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Conversion issue resurfaces; Burial of woman leads to tension in Bastar village

Woman buried on private land after villagers’ objections; heavy force in village

christianity-catholicism-reuters Representational image | Reuters

Conversion issue resurfaced yet again in tribal-dominated Bastar region of Chhattisgarh with two groups of villagers coming face to face over burial of a woman who had reportedly converted to Christianity, leading to tension and stone-pelting on cops.

The incident occurred in village Bhejripadar in tehsil Tokapal of Bastar district. The woman, Mate Bekko, who had passed away in the early hours of March 19, could be buried on the private land of the family in the presence of heavy police force and district administration officials only on Monday afternoon.

Earlier on Sunday, the confrontation had led to stone pelting on police and two personnel were reportedly injured.

Bastar police, while saying that the situation had returned to normal now and peace was prevailing, have warned of stringent legal action against those trying to disturb the law and order situation.

A statement from the office of the Inspector General of Police (IG), Bastar, said that Mate Bekko, wife of Mosu Bekko had passed away on March 19 and the villagers had been objecting to the burial rites being conducted by the family in the village. When the burial was being conducted on March 20 behind the residence of the Bekko family, a group of villagers again reached the spot and started protesting.

“A situation of tension arose between the two groups, but the police force and administrative officials present on the occasion managed to counsel the people and end the disagreement. District collector and senior superintendent of police (SSP) of Bastar have visited the spot. Additional district magistrate and additional SP are present on the spot with police force. Stringent legal action will be initiated against those trying to disturb the law and order situation,” the statement said.

Tension between tribal people and those who have converted to Christianity has been flaring up repeatedly in the Maoist-affected region, even as the Assembly polls are drawing close.

At the commencement of New Year 2023, clashes between two groups were reported from village Gorra in Narayanpur district of Bastar region over allegations of conversion bids. On January 2, following a meeting organised by a social group, allegedly with right-wing leanings, groups of tribal people had attacked cops and vandalized a church in Narayanpur district headquarters. SP of Narayanpur, Sadanand Kumar and six cops had sustained head injuries during the attack. Situation had remained tense for days and political heat was raised after police arrested several people – from both sides - including a former BJP MLA in the matter.

Religious conversion of tribal people is one of the biggest issues raised by the opposition BJP in Chhattisgarh, trying to corner the Congress government. The Congress has, however, called the violent incidents as political conspiracies of the BJP.

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