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Half of the Savara tribe have become Baptists. Pastor replacing community
head, traditional names are vanishing. Massive conversions in the North-
Andhra agency areas



Srikakulam: Santoshi, Rajyalaxmi, Seethamma, Mangaiah, Buddaiah are the

common names of Adivasis (Tribal) of North Andhra Agency area. Presently
one would not hear these names at all. Most of them changed their names to
Sunto, Sobita, Deena, Yakub, and Joseph. Earlier the communitiy heads such
as Jannodu, Majjodu, Deesarodu who used to fix auspicious time, festivals
and provide traditional medicine. But at present they got new names. Pastor
replaced Jannodu, Vice-Pastor replaced Majjodu and Doctor came in the
place of Deesarodu.

Do you think these changes happened due to the development of tribals? No

it is wrong. With the intention of amassing wealth from foreign missionary
agencies some locals joined hands with missionaries from Orissa, preyed on
tribals and converting them in a perfectly planned manner. Missionaries are
destroying the Girijan culture in the name of religious conversion. Currently
these culprits are involved in getting foreign missionary funds in the name of
religious conversion, robbing tribals in the name of medical services and
forced labor in the name of Yesu Seva (services to Jesus). Adivasis, who
used to earlier depend on community elders and depending on pastor for

By embracing Christianity Girijans are not getting any benefits except

increase in conflicts. Group politics have entered Girijian lives. Evangelism
is going on high scale in tribal areas of Seethampeta, Maliaputti, Patapatnam
Mandals of Srikakulam district. The Evangelists of Serango, Parlakamidi
border villages of Orissa are the key persons in these conversions. One
family is responsible for all these activities in these three mandals.

Accurate Plan

Christian Missionaries drafted a perfect strategy to spread the Christianity in

tribal areas. They selected 250 villages for conversion. In the beginning they
selected important persons in the villages and gave them motorcycles. Each
such selected person is responsible for 3 to 4 villages in organizing religious
programmes. Meanwhile some more people are identified to help them and
these persons who are provided bicycles and salary of Rs 700 to Rs 1000 per

Even though the Christian activities and conversions are going on since
1994 recently the intesity has increased rapidly. The Missionaries are
making friendship with the village sarpanches and getting help to spread

Gajapati district of the Orissa state has become the center of Evangelism.
Missionaries from Nepal, African countries, Germany, England and Sweden
visit India disguised as tourists and propagate Christianity. They tell
Christian stories in tribal language 'savara'. Having studied the Savara
language, culture, myths, food habits and stories these missionaries converse
with local tribes using dictionaries.

Most of the Evangelists are from a specific Baptist group. Locals are easily
attracted to these foreign missionaries as they speak the local Savara
language. They are conducting the meetings in Christian culture and
establishing Churches.

Changed language and dressing

To bridge the gap the missionaries have extensively studied the tribal
festivals, dressing and food habits. In this direction the missionaries start
prayer meetings during the tribal festivals. Primarily during Aagam and
village deity festivals these prayer meetings are held. Due to their influence
the dressing habits of tribals has changed. Under their influence Puri and
chapati have entered the tribal menu.
Labor exploitation

In the name of service to Christ, missionaries exploit Girijans by getting

cheap labor. Pastors have mandated 1/10 th of the agriculture income of
tribals to be donated to Church. They are destroying tremendous forest
wealth in the name of prayer meetings. They are forcing tribals work for free
in the name of service to Jesus while grabbing funds from foreign
missionary agencies in the name of Evangelism. In the villages Kotturu,
Gummada, Veeraghattam, Battili, G.L.Puram, Hiramandalam, Pata patnam
in the name of Christian Hospitals medical business is going on. They are
attracting tribals in the name of missionary schools.

Unrest in villages

Due to Christian conversions groupism has started in tribal villages. Savara

tribe has almost succumbed to Baptist missionaries while the Jatapu tribe is
resisting causing groupism in villages. Party politics have entered the
villages which otherwise were peacdful. Savara converts have played a key
role in the previous year's sarpanch elections. In Haddubanga and other areas
these converts have become a vote bank for political parties. Due to the
conversions Akkannaguda of sitampet Mandal, Kummariguda, Nallaraiguda
of Bhamini Mandal, Irupadiguda of Kothur Mandal frequest altercations are
taking place.
Large number of conversions

In the tribal areas of Sitampeta, Maliaputti, Patapatnam where 'Savaras' are

in large number maximum number of conversions have taken place. It is
interesting to note that four to five thousand people attended the prayer
meetings held in january and february. For every meeting people from
atleast 250 villages have attended.

Srikakulam, Vijayanagaram agency areas have nearly 2 lakhs Savara tribes.

As per the statistics nearly one lakh Savaras converted to Christianity. 60
percent of the people in the tribal areas are converted. In the agency area the
conversion rates are 100 percent in 60 villages, 75 percent in 30 villages, 50
percent in 20 villages and 25 percent in 10 villages.

Andhra Jyothy, March 25, 2007