Experts have expressed their concerns regarding the spree of freebies doled out to the Christian communities by the YS Jagan Mohan Reddy-led Andhra Pradesh government. The freebies are not only causing a loss of public money, but these appeasement schemes are also aimed at encouraging ordinary Andhra citizens to convert, reports Sunday Guardian.
According to the report, the rampant conversion drives in the state of Andhra Pradesh has become a serious issue in the state, which may even take a serious violent turn if not prevented. The opposition parties in Andhra Pradesh right-wing activists have been accusing YS Jagan Reddy, a Christian that ever since he became the Chief Minister of Andhra, he has spent huge on the services Christian community, with an eye on encouraging conversion activities.
Reportedly, the Jagan government has hiked the financial assistance, which was being given to Christian pilgrims going to Jerusalem, from Rs 40,000 to Rs 60,000 for those with an annual income up to Rs 3 lakh. The assistance money given to those who are earning over Rs 3 lakh per annum has been increased to Rs 30,000.
Earlier this year in August, Jagan’s government had announced that they would provide an honorarium of Rs 5,000 per month to Christian pastors. The Andhra government is also working to launch housing schemes and financial assistance for the poorer sections of the Christian community.
The Sunday Guardian quotes Chandra Mohan, a BJP leader from Andhra Pradesh, who alleges that the freebies given by the Jagan government would give rise to conversion activities in Andhra. “Most of the decisions of the Jagan government are proving to be anti-Hindu and his spree of freebies is nothing but promotional programmes for encouraging conversion. If this is not checked soon, the issue may turn the state into clash zones between the majority and minority communities,” Chandra Mohan added.
Meanwhile, Jana Sena Party president Pawan Kalyan had also alleged that baptism has been aggressively carried out in Andhra Pradesh after YS Jaganmohan Reddy became the chief minister. He had alleged that religious conversions are taking place in the vicinity of Jagan’s residence and right in front of prominent Hindu temples such as Kanaka Durga temple in Vijaywada.
Pawan Kalyan had said Jagan is using the ‘Reddy’ caste tag though his family practices Christianity.
As per the 2011 Census, the Christian community in Andhra Pradesh accounts for about 1.4% of the total population, however, the number of followers of the faith is estimated to be higher in the state due to the rising conversion phenomenon.
The Sunday Guardian then quotes Dr Gautam Sen, who taught at the London School of Economics and Political Science. He said, “I am hearing persistent anecdotal evidence of frequent accounts of travellers suggesting conversion of ordinary Andhra citizens to Christianity, despite their Hindu names and no outward signs of their newly acquired Christian faith. My inference is that conversions have occurred on a significant scale in Andhra Pradesh, with the coastal belt now dominated by Christian communities and a majority in some tribes have also converted to this religion.”
Sen added that money and other services offered along with the Jagan government’s intervention in favour of Christians may lead to an increase in number of religious conversions. “Jagan Mohan Reddy has proved to be a stronger evangelist than his father Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy,” he said.
Explaining the consequences of the rising cases of conversion, Sen said that the other important phenomenon that is being ignored by most people is the scale of ‘church planting’, which has been a common historical practice as a prelude to conversion and the assertion of political authority over Christian communities. In countless Andhra Hindu-dominated villages, churches outnumber temples.
Sen further added that once a critical minimum of Christian population presence is reached in states like Andhra Pradesh, the state will act in ways familiar to the Northeast. “Whether a bid will be made for full sovereign status remains a question, but if Tamil Nadu also becomes substantially Christian and the DMK is merely an evangelist front, serious consequences may occur. Also in Telangana, or (even) the number of churches across Bengaluru,” Sen told the Sunday Guardian.
“Conversion is resulting in serious consequences due to leading Andhra families converting to Christianity, including leading filmmakers of the state joining the bandwagon,” Sen said.
While the religious card is doing well for the Jagan Mohan Reddy government, promises of infrastructure development and policies to drive economic growth seem to have taken a backseat. The Andhra government has cancelled many projects during the contract period and this has damaged the confidence of investors.