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ghar wapasi episode in Agra, where RSS affiliate Bajrang Dal converted 57 Muslims to Hinduism; the proposed and then withdrawn conversion of Muslims and Christians in Aligarh on 25th December 2014 by the RSS’s Dharm Jagran Samiti; and the scheduled holy dip of an expected 50,000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”

Voting with their feet – Religious conversion as a democratic right

Voting with one’s feet:  to express one’s dissatisfaction with something by leaving, especially by walking away.

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More than 1 lakh Dalits and tribal Hindus converted to Buddhism in May 2007 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of B.R. Ambedkar’s conversion, in what is considered the largest mass conversion in the country

What business is it of any government if I want to convert from one religion to another? Why should I seek permission from, or inform the government that I intend to follow a different god or gods from the one/s I was taught to worship from birth? There is absolutely no justifiable basis for the various anti-conversion laws in India, every one of which should be struck down as anti-constitutional.

Recently, Godie Osuri commented on the paradox of anti-conversion legislations being named ‘Freedom of Religion’ Acts when in fact they entail religious unfreedom.  And so they do. The Gujarat government has ordered a probe into the mass conversions of Dalits to Buddhism at Dungarpur village in Junagadh district last Sunday (October 12, 2013). Why? Because under the state’s Freedom of Religion Act of 2003, it is mandatory for the organizers to have taken prior permission. Turns out that the organizers did in fact inform the authorities, who provided facilities such as an ambulance, microphone and so on. It is clear that this ‘probe’ is a belated and panic stricken response from the Gujarat government upon realizing how great the Dalit response was to the event.

Continue reading “Voting with their feet – Religious conversion as a democratic right”

India First and the BJP anti-conversion platform: Goldie Osuri

Guest Post by GOLDIE OSURI

We seem to live in an age where paradoxes become parodic simplifications in the seemingly global race to support all manner of fascist majoritarian nationalisms. I recently saw a youtube video, where P.P. Hegde of the NaMo Brigade linked the meaning of Namo Namaha—the letting go of ego in meditation—to the image of a giant saffron-vested image of Narendra Modi.

Namo Namaha. Literally, not-me, not my ego-self. Linked to a giant PR machine promoting an individual, the face of Hindutva fascism, nothing but ego. The lack of an ironic sensibility in such campaigns is perhaps sadly characteristic of our time.

Similarly anti-conversion campaigns targeting Christians seem paradoxical and parodic in their demand for Acts of Religious Freedom which literally entail religious unfreedom. Recently, the BJP leader of Andhra Pradesh, Venkaiah Naidu stated that the ‘BJP will bring an anti-conversion law to ban religious conversions in the country if it is voted to power in 2014 General Elections’. 

Continue reading “India First and the BJP anti-conversion platform: Goldie Osuri”