Even as 'Ghar Wapsi', the Hindu right's agenda to get back Christians and Muslims into the fold of their 'original religion, gains momentum, it seems the Hindu groups have not restricted this 'programme' to just Hinduism and have extended it to Sikhism too.
According to an Indian Express report, RSS and other affiliated groups in Punjab, claimed to have converted over 8,000 Christians back to 'Sikhism' in the "last three years, some 3,500 of them over the last one year."
"Hoshiarpur district has seen the most ‘ghar wapsis’, followed by Amritsar and Batala", adds the IE report.
The report points out that RSS has also found support from "gurdwaras and some members of the SAD-dominated Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC)." RSS leader Ram Gopa,l who heads the organisation’s Dharm Jagran unit, justified their programme and claimed that in some villages "the entire population had converted" to Christianity and that this was a threat to Sikhism.
One SGPC member Kiranjot Kaur, who has helped with these re-conversions agreed with Gopal's views and pointed out that Christianity was a serious threat to Sikhism.
It seems RSS has also made sure that lower castes,who re-convert to Hinduism, are not discriminated against and thus lured by Christianity all over again. Leaders of the outfit in the state claimed that they are training some lower castes to become priests, a privilege reserved for Brahmins.
One widow, Kinder Kaur, who reconverted told the paper, “We converted (to Christianity) because we were told that my husband would be cured of his illness. He died in 2011. Three months ago, the RSS motivated us to become Sikhs again. I have also changed the names of my children from Thomas and Rebecca to Sumeet and Kuljit.”
But this re-conversion tactic has not gone down well with Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), which is an ally of the BJP, points out the report, as the party "sees Dalit Christians as a vote bank." The report points out that even Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal assured Christians that they would not allow “forcible conversions” in the city.
It should be noted that where RSS is concerned, its tendency to put Sikhism within the fold of Hinduism has meant that it is not viewed with great liking by 'orthodox Sikhs.' Of course where conversion is concerned, Punjab is not the only state where RSS and it's fringe-groups have claimed success.
Most recently reports showed that VHP had converted over 200 Christians in Gujarat in a mass ceremony. A PTI report showed that the rituals were held at Aranai village in Valsad district of BJP-ruled Gujarat and that a 'Maha Yagnya' (ritual of the sacred fire) was organised for "purification" of the tribals before taking them back in Hindu-fold. Each of them was also given a copy of Bhagwad Gita.
VHP insisted that the re-conversion was "voluntary" and not by force. "As part of the ongoing 'Ghar Vapsi' programme, VHP today re-converted 225 people from Christian community and took them back into Hindu religion," said Valsad district VHP chief Natu Patel.
In Kerala it was reported that 35 people had converted to Hinduism, forcing the state to call a probe into the incident.
The conversion reportedly took place pn Sunday morning in Alappuzha and Kollam districts. In Alappuzha, members of eight Christian families - a total of 30 people - reportedly embraced Hinduism at a temple function organised by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). In Kollam, there were five people who reportedly became Hindus.
The VHP, meanwhile, said all those who became Hindus on Sunday decided to convert on their own, and all the organisation did was to prepare the stage for it. Reports said another 300 people in Alappuzha have expressed their desire to embrace Hinduism, and the conversion ceremony was likely to take place on Christmas day.
While the BJP has said that it does not support "forced religious conversion", the recent spate of reports on these so-called 'ghar wapsi' ceremonies are a worrying sign where religious freedom is concerned in the country.
With inputs from Agencies
Updated Date: Dec 22, 2014 10:53 AM