Converting Religion, Converting law: Rajshree Chandra

Guest Post by RAJSHREE CHANDRA

The right to freedom of religion  (Art. 25 of the Indian Constitution) in a country like India has a burden so extensive and a content so capacious that the same right functions both as an instrument of individual liberty As well as a mode through which the state intervenes to discipline and curtail religious freedom. It has a history so diverse and conflicted that the right often become a mode of settling quid pro quo battles between religious publics, and law often becomes hostage to the principle of ‘historical correction’.

There have been various modes of historical corrections. If the demolition of Babri Masjid was one, ghar wapasi – a return home to one’s religion – is another. The recent ghar wapasi episode in Agra, where RSS affiliate Bajrang Dal converted 57 Muslims to Hinduism; the proposed and then withdrawn conversion of Muslims and Christians in Aligarh on 25th December 2014 by the RSS’s Dharm Jagran Samiti; and the scheduled holy dip of an expected 50,000 “reconverts” (of the last five years) in the Godavari during the Kumbh at Nashik next August are instances and signs of the “re-conversion” rhetoric steadily mainstreaming itself. The question is how does the state and law respond to this?

‘Re-conversions’ are not new in Indian history. Katju & Sikand document instances of mass conversions of Muslims into Hinduism from 1947 onwards, and more forcefully and openly from the 1990s onwards, as part of the Shuddhi (purification) movement. The VHP, an adjunct of the Sangh, extols the practice of ghar wapasi and had claimed that over 200,000 Christians had been converted to Hinduism. The re-conversion argument – of shuddhi and ghar wapasi – is invoked by the various factions of the Sangh Parivar as a modus that aims to correct the history of conversions away from Hinduism.  Continue reading “Converting Religion, Converting law: Rajshree Chandra”