13 Apr 2008, 0215 hrs IST,T S SREENIVASA RAGHAVAN,TNN
CHENNAI: Thousand members who belong to Dalit Christian community will officially get reconverted into Hinduism on Monday in Tirunelveli town in a colourful function being organized by Hindu Monks Tamil Nadu Council.
This event gains significance in the backdrop March 9 police shootout in which two people were killed when clashes broke out between the members of upper caste Catholics and Dalit Catholics.
Speaking to TOI, Hindu Makkal Katchi (HMK) president Arjun Sampath said: "185 families of Dalit Christians will formally return to Hinduism. All of them hail from the interior villages of Tirunelveli district. This event is being organized on the occasion of Ambedkar's birthday."
HMK had earlier tried to hold the event at Nellayappar temple in Tirunelveli. However, the HR&CE department which governs the temple refused permission saying that the temple premises could not be used for such purposes.
"So, we're now holding the function at Nellai Sangeetha Sabha - which is a private hall", Arjun said. It's learnt the function will start with a ganapathi homam and would be followed by prayaschitha yagam (atonement ritual) and sudhi chadangu (purification rite)
"We'll purify all those who return to Hinduism by sprinkling 'ganga theertha' and 'sethu theertha.' We've specially brought waters from Rameshwaram sea and the Ganges for this purpose", Arjun said and added all of them would also be bestowed with holy Hindu names.
Further, those who want to follow Saiva cult would be given bhasmam (sacred ash) and a string of rudraksha while the vaishnavite converts would be given namam (tilak) and a string of tulsi. The Dalit Christians who return to Hindu fold would also be given a mantra deeksha (formal initiation) both in Sanskrit and Tamil.
HMK has also engaged the services of several notaries who would be present during the re-conversion function. "The members who return to Hindu fold will take an oath before them and sign affidavits. Later, we'll get the conversion certificates from Arya Samaj to get their names changed in the gazette", Arjun said.
Depending on the success of this re-conversion, HMK also plans to re-convert 20,000 Christians in Villupuram district. "We'll take it up in August", Arjun said.
India has a total 24 million Christian population. Of this Dalit Christians constitute 15 million while tribal Christians account for 3 million.
In Tamil Nadu, Dalit Christians complain of discrimination at the hands of upper caste Christians. They have separate burial grounds and seating arrangements.
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