I was reading through the comments in one of IHM's posts when I started to comment and then realised that I wanted to do a post instead!
We have heard a lot of justification of the violence in Orissa by the VHP/Bajrang Dal activists on the basis of avenging 'proselytisation'. I cannot understand how we can do anything but condemn it wholeheartedly. There can be justification whatsoever.
Firstly, Conversion is no crime in India - despite the efforts of the Sangh Parivar to make forced conversion a crime. 'Forcible converison' , to me is a term which is hugely ambiguous. In a secular democracy like India - how can we even think of having a law like this? If our citizens do not have the right to convert to any religion, to live in any way that suits them - what is the meaning of the democracy we live in? If India becomes a state where we are told what religion to follow, or when I can or not convert - I would much rather emigrate.
Secondly, if the missionaries are successful in converting the lower caste Hindus to Christainity - there is a reason for it. My father used to recount to me , how badly the lower castes used to be treated. He tells me of how even the shadow of a lower caste to fall on one of the higher castes was considered defilement! So they had to move away when my dad and his family approached. And then, magically when they converted - they could come into our living rooms! How fair is that? And why would any person not prefer that?
The caste system had reached such levels that to convert must have been a huge relief. And yes, if the Christian missionaries gave them incentives - what was wrong? When we could not give them the dignity, the respect - is it any surprise that they went where they got a lot more? Can you blame them, if they found respect in the society, education subsidised for their children, after converting? All this without violence! Just by promising and delivering social upliftment.
Thirdly, for all the efforts spent in the carnage in Orissa - would it not have served everyone better if these groups had looked inwards and tried to make changes to the system, so that people are less likely to be tempted by conversion? How about starting good quality schools ? Hospitals? Trying to do what can be done to abolish the caste system? Obviously, the last point is not an easy one - but if every person tried - I am sure it could happen? My granddads - on both sides, believed in it strongly - so none of my parents and their siblings have the caste in their names.. Having said that - I am not so sure 'de-recognizing' castes will work in reality- with the reservation system that we have in place. We have to make people want to convert/or stay a Hindu - force is no way to go. But surely, we can try - instead of killing and raping innocent people!
Fourthly, how can VHP/Bajrang Dal consider themselves as the representatives of Hindus? I am proud to be a Hindu but these acts have really made me ashamed. It is sad that Hinduism , which is actually a way of life, is being defiled by these people. Since we are 'born' Hindus, we do not have any 'baptism' to make us Hindus - how can re-conversion mean anything? Surely, a true representative of Hinduism, should be above all this? As a Hindu, I do not go to temples, do not believe in most of the rituals, do not undertake any fasts, do not wear any symbols of my religion - does that make me any less Hindu? If this continues, very soon, I will be told that I am a 'non-believer' or maybe I would have to 're-convert'?
Forcibly stopping conversions or forcing people to 'reconvert' is just as bad(worse actually) than forced conversions. I just hope people rise above all this and all of us condemn such horrible, horrible acts of violence. As long as there are even a small segment of people who try to justify this - these fringe elements will continue to wreck havoc. We have to collectively show that these fringe elements who assume that they speak for us - have NO support from us.
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