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Togadia and Azad
Debate between a priest and a liberal
Conversions-Why we shouldn't be debating. Cont'd

If a man converts to another religion, his blood-relatives, religious heads and other affiliates of his former religion feel bound to say something about the 'dastardly' act because his departure from their religion is after all, a loss to their religion. But since the Constitution upholds the principle that religion is a personal prerogative, no man has a say on the religion of another man. No individual can complain to the local police station that his neighbors are being 'forcibly' converted to another religion; there is no provision in the law for that.

It is precisely for this reason that we should not discuss conversions. There is no point in discussing the issue of conversions because the unrestricted freedom for conversions is already granted to all citizens by the Indian Constitution. A Constitution that does not grant this freedom would cease to remain a secular one and the Indian Constitution is certainly secular (by self declaration).

A debate on conversions is useful only to the Sangh

But the issue of conversions doesn't figure in this way in the Sangh's blueprints. For the Sangh, the number of people belonging to their religion is one very important statistic, to be kept on the positive side at all times. This, is the exact mission of the VHP and the Bajrang Dal. But why does the 'tolerant and mild' Hindu activist from these organizations consistently fail to see that such similar desires and aspirations can be felt by men in other religions as well? For an organization like the VHP which is active in several countries, why is it so difficult to see that similar organizations as itself can be active in this country?

Remember that all these questions will be valid only if there is an organization similar to the VHP, belonging to another religion, indulging in propogation and preservation of their religion exists in our country. There is no such organization in actuality.

For the Sangh, the caste system is just an unfortunate mistake of Hindutva, which was exploited by certain elements with 'vested interests'; the Sangh's view of caste is that it is just a minor impediment in day-to-day life, like a painful sore on one's foot. But the actual conditions that prevail in casteist societies are too well known to be repeated here.

But it is, in the ultimate analysis, caste, that drives Hindus to other religions. In the Dangs district in Gujarat, tribals are said to have been converted to Christianity. This has been the only consistent feature of all religious conversions from Hinduism to other religions; all converting members have belonged to a particular 'lower' caste. Ever heard of an 'affluent' caste-people converting to Christianity or Islam?

It is at this juncture that callling for a debate on conversions is useful to the VHP and the Bajrang Dal. The single question that the VHP evokes in the minds of 'religious' Hindus is: "How dare they (the Christians) take away members of our religion?". Such debate invokes strong emotions and self-righteous indignation among pious Hindus and this generates support for the VHP goons.

But the basic principle in conversions remains the same

But all these strong feelings doesn't change a thing; men or groups of men are free to convert and do what they please with their religion. No single person or a particular organization can oppose conversions of another man or a group of men on any grounds, leave alone on the grounds that their religion is losing numbers and the men who are being converted are doing so because of allurements, inducements and threats.

It is for the same reason, Swapan Dasgupta cannot complain that conversions should be debated because the converting methods of the Christians hurt his aesthetics (India Today, January 1999). Nor can Jayalalitha want a debate on conversions just because she feels that "there is nothing wrong in having a debate".

Conversions are not to be debated because religion is a private matter, not a political one.

Go to Part #3. The VHP's view of tribals and religion

Articles in this series...
Part 1. Conversions-Why we shouldn't be debating
Part 2. Conversions-Why we shouldn't be debating, Cont'd
Part 3.The VHP's view of religion and tribals
Part 4. Mud-slinging, Gandhian quotes and liberal thinkers

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