The head of India’s most powerful Hindu group vowed to press ahead with a campaign to convert Muslims and Christians to Hinduism, Reuters reported.
Debate over the sensitive issue has stalled parliament and threatened Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s economic reform agenda.
Mohan Bhagwat of the right-wing Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh, which is the ideological wing of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), said India was a “Hindu nation” where many Hindus had been forcibly converted to other religions.
“We will bring back those who have lost their way. They did not go on their own,” Bhagwat said in a speech on the weekend. “They were lured into leaving.”
Bhagwat’s comments came after the BJP said it did not support forced religious conversions and called for an anti-conversion law.
India’s 1.2 billion people are predominantly Hindus, but there are about 160 million Muslims and a smaller minority of Christians.
This month, a group of Muslims complained they had been tricked by Hindu groups into attending a conversion ceremony.
A Hindu priest-turned-lawmaker of the ruling party also planned a conversion ceremony on Christmas Day, although it was canceled after the prime minister intervened.
Opposition parties have disrupted parliament over Hindu conversions, demanding that Modi make a statement on the issue in the upper house.
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