Exposed: Racket Run By Christian Missionaries To Lure And Convert Tribal Children Of Bihar And Jharkhand

by Jaideep Mazumdar - Sep 16, 2022 05:58 PM +05:30 IST
Exposed: Racket Run By Christian Missionaries To Lure And Convert Tribal Children Of Bihar And JharkhandA Christian cross. Representative image (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Snapshot
  • The conversion racket is widespread and has been going on for a long time.

    It is only when children are rescued that a small portion of this widespread and continuing racket comes to light. 

Another huge racket involving Christian missionaries who lure poor tribals into parting with their children and then convert the minors has been busted

The missionaries, who are suspected to be funded by evangelical bodies based in the US purely for ‘harvesting souls’, have been targeting poor tribal families from Bihar’s Rohtas and Jharkhand’s Garhwa districts.

This particular racket, one of the many similar conversion rackets operating all over the country, was busted earlier this week after 12 tribal girls, eight of them minors, were rescued from a house in Pipardih village under the jurisdiction of Rohtas Police Station. 

The girls were to be trafficked to a seminary in Nagpur which is a hotbed of Christian evangelists. The girls were to have been admitted to an 18-month-long ‘motivational course’ in the Nagpur seminary and then converted to Christianity. 

This latest racket has been busted by Savita Dey, the director of a sub-centre of Childline India, a nodal agency under the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development. 

“I received information Monday (September 12) evening that a group of girls were being taken to some unknown destination from Dehri railway station. I rushed there and, with the help of the Railway Protection Force (RPF), managed to rescue a 14-year-old tribal girl. She disclosed that more than 50 other girls had already boarded a train and 12 were in a house at Pipardih village awaiting their journey by train to Nagpur,” Dey told Swarajya

Dey and a couple of others from her sub-centre then went to Rohtas Police Station with the rescued girl. “The police then raided the house at Pipardih and rescued the 12 girls who were being confined there. One ‘agent’ of the missionaries, Ram Baran Oraon, was nabbed from the house,” Dey said. 

Oraon has reportedly confessed to the police that he had been engaged by Christian missionaries to identify poor tribal families with minor children in Garhwa and Rohtas districts. 

Oraon, who hails from Khajuri village in Jharkhand’s Garhwa district, told police he had already sent 59 tribal boys and girls from Rehal, Haraiya, Koriari, Naga Toli and Kaputi villages of Rohtas district and Gatarawa as well as other villages of Garhwa district to Nagpur by a couple of trains on Monday. 

Oraon is just one of the ‘agents’ of the missionaries operating in the tribal areas of the two states.

“There are many like him who lure children from poor families and send them to evangelical centres for conversion. These agents receive substantial sums of money from the missionaries for their ‘services’,” a senior police officer of Rohtas district told Swarajya over phone. 

Oraon has reportedly been operating as an agent of the Christian missionaries for the past seven years and during this time, he has sent a few hundred children to Christian missions in Nagpur and other places. All of them have been converted. 

After conversion, these children are provided education upto Class X or XII in missionary schools and the ‘promising’ ones among them selected for training as priests.

These priests are then dispatched to other parts of the country, and even the world, to preach the gospel and convert more people to Christianity. 

Oraon and other agents like him operate under the supervision of priests and nuns stationed in their district.

Oraon used to report to one Sister Sangita Oraon who was also trafficked from a tribal village in Garhwa district as a minor girl, converted to Christianity and received training at a seminary. 

Sister Oraon was, a couple of years ago, sent back to Garhwa to help traffic more tribal children for conversions. 

The Modus Operandi

The agents like Ram Baran Oraon (don’t get misled by his name, he is a convert to Christianity but retained his original name) are tasked with identifying poor tribal families with children. 

The poor tribals who can barely make ends meet find it a burden to feed and clothe their children. An overwhelming majority of them cannot afford to educate their offspring and engage them in their farmlands or as daily wage earners doing odd jobs. 

The ‘agents’ then approach the parents and offer to send their children for ‘English education’.

The poor tribal folks are also offered material assistance like foodgrains and other goodies like toiletries, cheap electronic items, clothes etc.

It is suspected that the agents also offer cash to the parents. 

Many parents fall for the lure of material and financial benefits and agree to send away their children.

“Since the children, especially the minor ones who are too young to work and contribute to the meagre family income, they are a burden on their parents. The latter often happily agree to send them away to Christian institutions,” said Basanti Kujur, an office-bearer of Hindu Sanghati, an NGO working in Jharkhand to thwart conversions by Christian missionaries. 

“The parents are told that their children, after their education, will get jobs and become government officers or doctors and engineers,” she said.

Kujur, who also belongs to the Oraon tribe, told Swarajya over phone from Garhwa that the missionaries and their agents showcase some examples of tribal children who received free education in missionary schools and got government jobs or those who received vocational training and became technicians and workmen. 

“The poor, illiterate tribals get carried away by all that and agree to give up their children to these soul harvesting missionaries,” said Kujur. 

Involvement Of Maoists Also Suspected

Police and activists suspect the involvement of Maoists also in this conversion racket. The red terror outfit is active in Rohtas and Garhwa districts, as well as some other districts of the two states. 

“It has long been suspected that the Maoists receive support, including moral support, from a section of Christian missionaries. And in return, they allow the missionaries a free run in the areas under their influence to lure and convert poor tribals,” said Kujur. 

This is corroborated by police officials who point out that many Hindu outfits or those engaged in anti-conversion activities face threats and have even been targeted by Maoists. Hindu priests and activists have been killed in the past in Jharkhand by Maoists. 

But the Maoists have never targeted Christian missionaries and institutions. In fact, adds Kujur, there have been instances where Maoists have surreptitiously encouraged tribals to convert to Christianity. 

This, say activists like Kujur and the police, point to an ‘unholy nexus’ between Maoists and Christian missionaries. 

Widespread Racket

The conversion racket is widespread and has been going on for a long time. It is only when children are rescued that a small portion of this widespread and continuing racket comes to light. 

For some strange reason, while the agents like Ram Baran Oraon are arrested, nothing happens to the Christian missionaries who are involved in such conversions, say activists like Kujur. 

“The missionaries who are the kingpins of the racket and who actually convert poor tribals are seemingly too powerful to be touched,” said Dinesh Lakra, a tribal activist of Jharkhand.

“It is impossible to put an end to this racket because the missionaries continue to operate with impunity and remain beyond the reach of the law. Unless the missionaries are booked, poor tribals, as well as others, will continue to be lured and converted by Christian evangelists.”

Lakra, who was converted to Christianity as a child but returned to his tribal religion of nature worship and animism, says the rampant conversion of tribals of his state to Christianity has destroyed tribal culture and way of life, dehumanised tribals and led to social tensions. 

Jaideep Mazumdar is an associate editor at Swarajya.

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