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Conversation on conversion

23 Dec. 2014 12:44 AM IST

One of the rights guaranteed by the Indian Constitution is the right to Freedom of Religion as enshrined under Article 25,26,27 and 28. As a secular nation, every citizen of India has the right to freedom of religion ie right to follow any religion. As one can find so many religions being practiced in India, the constitution guarantees to every citizen the liberty to follow the religion of their choice. According to this fundamental right, every citizen has the opportunity to practice and spread their religion peacefully. In case of any specific complaints of any incidence of religious intolerance occurs in India, it is the duty of the government to curb these incidences and take strict actions against those involved in such practices. The current uproar against mass ‘conversion’ of Muslims to Hindu in UP and Madhya Pradesh and vow to conduct another such programme that would also include Christians, has sparked massive debate in parliament. While many would be tempted to believe that such religious issues raised by BJP ministers and MPs are totally discordant with the prime minister’s development/good governance mantra; yet Modi’s silence is deafening. The RSS and VHP have thrown the gauntlet on those who oppose such mass conversions with the choice that if they want to stop such programmes then they should enact an ‘anti-conversion’ law. An anti-conversion law would run contrary to the ethos of India as a secular democratic republic. Such a law would take away the right of citizens to choose and follow any religion of their choice. Organisations like the RSS and VHP etc are pursuing their ‘homecoming’ conversion as they feel convinced that the forefathers of Indian Muslims and Christians, were Hindus who were converted through fraudulent means or coerced or bribed. This raises the question, what if the same is attempted on Hindus by some extremist elements who convince themselves that the forefathers were not Hindus? Anti-conversion laws are in place in Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Arunachal Pradesh and Gujarat. However, the Anti-Conversion laws do not seem to apply when Muslims and Christians are ‘converted’ to Hindus but only applies when Hindus choose to embrace Islam or Christianity. The main allegation made against conversion into Islam or Christianity is that coercion, fraud and allurements are used. No right thinking Indian citizen of any religion, should or would tolerate such frauds by any religious group. Therefore, such complaints need to be thoroughly investigated and if found guilty, those involved should be awarded stern punishment. In the west, Hindu and Muslim gurus and imams openly propagate their respective religions through various means but no political party has demanded any law against propagation of any religion since it is an individual choice. Anti-Christian groups claim that Christianity in India rose during the British rule. The history of Christianity in India goes back to a few decades after the birth of Christ , and there is evidence of Syrian Christians having established themselves in Kerala before 100 AD. The fact is that despite 200 years of British rule, the Christian population never exceeded 3%. Between 1981 and 1991, Christians declined from 2.45% to 2.32% of the entire population, while the population of India increased by 23.79% between during the same period. If there is to be a debate, it should be on conversion so that the plea for an anti-conversion law would be seen in its true colour.

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