On May 21, Hindu organizations and locals protested against Christian Missionaries who had organized a two-day program outside a community hall in Green City, Dhakoli (Zirakpur), district Mohali, Punjab. They alleged that the missionaries were luring people of the locality to convert to Christianity, and the people sitting there were brought from outside. During the protest, the women from the Missionary group pushed BJP leader Neetu Khurana who was protesting along with the locals against the use of a car with ‘Police’ tag by the missionaries. Khurana is General Secretary, Punjab Mahila Morcha.
The dubious missionary event
The two-day event started in the locality on May 21 at around 5 PM. The members of the Church group gathered outside the community hall and made announcements on the loudspeaker inviting people from Green City, Mamata Enclave, and Laxmi Enclave (three localities in the area) to come and ‘experience the wonders of Jesus Christ’.
Though no one from the locality came to hear them, the church group continued praising Christianity for a few hours. During the program, Shlok Aggarwal, a resident of the locality, approached the group and urged them to shut down the program as it was causing unnecessary disturbance. He asked them to lower the volume, but they did not pay attention to his request. Along with Shlok, other locals also objected to the program.
During the program, the speakers of the Church group made dubious claims. They promised that if the person joined them, he or she would be free of all the financial and health problems. The speaker said, “Jesus Christ will bless you and take away all your problems. If any one of you has any financial or health problems, come and take blessings of Jesus Christ.”
The second-day event took place in the presence of Police
As the Church group faced opposition from the locals on the first day of the event, on the second day, they came with Police for ‘protection’. However, the Hindu groups and locals were not in the mood to let them continue with the program. There were multiple issues that they had raised in front of the Police officers that were present at the scene.
Protesters called ‘adharmi’
When the locals started chanting slogans like Jai Shri Ram and Bharat Mata Ki Jai against the missionary program, the person addressing the attendees from the stage termed Hindus chanting slogans as ‘adharmi’. He said, “A person following Dharma would not have a problem with our program. Only an adharmi would disrupt a religious program.’
Outsiders brought inside the locality for the program
The first objection that was raised was that there were no locals sitting there listening to the speakers of the Church group. The locals alleged that not a single person sitting there was from the locality and everyone was brought in from outside. “It is a threat to the security of our locality. If something happens because of their presence, who will be responsible?” asked Mahendra Kumar, State Planning Head of Dharam Jagran Samanvay.
Speaking to OpIndia, Shlok Aggarwal, Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad’s Social Media Convener, said, “There is no local resident attending their meeting. I am amazed how they got permission to hold such a program here. They are luring the people in this locality to convert. It is happening all across Punjab. We cannot allow this to happen.” He further said, “I came here with three other people. When they saw our tilak, they threatened us and asked us to leave. We were not expecting the Police would come for their protection. Instead of stopping them from attempting conversions, the Police are stopping us. Are we not allowed to stand in our own locality while the outsiders are attempting to convert Hindus without any fear?”
‘Luring people to convert in exchange for perks is wrong’
RSS Karyakarta Rahul N Sharma said, “These people indulge in conversions in exchange for perks. Luring people to convert in exchange for perks is wrong in any religion. If I go and tell people that I will pay them Rs 1,000 to join Shakha, there will be so much halla bol against it. However, here no one is ready to acknowledge this problem. It is different when people convert over faith to other religions. Still, if someone is getting converted to Christianity or Islam in exchange for money or a promise of a ‘better future’ it is wrong and unethical.”
“The administration is stopping us from raising our voice instead of stopping these people who are trying to convert our Hindu and Sikh brothers and sisters. I want to ask when is this going to stop? We want an answer”, Shlok said.
Students facing problems amidst exams
The board exams got postponed, and currently, many students in the locality are preparing for the same. Local BJP leader Neetu Khurana was present at the scene. She said, “I am amazed that SDM gave permission for such a program despite the fact that the students here are preparing for the exams. These people are creating a nuisance, and the Police are not taking any action against them.”
