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Anti-Conversion and Ghar Wapsi, Or Hindutva’s Doublespeak: Charu Gupta

Guest post by CHARU GUPTA

The synchronised vocabulary of anti-conversion by the BJP and that of reconversion by the VHP and Dharm Jagran Samiti, an RSS affiliate, reveals the intimate relationship between the two. Anti-conversion and reconversion are two sides of the same coin. Even though the Dharm Jagran Samiti dropped its plan to ‘reconvert’ 4000 Christians and 1000 Muslim families in Aligarh on 25 December, due to pressures from a parliament in session as well as other protests, the day has had strategic significance. Christmas Day has been given a different meaning by the Hindutva brigade — the birth anniversaries of Madan Mohan Malaviya, one of the stalwarts of the Hindu Mahasabha, and Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the eminent BJP leader. Equally critically, on 23 December 1926 Swami Shraddhanand, the leading ideologue of the shuddhi movement (purification; Hindu movement in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries to reclaim those who had converted from Hinduism to other religions) was assassinated by a Muslim fanatic, and on 25 December, a condolence motion was moved at the Guawhati session of the Congress.

The twin strategies of anti-conversion and ghar wapsi have a long history and past, which saw its efflorescence in the shuddhi movement, but have become much more aggressive in the present context. As part of their community and nation making rhetoric, the Arya Samaj and the Hindu Mahasabha had launched the programme of shuddhi on a large scale in Uttar Pradesh in 1923. Though Arya Samaj had stronger roots in Punjab, shuddhi movement was more effective in UP. Various scholars have pointed to the communal character of the movement. A note prepared by the criminal investigation department at that time stated that though the movement had older origins, ‘its application to mass rather than individual conversion gave it a special prominence’ in 1923. Shuddhi came to be touted as a movement to reclaim the ‘victims’ and protect the ‘faithful’. Reconversion attempts have since been a part of agenda of various Hindutva outfits, and the present assertions should be seen in that context. Today, organisations like the VHP and Dharm Jagran Samiti have acquired a new importance and are emboldened to not only challenge conversions in an organised manner, but also to simultaneously aggressively campaign for reconversion. Just as shuddhi became an instrument for Hindu communal mobilization in early twentieth century, ghar wapsi is fulfilling the same role today. Continue reading Anti-Conversion and Ghar Wapsi, Or Hindutva’s Doublespeak: Charu Gupta