Conversion row: Ghar wapsi is illogical and so is its ideological opposition
The Sangh's Ghar Wapsi makes no sense, unless it is a formal conversion programme like those offered by other religions. Opponents of Ghar Wapsi also are wrong to assume that all other forms of conversion are above board.
In all the political cacophony over religious conversions or reconversions, both sides — the Sangh parivar with its emphasis on ghar wapsi, and those who are opposing the whole idea — have taken fairly unsound positions.
First, let’s look at the illogic of the Sangh’s concept of ghar wapsi. The idea behind calling it ghar wapsi and not a formal conversion programme is that the Sangh is only seeking to bring back to the Hindu fold those who had left it in the past.
But consider the contradictions. If ghar wapsi is about restoring one to one’s original faith, what happens to those Hindus who may have been tribals or Buddhists or followers of some other religions in the past who are now Hindu? It cannot be anyone’s claim that Hinduism was the basic state of religion and spirituality in India from ancient times - and so only Hinduism is entitled to ghar wapsis.
Also, ghar wapsi is a time-sensitive issue. A recent convert who is quickly brought back to the fold can be a genuine case of ghar wapsi, for one may have left the religion one was born into and also returned in one’s own lifetime. This can legitimately be called ghar wapsi. But can the idea be applied to someone whose family had converted generations ago, and thus has always considered himself/herself part of that faith?
This is not to suggest that the Sangh’s idea of seeking more converts to Hinduism is wrong in itself, just that it needs to now state clearly that it is in the same game as Christianity and Islam and will seek to grow through conversions. This is a more honest position to take than to claim all this is being done for the benefit of those who left Hinduism in the past.
Ghar wapsi is also a self-limiting idea. If the votaries of Hinduism genuinely believe theirs is the best, why restrict the message only to those who left it ages ago? Why not consider the whole world your target audience?
Ghar wapsi is thus seriously flawed.
Now, let’s come to the other side: those who oppose conversions to Hinduism.
The opposition has been kicking up a ruckus over this, but is strangely silent on what kind of conversions it really opposes.
It may be right only to the limited extent that the recent conversion of some Muslims in Agra by a Hindu organisation may have been achieved through inducements or false promises (some reports suggest this).
But what if it is not? And how does one know that other religious organisations have not done the same in the past, offering inducements or benefits on the quiet? If parliament can be brought to a standstill by what a Hindu organisation may have done, will this open the door for the Sangh to now point fingers at every conversion away from Hinduism? Any form of conversion is now on the national agenda for scrutiny.
The opposition rightly refused to fall into the BJP trap of bringing in a law to ban conversions – though, in theory, there is nothing wrong in that too, since such a bill would only ban conversions through force, inducement or fraud.
But you can either say all conversions will be scrutinised for fraud or inducement, or that none will. In effectively showing that they are only bothered by what what may be fraud on the Sangh's side, they have proved that their "secularism" is itself a fraud.
It can be no one’s case that the conversions that have happened so far – mostly away from Hinduism — were entirely above board, and that only the recent efforts by Hindu organisations were flawed.
Now that the Agra conversions have come under the scanner, future and past conversions away from Hinduism will also face the same kind of scrutiny as what we have seen in UP.
The only logical position for both the Sangh and its opponents to take is that conversions will, henceforth, be a free-for-all, subject only to the limitations that they cannot be the result of coercion, force, inducement and fraud. But even this can be checked only if state gets into inquiry mode every time a conversion happens.
The opposition has ensured that the state’s role in checking conversions will be expanded.
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