Meanwhile, some students came and requested the Police to at least ask them to reduce the volume of the loudspeakers, but nothing happened for long. Irked by the inaction of the Police, the locals raised Jai Shri Ram, Bharat Mata Ki Jai and Har Har Mahadev slogans repeatedly. They warned the Police that they would sit there in protest if the volume was not lowered. The program was scheduled to end at 9 PM, and at around 8:30 PM, the Police asked the Church group to lower the volume.
‘Try to organize it in Panchkula if you have guts’
A local resident was miffed with the Church group’s attempt to allegedly convert the residents to Christianity. He said, “If you have guts, try to organize such a program in Panchkula (Haryana). Cross the border and organize such a conversion program there. This has become a major problem in Punjab, and the authorities are doing nothing.”
Another local resident pointed out that such conversion programs were going on without any hurdles because Hindus were not raising their voice. He said, “Now when Hindus have raised voices against the conversions, they are getting agitated. Now they have called the Police to stop us. We will not stop. This is not acceptable, and we are not going to let them try to convert our brothers and sisters.”
Car with ‘Police’ tag used by Church group
When the program ended, a car came to pick up the Church group members. To the shock of the locals, the car, which had a Chandigarh registration number, had the ‘Police’ tag on the windshield. They came in front of the car and questioned how a vehicle with a Police tag was being used for conversion programs. The Police tried to remove them from the spot, but they did not budge.
The Police called the headquarters and requested SHO Hardeep Singh to come and intervene. Meanwhile, a scuffle broke between the female members of the Church group and BJP’s Neetu Khurana. She was standing in front of the car with Hindu leaders and local residents demanding a challan for using a car with a Police tag.
As the male members of the Church group could not get the path cleared, the female members of the Church group came forward and tried to pull Khurana. When she refused to move and warned them not to touch her, they pushed and forcibly tried to remove her. The Police had to intervene and save Khurana from them.
Local SHO says it is a minor issue
SHO Hardeep Singh arrived at the location and talked to both sides. Initially, he requested the people standing in front of the car to move aside and promised a challan would be issued at the Police Station. However, no one was ready to move from there.
The Challan book was brought by another officer within a few minutes. Challan was issued for misusing the Police tag on the car used for a religious event. Speaking to OpIndia, SHO Singh said it was a minor issue, and everything was settled. The locals and leaders present at the scene thanked the Police for their cooperation after SHO assured appropriate action would be taken in the matter against the owner of the vehicle.
Questions were raised over permission for a religious program to non-locals
The local residents who reside in Mamata Enclave, Laxmi Enclave, and Green City raised objections over the permission granted to the Church group for an event without the involvement of the locals. The committees of all three localities denied information of any permission given to the group to use the Community Hall for the event. Generally, the committee gives permission for such events, but the group had approached SDM for the same.
Notably, the permission documents shared with OpIndia by the locals did not mention the Christian program or ‘Changai Sabha’. The application given by the Church group read, “We are organizing a Satsang at Lakshmi Enclave, Community Center, Dhakoli, Zirakpur. We request you to allow us to use loudspeakers for the same.”
The address mentioned on the permission letter was of a man identified as Robin resident of Shanti Enclave, which is located outside the gated society. People living around the community hall said they do not know anyone named Robin, and no one came to ask them for permission or even informed them about the event.
‘We want forced conversions to stop’
Speaking to OpIndia, Mahender Kumar said, “These people lure poor Hindus in the name of better education, money and food to convert to Christianity. It is the responsibility of the state, society and Hindu organizations to not let such conversions happen. It is unfortunate that the government and society have failed to stop these conversions. Hindu organizations are working extensively to put a stop to the practice of conversions by luring the poor over fake promises of a ‘better life.”
Forced religious conversions in Punjab
Punjab is one of the hotspots of forced religious conversions in the country. Many pastors and churches have mushroomed in the state over the past few years. These groups are luring people to convert by promising them a ‘better life’ and relief from ailments. Alleged prophet Bajinder is one of the finest examples of such self-proclaimed God-men working in the state.