Ulhasnagar, Mumbai : Sindhis start move to stop conversions

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Phalgun Krushna Panchami, Kaliyug Varsha 5111

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Ulhasnagar, Mumbai : Sindhis start move to stop conversions

March 4, 2010

Phalgun Krushna Panchami, Kaliyug Varsha 5111

Mumbai: A number of influential Sindhi personalities have come forward to restrain the ongoing trend of conversion among fellow community members in Ulhasnagar. They have decided to start a shuddhikaran (purification) movement for those who have stopped following traditions of Hinduism.

The move has come after DNA published a report on Tuesday on the growing attraction towards Christianity among the Sindhis in the township. Among the four lakh Sindhi-speaking Hindus in Ulhasnagar, an estimated 7,000 have changed their faith in the past two years.

“We are going to launch a shuddhikaran movement soon for those who have changed their faith,” said Pradeep Bhavanani, president of Bharatiya Sindhi Samaj, the largest non-religious organisation of the community in India.

The organisation held a meeting at Khar Gymkhana on Wednesday to discuss the issue. “More than 1,000 prominent people from the community were present for the meeting. We unanimously decided to provide psychological and monetary help to those who have changed their faith and stopped following Hindu rituals. Anyone who needs help can contact me,” said Bhavanani.

But at the same time, he clarified that they will not force anyone to follow Hinduism. “We Hindus are very liberal. Anyone can have faith in any other religion. We do not have any objection. But if somebody has stopped visiting temples, we will convince him not to do so in a polite and constructive manner. Shuddhikaran does not mean application of force, but it will be a process of dialogue,” he said.

Upset with the converted community members not changing their names, the All India Sindhi Samaj had said that the organisation would boycott them. “We have called for a meeting of our saints in July. We will then take a decision to boycott the converted Sindhis socially, if they don’t change their names,” said Sai Balram, general secretary of the organisation.

But Bhavanani informed that Sindhis across the world have expressed their desire to join the Shuddhikaran movement. “Since the report was published, I have been receiving numerous phone calls and text messages not only from across the country, but also from abroad. My friends abroad have shown interest in participating in the movement actively,” he said.

According to Bhavanani, DNA’s report was an eye-opener for the community. “DNA has warned us about a looming crisis. We are thankful to you. We feel that there is a need for introspection as to why some among us have changed their faith,” he said.


Sindhi conversions in Ulhasnagar, Mumbai raise a storm

February 24, 2010

Phalgun Shuddha Dashami, Kaliyug Varsha 5111

Mumbai: The close-knit Sindhi community in Ulhasnagar, north-east of Mumbai, is undergoing a social upheaval of sorts. Over the last two years, a sizeable number in the township — primarily created for Sindhis who came in as refugees from Pakistan’s Sindh province after partition — have drifted away from Hinduism and embraced Christianity.

The “conversions” have sent shockwaves among the community elders, specially since Indian Sindhis, weighed down by the scars of partition, are known to be staunch followers of Hinduism.

Most of those who are shifting their faith allegiance to Christianity are in their 40s and, in fact, had been devout followers of Hinduism.

Out of four lakh Sindhi-speaking Hindus in Ulhasnagar, around 7,000 (1.75%) have changed their faith in the last two years, according to a rough count. The growing number of “conversions” has scared the Sindhi-speaking Hindus to such an extent that they are contemplating a social boycott of the neo-Christians. Those who are taking to Christianity are not branding it as a conversion; instead, they say they have only changed their faith. Most have not even changed their Hindu names, which is turning out to be a major bone of contention with the Hindus.

We are not against any religion but if they do not believe in Hinduism and are drawn closer to Christianity, they should adopt Christian names. We have called a meeting of the saints in our community in July. In that meeting, we will take a decision to boycott the converted Sindhis socially if they do not change their names,” said Sai Balram, general secretary of the All India Sindhi Samaj, one of the prominent organisations of the community.

Global recession is to blame, say Hindu leaders in the community. Ulhasnagar is largely a business township, full of small scale industries and traders.

Balram said, “The Christian missionaries helped the small businessmen rebuild their businesses. Since then, there has been a wave of conversion.”

But Ram Budhwani, a resident who follows Christianity, rubbishes the argument. “I started visiting the chapel to get peace of mind. I lost my wife in an accident two years ago. I became an alcoholic. I suffered heavy losses in my business and had to close down my shop. But since I am visiting the prayer house (known as Prarthana Ghar in Ulhasnagar) I am making progress in my business. I set up my shop again and am doing well. I have changed my faith, not the religion,” he said.

The Sindhi-speaking Hindus in Ulhasnagar feel people like Budhwani have betrayed the community. “Sindhis are known for their loyalty to Hinduism. We preferred to leave our places (in Pakistan) during the Partition but refused to convert into Islam. Now, we are confused how to face the situation,” a senior citizen from the community said.

Source: DNA

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