The Chhattisgarh government has been providing funds to Devgudis, tribal places of worship, to ensure that religious conversions do not take place in tribal-dominated areas, state industry minister Kawasi Lakhma said on Tuesday. Talking to reporters at Jagdalpur, Lakhma claimed that during the BJP's 15-year rule in the state, 30 churches were built in Sukma district of the Bastar region while not a single church has come up there since the Congress came to power.
The BJP's allegations against the Congress over alleged conversions were "baseless political propaganda," he said. No conversion has taken place in his home district of Sukma, said Lakhma, a prominent tribal leader from Bastar, adding, I have checked it with the district collector and also conducted a survey.
"During 15 years (of the BJP rule), 30 churches were constructed (in Sukma) while not a single one came up in the last two years," he claimed. To ensure that conversions do not take place and people do not visit churches, the state government has been providing Rs 5 lakh (each) to Devgudis and Rs 10 lakh to Ghotuls in Bastar," he said. "We want our temples and Devgudis to be in good shape and people to pay obeisance there. In the last two years, no religious conversion has taken place, the minister claimed.
A Devgudi is a place of worship of tribals, while a Ghotul is where tribal boys and girls gather to celebrate festivals and where they can choose their life partners. Senior BJP MLA Brijmohan Agrawal, however, alleged that the Congress government was not taking stringent steps to prevent conversions in tribal areas.
Tribals in Bastar and other areas of the state have staged protests in the recent past demanding action against alleged incidents of religious conversion but the state government is yet to take any strong steps to check them, Agrawal said. During the monsoon session of the state Assembly last month, Agrawal had moved a private member’s bill seeking prohibition of religious conversion through allurement or fraud, but it was not allowed to be tabled.