More conversion drives are on the anvil

More conversion drives are on the anvil

The issue of reconversion – or ghar wapasi - as the proponents of the exercise would like to call it, is likely to keep western Uttar Pradesh on the boil for the rest of this year.

The issue of reconversion – or ghar wapasi - as the proponents of the exercise would like to call it, is likely to keep western Uttar Pradesh on the boil for the rest of this year. After Agra, the Bajrang Dal and the Hindu Jagaran Manch are planning a similar campaign in Aligarh on Christmas day. The overt communal nature of the exercise is expected to have political repercussions too. Although the Bharatiya Janata Party does not officially endorse such campaigns, one of its firebrand MPs, Mahant Adityanath of Gorakhpur better known as Yogi Adityanath, has been actively involved in such campaigns for many years.

Such campaigns are quite well-known in remote tribal areas of Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand but rather infrequent in Uttar Pradesh. These involve a shuddhi hawan to ‘cleanse’ the converts and bring them back into the Hindu fold amid chanting of some shlokas.

In Aligarh a similar camp was held in August when more than 70 individuals, who had reportedly converted to Christianity more than two decades ago, were reconverted to Hinduism. All of them belonged to the Balmiki (Dalit) caste.

The Hindu Jagran Manch has already announced a programme to be held in Aligarh again, this time on Christmas, to bring converted Christians back to Hinduism again.

In the Agra incident, about 100 people mostly belonging to the Dalit community and economically weaker section, had allegedly been “re-converted” to Hinduism after they participated in a shuddhi hawan on 8 December. The ