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November 22, 2001
0845 IST

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Hindus convert to Christianity in Orissa village

Jatindra Dash in Bhubaneswar

At least six Hindus have converted to Christianity in Orissa.

Kalicharan Behera and five members of his family converted to Christianity in Chapalli village in Kendrapara district, some 105 km from here, a couple of days ago, but a Hindu organisation says the family converted under duress.

Christian missionary Graham Stuart Staines and his two minor children were burnt to death while they slept in the car in Orissa's Keonjhar district in January 1999 by Hindu bigots who claimed that he was engaged in conversions.

Subash Chouhan, convenor of the Hindu Jagran Sammukhya, claimed that Behera's in-laws had adopted Christianity few years ago, and had been 'pressurising' Behera and his family to become Christians.

Behara has denied that he had been forced to convert.

"We decided to adopt Christianity," he said.

Chouhan claimed that more than 60 people had been illegally converted to Christianity in the Kendrapada district during the last few months.

The Orissa Freedom of Religion Act specifies that the authorities be intimated before any religious conversion and a court affidavit be filed declaring that the conversion was by will.

However, conversions are taking place without obtaining permission from the police or the administration, Chouhan said.

"We have registered cases against the persons who have violated the Orissa Freedom of Religion Act," said district police chief Sanjaya Kumar.

Indo-Asian News Service

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