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TRIPURA, INDIA, August 2, 2001: Tribal Hindus in Tripura have formed vigilante groups to thwart attempts by separatist militants to convert people to Christianity at gunpoint, community leaders said on Thursday. "It is a very serious threat to Hinduism with armed militants of the outlawed National Liberation Front of Tripura forcibly converting tribal villagers to Christianity," said Rampada Jamatia, a leader of the Jamatia tribe. "We believe up to 5,000 tribal villagers were converted to Christianity by the NLFT in the past two years," Jamatia told IANS in Jirania, 25 km east of Agartala. At least 20 Hindu tribals, including a senior priest of the Jirania Ashram, Santi Kali Maharaj, have been killed by NLFT rebels in the past two years for disobeying orders. The NLFT, fighting for an independent tribal homeland since 1989, has issued orders demanding villagers not celebrate Hindu religious festivals.