Praveen Togadia's 'Sammelan' creates tension in Maharashtra

Bombay, Maharashtra, India., Dec. 29 - The Maharashtra government on Tuesday barred radical Hindu VHP leader Pravin Togadia from a village where he was to open a function marking the conversion of 400 Christian tribals to Hinduism on Christmas eve.

Praveen Togadia's 'Sammelan' creates tension in MaPraveen Togadia: Planting seeds of communal tension in Maharashtra?

Officials said the move was prompted by fears that the function, organised by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) in Nawapur village in Nandurbar district bordering Gujarat, could spark communal tension.

Togadia was scheduled to inaugurate the program on Wednesday.

Nawapur has a population of 70,000 Christians, most of them tribals.

Maharashtra government officials in Mumbai said orders had been issued banning the assembly of five or more people in Nawapur.

The Maharashtra State Minorities Commission had criticised the state government for allowing the VHP to go ahead with its programme. Tuesday's ban came after sustained campaigning by the commission.

The district administration has summoned additional forces and requisitioned the State Reserve Police Force to maintain law and order.

The VHP made its intentions clear several weeks ago when it publicised the "re-conversion programme" at Nawapur.

Police said pamphlets distributed in Nandurbar and elsewhere by the Hindu radical group had the potential of sparking communal trouble.

The pamphlets were aimed at inciting hatred against Christian missionaries, police officials said.

Despite stiff opposition from the Maharashtra government against VHP rally on Wednesday in Navapur village of Nandurbar district, VHP international general secretary Dr Pravin Togadia asserted that the VHP will go ahead with the "Hindu Virat Sammelan" of tribals.

He claimed that the Maharashtra government has banned the rally under pressure from national Congress president Mrs Sonia Gandhi who is "avenging" her party