There is a recent development that is haunting me again and again. It been some time since it first surfaced and I have been making diligent efforts to brush it away, excusing that I have no role to play and cannot control it anyway. It is the religion conversions taking places in most parts of the country, more commonly touted as the Ghar Vapsi events. These so called religious acts are performed with an aim to bring back to Hinduism who may have lost their way in their religious conquest. Scores of Christians and Muslims are taking part in mass conversion programs and converting to Hinduism. Not surprisingly, these events are not restricted to a particular area/city/state of the country but well distributed at almost each corner. So while leaders are boasting of the numbers converted in Agra, tough competition knocks from states like Kolkata, Bihar Aligarh and several other states in Uttar Pradesh. Plans are already in place for future conversions to take place in UP later this month and Faizabad in February. But surprisingly it is not just one such religious organization trying to spread its roots, but numerous. Starting from the leaders of ruling party Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to its parent organization Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), The Dharam Jagaran Samiti (DJS) and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) have been actively involved and advocating the conversion programs carried out across the country.
The reasons for carrying out mass conversion are obvious. By offering Below Poverty Line benefits to the severely marginalized people, they are buying votes. It is no more a show of strength of these near fanatic organizations as it is their desire to create a majority and eventually influence decision making. Those poor people, lured by the benefits, readily agree to convert from one religion to another, if that is what guarantees them a day’s bread. There have also been reports of people being converted on the promise of getting to choose their own caste and later cheated. With so many caste based benefits and no evident harm on surface, it seems fairly plausible to convince a large number of people to join their race. However, as much as it sounds righteous to help the impoverished, there are underlying connotations to these conversions. These religious conversions are sure to attract communal groups sooner or later. Some Islamist leaders have already heightened teachings and strengthened restrictions to stop people from converting.
This leaves us perplexed with so many unanswered questions. First and foremost, why is our honorable Prime Minister Modi, who otherwise is an eloquent speaker, never short of words, never failing to enthrall his audience, so quite now? What should we decipher from this deafening silence? Should we believe then that he has a role to play in these conversions, however direct or indirect and that with the blind intention of garnering votes, the lust of power has caught him? Has he completely forgotten the promises of good governance and development he talked about so loudly to Indians and international community equally or were they just empty rhetoric?
What about RSS and its chief Mohan Bhagwat openly challenge the opposition to pass anti-conversion laws in the parliament because nothing can stop them from bringing back people who might have lost their way? This is the very same organization Modi has his roots in and is said to be a staunch supporter of, clearly evident through the inclusion of several RSS leaders in his panel of ministers. Ever since BJP assumed power, there has been no stopping the Sangh pariwar. There have been enough instances which portray a very clear picture of the kind of India Sangh is trying to create. Protesting for mandatory inclusion of Sanskrit in school curriculum to calling for declaration of Gita the national book, there are examples abound and leaders in plenty afoot on a path to decimate India’s diverse culture. Let alone RSS, senior leaders in BJP of the likes of MP Yogi Adityanath, are daringly promoting conversions, reasoning that conversions have been happening for ages. Sure they maybe Sir, but you do realize we have moved on from that time and such acts must be denounced now for their power of inciting anti-social elements. Instead, we have leaders proudly campaigning, crunching huge numbers with an aim of creating history, state by state. All under your rule Mr. Modi, do you not see this?
Also, what happened to freedom of religion? This is clear case of enticing people to change their religion with a promise of ration card in lieu of their vote. This definitely does not portray freedom. By force or tactics, they are swayed from one end to the other all in the hope of being able to afford a day’s meal. Why not show some real development, uplift those sections of society by providing them real jobs so they don’t eventually have to resort to selling their votes instead of electing their preferred candidate.
One constant fear simmering in my minds after the Trilokpuri riots is the horrifying impact communal violence can have. Slightest communal bickering is enough to stir the already tense situation and we are not yet ready to face violence, again. The once so lively area, glittering with sights of children playing on the streets, creating milestones in their own little books, has been rendered lifeless. The streets are deserted and people are cautiously making an attempt to resume life. Surely we cannot let Agra, Aligarh, Bihar or Kolkata be another Trilokpuri. Something has to be done, the silence has to be broken, and conversions have to be stopped. And this needs to be done right now, before the situation slips out of control and we are left with no choice but damage control.
Editor’s Insight: To consider these recent religious conversions as tragic aberration is to forget the grim Indian history. Let us not live in the illusion that concept of religious conversion is very radical or innovative. As right wing organizations are trying to bring people ‘back’ to Hindutva, there are similar attempts by Christian and Islamic Organizations. This is a shout-out to all the religious fanatics, “If you are inducting a member into your religion, there is someone somewhere forcing your people into his religion.” The conversion of 40 Mahadalits to Christianity in Gaya to mark Christmas stands in testimony to it. So, you can either wait till Holi to bring these back home or end this Ping-Pong for ever. To take the conversion route to expand one’s religion is banging one’s head against the wall.