14:12 GMT19 February 2020
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    New Delhi (Sputnik): Religious conversion has become a big issue in Andhra Pradesh, as opposition parties are accusing state chief Jagan Mohan Reddy of taking steps that favour Christians, while Hindu groups often allege Christian missionaries are using coercive techniques including paying poor villagers to lure them in And converting them.

    Over the past few days, a series of videos has been circulating on social media, suggesting a faecal fight Hindus are waging against alleged religious conversion in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.

    Footage posted by several users on Twitter and Facebook show alleged Hindus throwing water mixed with cow dung on Christian proselytisers, to make them run away from villages, ostensibly to stop religious conversion.

    Explaining the video, Vinod Kumar – a Facebook user – said that the Hindu boy Vishnu sprinkled the water mixed with cow dung on the pastor, who came to a religious campaign in Gudur village in Machilipatnam in Andhra Pradesh.

    “This consciousness is in every village… Every Hindu person should come. Felicitate Christians with cow dung water,” Vinod Kumar says.

    Sharath Babu Kanapuram – another Facebook user – said cow dung works like a remote control for people who come to visit villages to convert Hindus into another religion.

    “Indian Homes have some space outside the main door. Indians use cow dung to decorate that outside space…Sometimes they throw the cow dung water on the people they hate... people go for irrelevant campaigns must be aware of it,” Sharath wrote.

    The ancient port town of Machilipatnam has witnessed a sharp increase in its Christian population and community has been complaining about a shortage of lands to bury their dead. The total number of Christians in the town has jumped five-fold since 2011, when government data suggest that the Christian population was only 7,060, to nearly 35,000.

    Hindu organisations have been accusing the Andhra Pradesh government currently led by Jagan Mohan Reddy of promoting Christianity in the state. Reddy, a Christian himself, announced measures such as enhanced financial assistance to Christian pilgrims visiting Jerusalem in Israel and other Biblical sites last year.

    On 27 August 2019, the Reddy government approved a special fund to sponsor Bible tours across the state. The government has also announced an honorarium of INR 5,000 per month ($70) for each pastor in the state.

    In the run-up to the assembly election 2016, in which Jagan Mohan Reddy received a massive mandate, he promised plots and house construction for pastors, and financial assistance of INR 100,000 ($1,400) for weddings of Christian girls, among others.

    The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) criticised such moves “as deplorable, and as case of state sponsored religious conversions”, while the Reddy government responded by saying it was not doing "anything special or out of turn for the Christians".

    In January 2019, several Hindu organisations like Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), and VHP lodged strong protests against the proposed installation of a 114-foot high statue of Jesus Christ in another southern Indian state, Karnataka.

    Subramanian Swamy, national executive member of the BJP and parliamentarian, had said that he will propose legislation in Parliament which will make government permission mandatory for religious conversions.

    Hindu groups in India often accuse Christian missionaries of using coercion techniques, such as "buying off" poor villagers and thus duping them into converting to their faith. But the official population data released by the Indian government does not support this claim: the proportion of Christians in the country’s population has actually fallen to 2.3 percent, according to the Census of 2011, compared to 2.6 percent in 1971.

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    Tags:
    Andhra Pradesh, Narendra Modi, Hinduism, Hindus, Christianity, Christians, pastor, India
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