‘Sarso de Khet,’ ‘Bhangra,’ ‘Whiskey te Kukkad,’ ‘Makkhan,’ ‘happy families,’ ‘lavishing Sikh-Hindu fraternity,’ ‘prosperous agriculture,’ amongst other things, constitute the Punjab of contemporary India. Nevertheless, countless ethno-religious communities have flourished in Punjab for millennia.
Sikhism is, however, considered to be the dominant religion, but the practises of “Punjabi Hindus” are intermingled with those of Sikhism and are hard to differentiate. Consequently, the region named after “five rivers,” which has a longstanding “culture of sewa,” takes pleasure in its diversity and has always welcomed people of all faiths and religions.
Evil eye of missionaries on Punjab
Contrarily, the peace and prosperity of the region has attracted the evil eye of the missionaries that have been mulling under the carpet with their endeavours to change the demography and culture of the land of “Gurus”.
The disturbing reports of missionaries converting Sikh youth to Christianity in Punjab are alarming. The majority of these conversions have been reported in rural and border regions of Batala, Gurdaspur, Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Fatehgarh Churian, Dera Baba Nanak, Majitha, Ajnala, and Amritsar.
Sardar Giani Harpreet Singh, the incumbent Jathedar of Sri Akal Takht, has accused the Christian missionaries of converting impoverished Sikh adolescents in these belts; occasionally, by money and often by inducements, such as US and Canadian visas.
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Accusations levied on Christian Missionaries
The Christian missionaries have been accused of engaging in illegal conversions by using miracle cures and unethical commercial practices as a bait to win over the hearts and minds of unsuspecting rural and suburban residents to the Christian faith.
There have been numerous instances where the Christian missionaries can be spotted traveling in buses mostly in rural areas of Punjab bordering Pakistan, where they try to spread their gospel. Evidently, the concentration is to win over the Dalit Mazhabi Sikhs through inducements for conversion to Christianity. Further, gatherings are arranged in the villages to induce Dalit Mazhabi Sikh youths to convert and enjoy glamorous lives in developed countries like the US and Canada.
There have been abundant videos circulated on social media on how the evangelists convert the Sikh and Hindu youths, mostly in border areas. The situation has raised concerns of national security and has also bothered the Hindu and Sikh clergy and intelligentsia.
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Conspiracy of Unofficial Conversion
After carrying out mass scale conversions in the south, the missionaries target Punjab. The hypocrisy of the conversion and the bogus arguments put forth by the Christian missionaries that people are converting by faith can be exposed from the fact that most conversions in Punjab are not official conversions. That is to say, the vulnerable people from the backwards spectrum convert unofficially without changing their names and titles and continue to avail the fruits of Hindu way of life.
As per the 2011 census, Christian minority in Punjab has the smallest population, with just 1.26 percent of the total. However, Christian leaders assert that their population is not 1.26 percent but rather close to 15% because converted Christians continue to be Dalits on paper and don’t practice their official religion in order to receive benefits associated with being a member of the reserved population, which are not available to converted Christians.
Consequently, the Christian organizations are accused of carrying out mass scale illegal conversions in Punjab and have significantly affected the demography and culture of the state.
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Counter measures to tackle illegal conversion
The concerned citizens of Punjab are taking numerous counter-offensives to curtail the upsurge in illegal conversion in the State. An initiative has also been started by Bibi Jagir Kaur, the head of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, who has dispatched around 150 teams of Sikh preachers to try and persuade Sikh youths to stay loyal to their religion.
The Punjabi regions of Majha, Malwa and Doaba have received the seven preachers that make up each squad. “Sacred shrine inside every home” is the meaning behind the SGPC drive’s moniker, Ghar Ghar Andar Dharamsala.
In addition, there have recently been countless protests and demonstrations by various Hindu and Sikh groups to preserve the culture of the land of ‘Gurus’. However, the Punjab government, which is seeking a law on ‘Beadabi,’ should rather give up on the fascist desire and come up with a law on illegal conversion.
Evidently, Punjab does not have a statute that prohibits conversion, unlike several other States in the nation. For millennia, the region has been a hub of religious diversity and peaceful coexistence of various cultures and religions. Therefore, even though there is desire for the same from some quarters, the overwhelming sentiment is against the it.
In Punjab, if someone wants to convert for religious reasons, it won’t be disputed; the argument is over the intentional and agenda-driven mass conversion tactics of the missionaries. The law that enables minorities to propagate their views also puts an embargo on forced and illicit conversion.
Therefore, the situation calls for government intervention and the State Government should curtail the prospective growth of Christian missionaries and prevent Punjab from losing its virtue and culture.
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