PTI, Bangalore, Jan 16: The proposed ‘Pray for India’ programme later this week by American evangelist, Mr Benny Hinn has sparked a controversy with the Bharatiya Janata Party and Sangh parivar organisations up in arms against it, dubbing it as one that’s intended to promote religious conversion.
The Florida-based pastor, who claims to have the power to heal the sick and dying, is slated to attend the three-day prayer meeting from January 21 at Jakkur Airfield here which has been touted by the organisers as a big show, saying lakhs of people from across the country are expected to attend it.
The event has drawn strong opposition from the BJP, the Bajrang Dal and the Hindu Jagarana Vedike who see it as a conspiracy to convert the poor and vulnerable sections to Christianity.
The Bajrang Dal has already announced that 10,000 people would stage a demonstration at the venue. Vedike activists yesterday burnt publicity material of the proposed congregation. In fact, hoardings, banners and posters are now dotting various parts of the city.
Speaking to reporters here today, the Opposition BJP Leader in the legislative assembly, Mr B S Yediyurappa sought to take the state government to task for granting permission to hold the event at Jakkur Airfield, which is “sensitive” from the defence and security viewpoint.
Mr Yediyurappa termed as “unpardonable crime” and “insult to Hindus”, the circulation of pamphlets by organisers of the event criticising idol worship.
“Is the event not a conspiracy to convert people?,” he asked.
Accusing the organisers of promoting “wrong propaganda” that Mr Hinn is a “godman”, Mr Yediyurappa asked the government to reconsider its permission to the prayer meeting at Jakkur.
He said Hindus would voluntarily protest the event.
The Chief Minister, Mr N Dharam Singh has already stated that the government would not take any step to stop the programme, saying the administration cannot interfere with religious events.
Defending the convention, the organisers have said it is being conducted with “noble intention”. During his previous visit to Mumbai last year he did not speak anything about conversion or anything that affects the people’s religious sentiments, they said.
There are reports that Chief Ministers of some Congress-ruled states are likely to attend the meet. Mr Yediyurappa said while the government did not allow conduct of certain rituals at the Hindu-Muslim shrine at Bababudangiri Hills in Chikmagalur district late last year and amassed police force to enforce its decision, it’s now “organising and arranging” Mr Hinn’s programme.
Renowned Kannada litterateur and Jnanapeeth award winner, U R Ananthamurthy has cautioned Mr Dharam Singh against associating himself with the prayer meeting.
“The Chief Minister should not identify himself with this mass hysteria. We should not encourage this (mass hysteria),” Ananthamurthy said.
The police have said they have made elaborate security arrangements for the event.
Jan. 16, 2005