Anti-Conversion Bill & Caste Issues
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Anti-Conversion Bill & Caste Issues

May 14, 2022

The Karnataka Government has decided to take the Ordinance route to introduce the contentious Anti-Conversion Bill. Congress party has opposed it. Do we need this law? Yes, but a tempered version.

Today, religious conversion has nothing to do with faith; it has to do with vote-banks. Mahatma Gandhi recognised this very early and said, “Today, we see competition and conflict among different religions for counting the number of their followers. I feel deeply ashamed of this, and… is a blasphemy against God and self.” Politicians have reduced religion to a political tool aided by religious heads.

 Is this Anti-Conversion Bill draconian? Yes, part of it is, and of course, it will be misused to settle scores. But why don’t the protesting parties say, “We want this Anti-Conversion Bill, but with certain changes.” Why reject the Bill outright? Didn’t the Congress party, which is blindly opposing it, pass a similar Bill in Himachal Pradesh when they were in power in that State? Was it not draconian then?

 When it comes to conversion, three religions come to mind — Hindus, Muslims and Christians. Hinduism does not have a history of proselytising — there is no forced conversion or induced conversion — you are either born so, or you choose to be one, but now they are into “re-conversion.” Maybe when Congress comes to power, they can have an “Anti Re-Conversion Bill.”

 We need an Anti-Conversion Bill because conversion by inducement of land and money is one thing. But when you convert by demeaning the other religion saying their God is a “thief” — yes, Krishna stole butter when he was an infant — and mocking saying you “pray to a monkey,” that is no more conversion; that’s creating disharmony in society.

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Interestingly none of the political parties or even human rights activists want to address the fact that while there is conversion, the “caste” discrimination never really goes away for poor and lower class members among Hindus who are converting to other religions. This is the real problem that needs to be addressed.

 In fact, the lower caste Muslims in Uttar Pradesh were so fed up with the upper caste Muslims that they started their own political party. Muslim politics in North India is dominated by the upper caste Muslims, called Ashrafs.

 This Ashraf Muslim comprises the Syeds, Sheikhs, Pathans etc. These are the upper castes. Then there are the Pasmanda  Muslims, comprising Adivasis and Dalits, and these Muslims constitute majority of India’s Muslim population, yet they hardly have any political representation. The Ashraf Muslims dominate it.

 In 2019, Pasmanda Muslims, under the aegis of an organisation called Pasmanda Muslim Mahaz, met in Delhi to discuss forming a political party to fight for equal rights! The All-India Backward Muslim Morcha (AIBMM) was set up way back in 1994 and had over 40 backward caste Muslim organisations!

There is a deep-rooted caste system among Muslims in India, but we do not discuss that. We are stuck on casteism in Hinduism.

 Christianity in India too has its caste issues. In Trichy, Tamil Nadu, a wall is built across the catholic cemetery. Those who converted to Christianity from the Dalit community are allocated space for burial on one side of the wall, while upper caste converts are buried on the other! Even a church-run magazine carried matrimonial advertisements containing specific caste references. It was stopped only after Dalit Christians protested.

It has gotten so bad that churches in Tamil Nadu have closed because Dalit Christians demanded to be part of the administration. Do we ever talk about this deep-rooted caste discrimination among Indian Christians? No, we say only Hinduism has caste problems.

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The western and “secular” Indians seem to assume that there is a caste problem only among Hindus. They are wrong, and in their ignorance, they turn a blind eye to human rights violations in other religions.

 The hard truth is that the only reason lower castes in each of the above religions in India tolerate the discrimination from their upper caste members is the collective fear of the other religion.

 Though Muslims have severe disgruntlement within their castes, they stick together, fearing the fanatic Hindu. On the other hand, the Hindus have hundreds of castes with serious differences, but they stick together, fearing the fanatic Muslim. For the Christians, it’s the same; they fear the majority wherever they are. So, as long as politicians keep the Hindu Vs Muslim strife alive, the lower caste members in each religion will quietly suffer while the upper castes in all religions wallow in power.

 When the Government announced that they would pass the Anti-Conversion Bill, certain religious heads expressed fear that the law may be misused. But which law in this country is not? Should we stop making laws because they “may” be misused? No, we must have laws because conversion by preying on poverty should not be permitted and belittling another religion and its Gods to impress the gullible is harmful in a “secular” nation. If you don’t want the law to be misused, then demand an improved version and just stay away from anything that resembles conversion. Amen!

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8 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Anti-Conversion Bill & Caste Issues”

  1. Bhamy V Shenoy says:

    Well balanced article with facts. How true the statement that religion and caste equation are used not to solve the underlying social problems but to gain electoral advantage. This is again because we are a long way from getting the right kind of “education” either in school or outside. if we look at the world history it is only when a society is able to overcome these issues, there is less poverty, more social harmony and real development.
    We need more thought provoking articles from Vikram Muthanna on this topic.

