‘CONVERSION’ is what harrowing every ear in India and filling the foul mouths of the political urchins these days. There are graded foolish and illiterate utterances each surpassing the others in lunatic excesses of the interpretations of the term. Unassailable majority mandate given by the electorate to the ruling party seems to have doled out immeasurable boldness and licence to the most ignorant and senseless to make venomous and irresponsible statements on history and secularism guaranteed in the Constitution.
‘Conversion’ seems to be a word most misinterpreted and most misconceived in the discussions, carried out by the politically and religiously antiquated groups. Change of religion, change of names, change of attires and change of external behaviours can never mean conversion. It can take place only when a person has a thorough knowledge of the religion he/she leaves and the one he/she is going to join; a comprehensive evaluation of a highly philosophical and spiritual consideration can really mean conversion. Judged by this requirement one may safely conclude there has never been any conversion in India. A mere change of religion for political social and economic pressures has to be analysed only in this context.
Look at the scene of conversion in India. The Muslim rulers ruled India for a long time but they could not convert most of the citizens here; the British ruled India for the first time from Kashmir to Kanyakumari with enormous political strength and military power. They could not convert majority of the country. What does that indicate? You cannot convert people with merely money power or military power. What was then the driving force of those who converted to Islam and Christianity in India? Most obviously their feeling, that they have been socially sidelined or neglected or ill-treated. Let us take some historic events into consideration. In Kalugumalai, a small town in the South of Tamil Nadu the persons belonging to the Nadar community were not allowed to take in procession their festival car across the residential areas of the upper caste people. Because of this tussle, after long legal and social battles , the entire Nadar population of the town became Catholic Christians. Down south the people of the fisher community were for long exploited by the Muslim landlords and those belonging to the fisher community entered into an agreement with the Portuguese traders. They got the protection they needed and in turn the whole community got converted to Catholic Christianity. Today these are the communities which are the strongholds of Christian faith.
In America, the Black Christians felt they were discriminated in the churches and so many of them were converted to Islam. These are instances to show that conversions cannot be achieved by coercion of any sort. Take the case of Dr.Ambedkar taking along with him millions to Buddhism only because he was convinced that as long as he remained a Hindu, he would forever be kept an untouchable. In this context a significant poser is thrown at those who cry for reconversion. To what caste they would be admitted? Various kinds of crude and farcical replies are instantaneously generated by the saffron ‘missionaries ’. While the country is being ravaged by such noises on conversion, our Prime Minister has chosen to maintain a stoic silence and play the fiddle when India is on fire.
Where is India heading towards with these bombs shelled at the very foundation of the secular fabric? ‘The Hindu’ dated 13th October 2014 has come out with a very relevant advice to the government at this juncture. It calls for “Fight poverty, not conversion”. It raises a very valid point. “Does one person’s right to practise his\her religion come in conflict with another person’s right to propagate his\her religion? …. conversions by themselves are not problematic unless there is evidence of force or fraud. In all the disputes created by the idea of conversion there is an attempt at communal polarisation by Hindutva outfits with ideological affinity to the Sangh Parivar and the B.J.P. They have found a very fertile opportunity in totally banning the conversions in India which is their secret agenda.
A person with an objective view has two questions inevitably raised in his mind.
- Such agenda was never found in the Election manifesto of the B.J.P. What has now forced them to choose this nationwide discussion? They had promised a lot of political, economic and social reformations if they were voted to power. What has happened to all those promises? Are they trying to divert the attention of the masses from their total failure in all these fronts?
- Or are they rehearsing to stage a big drama to hoodwink the nation? These doubts are not unfounded. The silence so noisily maintained by the Prime Minister makes room for many such valid doubts.
The Hindutva Groups seem determined to celebrate the event of reconversion on Christmas as the biggest ever. They are fully prepared to break the nation into pieces. What Dr. Ambedkar feared and predicted in his Preamble to the Constitution that if India falls again it will be only because of the inner betrayals and not because of foreign powers. They have hung a price tag to each conversion: Rs 50,000 for a Muslim conversion and Rs. 20,000 for a Christian conversion which only shows how desperate and mean they are. This has surely and seriously injured and endangered the pride of the innate Indian religious harmony and secular heritage .
Under these circumstances it is the top priority and the most urgent need of all the political, social and cultural institutions to put their efforts together and mount the most powerful opposition to this national catastrophe, sinking all the other differences among them. The seriousness of the problem entails a national movement perhaps the second Freedom Struggle; the first one was with a foreign enemy but alas! This time it is with our own ignorance, discriminatory principle and prejudice.
The Sangh parivar, the ideological protégé of the ruling party is capitalizing the brutal majority in the Parliament to accomplish the agenda of the conversion of other religious people to Hindu religion. They have executed their plan in a phased manner in Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Kerala and other states. They carry out their task, either by exhibiting violent threat both in words and deeds or through alluring the people with economic benefits and then they convert people from Christianity and Islam to Hindu religion. Unmindful of collective political opposition, the conversion agenda is moved meticulously, ignoring the fundamental right – the Right to profess Religion of one’s choice, as guaranteed by the Indian Constitution. Without any proper reply over the issue of occurrence of religious conversion from the Prime Minister at the floor of the Parliament, the ruling side pronounces for the enactment to prevent compulsory religious conversion. On the one hand, without proper explanation on the recently held conversion to Hindu fold by Sangh Parivar and on the other hand expressing its intent to enact law against compulsory religious conversion is nothing but a gimmick. The dichotomy adapted by the ruling party is condemnable. The act of preaching positively and practising contrary cannot be the policy of the rulers of the country, a vast democratic polity in the world.
We all need to make a thorough inner examination leaving out all our preconceived notions about faith, religion and tradition in the interest of the security and welfare of the nation and chiefly our future generation . This is time we realized how dangerous is the religious fundamentalism that confronts each and every one of us. No one can rest assured assuming that it is not for me directly as this evil is capable of harming the present and future of all of us, irrespective of religion caste region or language. A CONCERTED EFFORT IS THE DIRE NEED OF THE HOUR!.