59 become Hindus on Christmas day in Kerala

Kottayam: Fifty-nine people converted to Hinduism Thursday in Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy's home district Kottayam, a day after he said there was no forced conversion in the state.

As many as 42 people from 21 families - all of them Christians - took part in temple rituals, and amidst chanting of slogans became Hindus in Ponkunam in Kottayam district. Another 17 people from near Kottayam town also became Hindus at a temple function.

State Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) general secretary V. Mohanan said what happened Thursday and last week - when 35 people became Hindus - "was not conversion, but re-conversion". "Right from the time the VHP became active in Kerala, re-conversion has been taking place but there has been no forced conversion at all.

"What we do is all those who have gone out of Hinduism, when they express their wish to return, we help them," Mohanan said in a press statement issued here Thursday. Chandy had Wednesday said Kerala has always stayed clear of forced conversion and if any individual decides to convert, no one can stop them.

Hindu Ayikya Vedi leader Bhargava Ram told the media to come out with proof that there was pressure on people to convert to Hinduism. "We have been doing this ceremony of making people Hindus in temples in full public glare.

Today, when the function took place, the media was there and we told the media to please ask those who converted if they were under pressure. "I challenge the authorities to register a case against us, as forced conversion is against the law of the land," he said.

Many people appeared before the media and said they decided to convert on their own and there was no external pressure. Communist Party of India-Marxist state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan, however, said there was a secret understanding between the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Chandy. "What's happening is forced conversion and police have to register a case.

Chandy's statement that this is not forced conversion is doubtful because there is a secret understanding with the RSS and hence no case is being registered," Vijayan said. Additional Director General of Police A. Hemachandran is conducting a probe into the conversions in the state.

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