  2. Questo says:

    The article is a confused bundle of religion and caste issues.
    The religion issues are peripherally analysed. For example, the two religions which indulged in conversion in India-were Islam and Christianity.
    The former was centuries old, always carried out through coercion. For example, Malik Kafur converted a whole swathe of Tamil Nadu-in particular in districts like Tirunelveli, where the ancestors of the ex=president Abdul Kalam were converted as Muslims. Starting with the Mughal empire and down to the criminals like Tipu Sultan, converting Hindus into Muslims were the norm. For example, The musician Tansen, a Hindu became a Muslim while in the Durbar of Akbar, through coercion.
    The above Muslim fanatics did nothing useful to India. This is unlike the Christian missionaries, whose education and healthcare activities have ben legendary. The conversion to Christianity was a failure of the Hindu religion, not meeting the aspirations of a certain sections of Hindu community.
    Caste issues are totally different-they involve many sections of the Hindu community claiming to be classified as ‘backward’, following the SC/ST reservation can of worms that Nehru government opened up. Thee state government extended the reservation approach to castes, classifying a plethora of them as backward, thereby opening up wide, the non-meritorious route to professional courses, Jobs and promotions. The effect has been the dumbing down of the quality of personnel almost every where.
    @Barmy Shenoy s post is delusional. When ‘backwardness’ is actively sought by a swathe of sections of the Hindu community. Blaming this solely on politicians in power with an eye on electoral advantages, is wicked ignorance.

  3. Mann Ki Baat! says:

    Muslim rulers, the invaders to India used force for conversion, which was copied by thugs like Tipu Sultan.
    Christian Missionaries used persuasion to the weaker sections of the Hindu community, which was a failure of Hinduism.
    Nothing good came out of Islamic conversion. To be fair, the weaker sections of the Hindu community after conversion to Christianity, had roles to play in working to elevate the educational standards through Christian schools and colleges, where Hindu students thrived. They have had large roles to play in delivering quality healthcare services through the Christian Mission-run hospitals.
    Nehru was forced to resort to reservations for the Dalit communities in all sectors, which was fair attempt from him, but little did he realise that the state governments line Mysore then ( Karnataka now) would expropriate the above approach to classify sections of the Hindu community as backward castes-forced by those sections to find a backdoor route to education and employment. Casteism hence became an important arm of nepotism. If one reads about Lingayat Seers in Karnataka forcing the BJP High Command to select a Lingayat to succeed another Lingayat as the CM, one realises how a section of the society conferring political advantages to the political party in power.
    Finally, the infighting between Shias and Sunnis to the extent that the Gulf States like the UAE and Bahrain have sought the help of Israel, a Jewish State in establishing diplomatic relation to it shows the religion is more divided than Hinduism. So is Christianity-the spectrum of sects from Catholicism to Lutheran to Seventh-day Adventist Church ( Mormon) says more about their own divisions and prejudices that Missionaries hid from the weaker sections of Hindu community for conversion purposes.
    @Shenoy says: This is again because we are a long way from getting the right kind of “education” either in school or outside. if we look at the world history it is only when a society is able to overcome these issues, there is less poverty, more social harmony and real development”. One wonders , why countries like US and Ireland in the Western world for example, who cannot be complained of not having gnawing poverty and lack of development find its people and politicians finding it necessary to stoke the theocratic prejudice in narrow interpretations of Christianity.
    In the above countries, it is sections of peoples-the vote banks that force the stance of politicians, which is to be abhorred in democracies where individual freedom is sacrosanct.

  4. Wasifullah Khan says:

    The author has lost his way while writing this article. It started from why or why not the Anti-Conversion bill has to be tabled. But it moves on to speak about the caste systems in religions in India. There is no explanation as to how these are inter-related.

    Islam is practiced worldwide by 25% of the global population. As a major religion, at least it covers 60 countries. There is no caste system in Islam in any of these countries. In India, the caste system may have been classified, but as the writer rightfully says it is never discussed – and the reason for it is because it is not in practice. Muslims go to Mosques and pray side by side, shoulder to shoulder with other Muslims- there is no discrimination or ranking.

    Although there are sects (which is the classification based on belief like Shia, Sunni, Qadiyani, Ahmediyyah etc.,) there is no classification based on ranking. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) has said: “There is no superiority of an Arab over a non-Arab, or of a non-Arab over an Arab, and no superiority of a white person over a black person or of a black person over a white person, except on the basis of personal piety and righteousness.” He has said this is his farewell speech. This completely forbids racial or ranking based classification.

  5. koppal boregowda says:

    @Khan
    The author as written well.
    Islam is a militant religion. Most of the world terrorists are Islamists. You are in delusion and are trying to deflect the pathetic issues in your religion.
    I should add that for Muslims their religion comes first and their country next.
    India should remove their personal laws and the WAKF boards.
    Many suggested exchanging Muslim population with the Hindu population at the time of independence. Gandhi, the ;lover of Muslims refused. Look at Greece they dis this exchange with Turkey when both became independent.

  6. Satarawalla says:

    @Khan
    I too agree with Vikram. You are hallucinating. What if the Muslim population is spread so much , you suggest. Yet, no one trusts them.
    Saudi Arabia, the custodian o Sunni religion hates Iran , the Shia Muslim country , so too all the Gulf States and hence they link with Israel.
    In India, Muslims have yet to prove their patriotism. There was a Muslim General practitioner-a doctor with a practice in VV Market area, who was born, brought up and was educated in Mysore was caught at the time of the last India-Pak war , when Bangladesh emerged, spying for Pakistan, gathering information about defence establishments in Bangalore, and communicating it to Pakistan through high power transmitter he had set up at his home.
    Muslims and patriotism do not mix.

  7. Gautam says:

    Stop writing such crap @Khan.
    Yours is the most intolerant and savage religion. If any one shows a sketch of your prophet, your mob behave as savages and murder that person.
    While Christian missionaries established excellent schools and colleges, you mob are known for murders and maiming and terrorism.

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