On Thursday, the Karnataka Cabinet decided to repeal the stringent law regulating religious conversion introduced by the previous BJP Government. Is this Anti-Conversion Bill draconian? Yes, but why can’t we have an Anti-Conversion Bill with specific changes? Why reject the Bill outright?
While the Congress party in Karnataka has repealed the Bill, didn’t the same Congress party pass a similar Bill in Himachal Pradesh when they were in power in that State in 2006? Didn’t the Congress party find this law draconian when they supported BJP to pass the same bill with more stringent amendments in 2019?
The question is, do we need this law? Yes, but a tempered version. We need this Bill passed with amendments because today, religious conversion has nothing to do with faith; it has to do with vote-bank politics.
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.”
Every political party chooses a candidate for a Constituency based on whether the candidate’s religion and caste match the religion and caste of the majority of the voters in that particular Constituency. This being the case, it’s only natural that every religion will encourage conversion and increase its population, usually by whichever means possible. That is why we need this law.
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 certain Hindu associations are into ‘re-conversion.’ Maybe now Congress can introduce an ‘Anti Re-Conversion Bill.’
We need an Anti-Conversion Bill because conversion by the 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 a community’s God, saying you ‘pray to a monkey,’ that is no more conversion; that’s creating disharmony in society.
This kind of “My God is better than yours” strategy for conversion is dangerous in a diverse society like ours; worse, it can also devastate Mother Nature.
In the Northeast, tribals, who were nature worshippers, were told that their ‘Tree God’ was not powerful, and to prove it, they cut a few trees and said, “See, nothing bad happened. Your God didn’t punish us.” But something bad did happen.
Suddenly, massive deforestation began as every other emboldened tribal man became a timber merchant or a timber smuggler, and they became affluent. The new religion took credit for their prosperity, but Mother Nature paid the price.
Yes, Article 25, Right to Freedom of Religion, may allow you to propagate, but it states you have to do this without affecting public morality. Maybe, instead of the ‘Freedom OF Religion’, what we need is ‘Freedom FROM Religion’…for it has only held this nation back. In fact, it has held many countries back. The fact that the poorest nations in the world are the most religious proves that religion is not conducive for progress.
When it comes to conversion, every religion is doing it. Almost every religion has recruiting agents. Hinduism does not but now Hinduism, too, has joined the bandwagon with ‘re-converting’ agents.
But the Hindu reconversion agenda is nothing compared to the conversion mechanism of other religions. Most of them are well-funded from other nations. We wonder why the same countries never send the same amount of money for education? Simple — because education is a threat to religion.
Some religions have been converting for centuries and have fine-tuned the art. They are so specific and structured that today most outside-funded religions are customised for that particular nation — like McDonald’s McAloo Tikki Burger for India. Even the converts’ names are only partially changed.
Interestingly, none of the political parties or even human rights activists wants to address the fact that while there is conversion, the ‘caste’ discrimination never really goes away for the poor and lower-class members of Hindus who are converting to other religions. This is the real problem that needs to be addressed.
The lower caste Muslims in Uttar Pradesh, Pasmanda Muslims, were so fed up with the upper caste Muslims like Ashrafs that they started their own political party.
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! A church-run magazine carried matrimonial advertisements containing specific caste references. It was stopped only after Dalit Christians protested.
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.
When the Government announced it would pass the Anti-Conversion Bill, certain religious heads feared the law might be misused. But which law in this country is not? Should we stop making laws because they “may be” misused?
We must have laws because conversion by preying on poverty should not be permitted, and belittling another’s religion and their Gods to impress the gullible is harmful for a ‘secular’ nation.
If you don’t want the law to be misused, then demand an improved version. Also, if you are not converting, as many religious heads claim, then why fear the law at all?
The truth is, Democracy is a numbers game, and every community wants to increase their numbers. That’s why we need a law to stop this, for we only increase the number of people who will choose their religion over their nation, and such a nation will forever remain in tension and deprivation.
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