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Hindu nationalist backlash;Briefing;International

INDIA. Hindu nationalists are to set up schools to counter the influence of Christian missionaries among some of India's poorest people.

The VHP-World Hindu Front, which is the militant arm of the prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's Hindu nationalist party, BJP, is to set up 150 schools run by VHP-trained youths among the tribal peoples of Orissa in the east of the country.

Last month the VHP threatened parents with retribution if they sent their children to convent schools, whose places are coveted by the middle classes and enhance pupils' marriage prospects. VHP activists have also been involved in violent attacks on Christian missionaries.

Every village in Orissa's tribal belt will have at least one school where children up to class three will be taught rhymes, local sports and "the Hindu way of life".

VHP officials say the aim is to "save tribals from being misguided and influenced by foreign missionaries".

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