THE CONVERSION ISSUE: A CLEVER PLOY!
-Fr. Cedric Prakash sj*
No one can deny that Narendra Modi is very adept with ‘hunting with the hound and running with the hare’ - the latest being the ‘bogey of conversion’ which is raising plenty of heat and kicking plenty of dust all over. A clever ploy indeed!
A peep at some of the actions and utterances done in very strategic ways will provide one with an inkling of their meticulous plans to defocus from the real issues which grip the country and simultaneously target the minorities through systematic denigration. So the ‘hindutva’ agenda hogs the limelight day-in and day-out.
Nathuram Godse, the one who assassinated Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the nation overnight becomes a hero and a patriot; Mohan Bhagwat, the RSS Chief calls for the establishment of a ‘Hindu Rashtra’ (nation); a Union Minister, Niranjan Jyoti turns abusive saying that in India, one is either ‘ramzadon’ (those born of Ram) or ‘haramzadon’ (illegitimately born); the HRD Minister through a circular states that Christmas Day (December 25th) should be a working day for schools (and then denies it); the Government however continues to insist that it is not a holiday for Government employees.
So no more the study of German as a foreign language but instead Sanskrit is designated as the ‘lingua franca’ of the country. D.N. Batra’s textbooks complete with myths, falsehoods and innuendoes are being mainstreamed in the curriculum in Gujarat and in other States. It is the Bhagwad Gita and not the Constitution of India which should be our ‘national book’. In Gujarat, groups are going about wanting to speak about the Gita in minority institutions. The hate-speeches from several of the BJP leaders and their cohorts, will make any Indian who cherishes all that India stands for, to wince.
In the bogey of ‘conversion and reconversion’, these fringe groups conveniently forget that Article 25 of the Constitution guarantees to every India “Freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion” and Article 19 the “protection of certain rights regarding freedom of speech, etc”. The votaries of hindutva have also thrown to the wind Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which unequivocally states that “everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”
In all this Prime Minister Modi remains completely silent even as others ask him to ‘rein in’ these fringe elements. It is rather unbelievable that the average Indian can be so naive! A good section of the media has either been bought up or has been coopted. News reporters are very careful of how they word an article or a headline (this is understandable since their careers are at stake and it is their bosses who call the shots). But let’s not fool ourselves – Modi and the Sangh Parivar are one and the same. He would never have become Prime Minister if not for them and for their total support to one of their own.
One needs to revisit Modi’s election campaign in the run-up to the 2002 election in Gujarat and particularly his promise to bring in an anti-conversion law once they assumed power. True to his word, on March 26th 2003 (and without any opposition) they passed the ‘Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act 2003’ and five years later in 2008, they introduced the rules that are necessary to govern the implementation of the law. It is one of the most draconian laws of the country which necessitate that anyone seeking to change his or her religion, must first seek the permission of the District Magistrate. The Constitutional validity of this law was challenged in 2009 in the High Court of Gujarat and a judgement is still awaited.
Meanwhile in February 2006, in a Shabri Kumbh programme (supported by the Gujarat Government) in the Dangs District of Gujarat, Modi warned the Christians with a blatant assertion, “It is my constitutional duty to prevent conversions. Our Constitution disapproves of them, and yet some people turn a blind eye.” Morari Bapu accused the Christians of bringing in plane-loads of missionaries from the Vatican “who come here to carry out conversion activities but when we organise a ‘ghar wapsi’ why should it be termed as bad?” Both Modi and Morari Bapu clearly endorsed the ghar wapsi programmes which were part of that programme and the later ones orchestrated by Swami Aseemanand.
Once the opposition starts screaming, Modi gets Arun Jaitley to ask in Parliament “should we introduce a law against conversion or only against forcible conversions?” Through his heavy silence, Modi indulges in another manipulative game in order to emerge as ‘a hero’. Without directly “targeting” the minorities of the country (mainly Muslims and Christians) he will show that he is able to address the ‘nefarious deeds’ of those who have mentored him by piloting an anti-conversion law. So of course, the world will say he has dealt with the Hindu right-wing when in factuality he is just following to the ‘T’ an extremely well-crafted strategy.
What does ‘ghar wapsi’ mean? Is it about Indian culture and may we ask who is culturally the real Indian? From North, South, East or West? The one who speaks Bengali or Marathi, or Tamil or Hindi or any of the other 22 constitutionally recognised languages? Is it the adivasi or the Parsi or the Muslim, the Christian or Hindu? and to which caste, if Hindu? I believe in a God today; if I stop believing that there is a God, do I in any way, lose my Indian identity? In a democratic country like India why should the Government decide which religion I should embrace and which God I should worship? Do I have the freedom to choose or adopt a religion of my choice?
The ghar wapsi programmes are “red herrings” – no one knows if these people are actually ‘Christian’ or not and even from where they are brought. If one goes on the ‘facts’ given to the media by the ‘hindutva’ forces (at least where Gujarat is concerned) one wonders as to why they are not following the law ‘in toto’. Don’t they also have to seek permission from the Collector according to the existing anti-conversion law? Perhaps they want to prove that this law is very special and very selective in targeting only those who want to embrace Buddhism, Christianity and Islam!
Narendra Modi has been proving that he has absolutely no agenda to govern the country. Perhaps, that is why he wants to have at least December 25th to be called ‘Governance Day!’ All their election promises are slowly falling apart, proving to be a bunch of lies, myths and illusions. With several of those in Government with criminal records and absolutely corrupt – they have pretty little to offer the people of India who are gradually awakening and will surely say sooner or later ‘one can never fool all of the people all of the time’.
The bubble of “achche din” will soon burst! Though dark times await many in the country; truth will ultimately triumph!
22nd December, 2014