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Violent attacks on Christian schools;Briefing;International

India. In a new campaign against Christian missionaries, Hindu parents will be told not to send their children to "convent" schools. Prominent Hindus will be closely watched - and may face "retribution" if they don't join the boycott.

The campaign is run by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP - World Hindu Front), a militant organisation affiliated to the prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's Bharatiya Janata party (BJP).

VHP activists have been involved in violent attacks on schools and churches run by Christian missionaries. They claim that missionaries are "forcibly" converting Hindus to Christianity, especially in the rural tribal areas, and that there is an international "Catholic conspiracy" to "destabilise" Hindu society.

The Prime Minister's suggestion for a "national debate" on the issue has provoked an angry reaction from the main opposition party. It said such a debate would amount to "legitimising" the VHP's anti-Christian campaign, whose "real target" may be the Congress president, Sonia Gandhi, an Italian Catholic.

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