Schools for tribals open door to BJP in Cong bastion

New Delhi, India - “I don’t like Christian missionaries as they say bad things and abuse my religion. I am a Hindu and I will fight anyone who abuses my culture,”

That is 15-year old Dilip Bhoye who studies at Prayasha Pratishthan High School, a government institute that was handed over by the BJP regime to a Hindu trust.

The Prayasha Pratishthan and others schools like it are churning out the next generation of tribal warriors to take on the spread of the missionary activities in Gujarat’s tribal-dominated Dangs district, 290 km north of Mumbai. There are 800 tribal students who attend such schools in Dangs.

“The government has handed over the schools to trusts to improve the education standards for tribals. Religion has nothing to do with it,” Dangs district collector R.M. Jadhav told HT.

These schools, some affiliated to the Hindu Jagran Manch, were handed over to private Hindu trusts in the last three years while the Christian missionary institutes are denied grants.

“We have applied for government grants for the last three years but we still have not received a penny,” said Father M.V. Anthony, the principal of Navjyot High School in Subir where 583 tribal students study.

The handing over of schools is seen by many as a way of checking the increasing influence of Christian missionaries on tribal children. But political analysts say this is also the BJP’s way of making inroads into a Congress bastion — Dangs has elected Congress MLA Madhubhai Bhoye in the last four consecutive elections.

“The BJP had chosen the district as the next bastion to be conquered. The Sangh Parivar had held the Shabri Kumbh here last year to reach out to the tribals. These activities and the help provided to the Hindu trusts are aimed at taking on Christian missionaries. The work undertaken by these private Hindu organizations and the apathy of the Congress MLA in the district’s development has created substantial base for the BJP,” said analyst Laxman Bagul.

Bagul added that the government and the Sangh Parivar not only provide sops to such trusts but also reach out to the tribal youth by setting up hostels and gymnasiums and holding sporting events.

Missionaries have been active in the district since 1896 and there are 133 churches here for the 30 per cent Christian population. Dang is the smallest and southernmost district in Gujarat with a 92 per cent tribal population.

“Our aim is to provide quality education to the tribal children and make them feel proud of their Hindu culture. Unlike other institutions, our schools do not spew hatred against any religion,” said Swami Purshottam Prakash, the chief patron of the Prayasha Pratishthan.

Apart from schools, the district has also seen reconversion activities. Swami Narendrji Maharaj had carried out a mass re-conversion programme last month called “Shudhikaran” attended by 2,270 tribals.

Surprisingly, the Congress that traditionally had the backing of the tribals and the missionaries has no answers to the activities that its rival the BJP has launched. The Congress votebank has shrunk in every election, however, the party still depends upon the charm of four-time MLA Madhu Bhoye to see it through.

“The tribals have been neglected by the Modi government. They will see throught the game plan of the communal forces,” Bhoye said.