Fundamentalist Hindus are attempting to hijack relief efforts after a devastating earthquake on January 26 (CT, March 5, p. 35). Christians, meanwhile, are gearing up relief efforts while attempting to counter a public-relations miscue of their own.

Activists with leading Hindu groups, including Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Sangh Parivar, and Bajrang Dal, have looted and distributed relief materials from Spain and Japan under their own banners. They are being helped by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which governs Gujarat. Right-wing VHP leader Ashok Singhal said that Pope John Paul II's $4.3 million in relief funds should be rejected because it would be used to induce religious conversions.

About 10,000 poor people from the lower castes in and around the hard-hit city of Bhuj protested the relief efforts of Hindu groups, calling them "fascist elements." They refused to accept food from the Hindu organizations, claiming that hungry quake victims were compelled to chant to Hindu gods first.

The Hindu, a national newspaper, reports that "voluntary organizations. … said the relief materials they carried were forcibly taken over by the RSS or VHP."

Ecumenical News International (ENI) reports that a church work team led by nuns was greeted at the entrance to a remote village by Hindu radicals, who carried batons and asked, "Why have you come here?" The Hindus told the Catholics they were not needed and sent them to another village.

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