal groups. In Uttarakhand, due to political reasons only a ruckus is being created about Love Jihad while conversion to other religions is being deliberately ignored. Some people are seeing love jihad in Purola, but in Mori block, a little far away from it, activities of missionaries are not visible to them, because political benefits come from love jihad only.
The wife of Lakshman Singh of Jogither Nagla village of Khatima block in Udham Singh Nagar district was a cancer patient. Lakshman with little resources had to succumb to the missionaries’ pre-condition for free treatment in a missionary hospital for converting to Christianity. Similarly, the intrusion of missionaries from neighboring Himachal Pradesh into the Tons Valley area of Uttarakashi has led to social tensions leading to litigation. These startling facts about conversions were revealed in a book titled “BADLAW KE DAUR SE GUJARATI JANJATIYAN” authored by senior journalist and a reputed writer Jay Singh Rawat. Quoting the 2011 census report, the book also claimed that not only missionaries but Islamic clergies are also attracting Bhotias and Sikhs trying to lure Tharu and Buxas while even Hindus are making efforts to bring Jaad Bhotias into their religious fold in Uttarkashi.
The book states that all five tribes of undivided Uttar Pradesh were inherited by Uttarakhand after the carving of a separate state. These five tribes that had their origins in Uttarakhand included Bhotiya, Jaunsari, Tharu, Buxa, and Rajis contributing bout 3 percent of the total population of the state.
While in North East, missionaries did convert tribals in large numbers but left their tribal culture untouched. But that was not the case with Uttarakhand, where almost all the five tribes have been subjected to conversion along with their unique cultural heritage.
Though conversions have raised many hues and cries in other parts of the country, the conversion in Himalayan state like Uttarakhand is taking place very silently. The book says that as per the 2011 census report, some Bhotias have shown their religion as Islam while few of the Buddhist Jaad Bhotias have registered themselves as Hindu. These Buddhist Bhotias have not only adopted common Garhwali castes but are also celebrating their major festival Losar like the Hindu festival of Holi.
The book authored by senior journalist Jay Singh Rawat is published by National Book Trust, India ( Ministery of Education, Government of India). It contains the latest social, political, educational, and economic status of all 5 tribes of Uttarakhand. In this research book, the author has informed with statistics that how the tribal people are turning away from their original culture after being attracted by the glitter of the mainstream. Rawat had authored a book on the history and culture of Uttarakhand tribes in 2015 too.
A recently published book by Jay Singh Rawat says that in Tharu tribe dominated the Khatima block of Udham Singh Nagar district, Mohammedpur, Bhudia, Jogither Nagla, Shajna, Fulaiya, Amao, Chanda, Mohanpur, Gangapur, Bhaktchuri, Milayya, Tedaghat, Naugwa Thagu, Pahaniya, and Bhuriya Tharu villages have witnessed baptism in a large scale. In the census 2011, few of them have shown their allegiance to Buddhism. The author of the book claims that Lakshman Singh of Jogither Nagla village of Khatima block in Udham Singh Nagar district, who had converted to Christianity has now returned back to Hinduism after the death of his cancer patient wife. Lakshman Singh, who lives in a joint family had little option to stay in another religion when all of his brothers are staunch followers of Hinduism. Pastor Dan Singh, who lured him to Christianity was once himself a Tharu Hindu tribal. Now he is alluring Tharus and Buxas to Christianity assuring them the best of treatment in the missionary hospital and the best education in a missionary school.
During the British era, three churches were established in the small hill town of Chakrata for British soldiers. After independence, Britishers left the country leaving behind these churches for missionaries. The book says that now Pastor Sundar Singh Chauhan, a converted Jaunsari tribal was leading the conversion campaign in this tribal area. Confrontations between staunch Sanatanis and missionaries have been reported in Mori Block of Uttarkashi but these incidences are being intentionally ignored and only the love jihad issue is being raised for political gains.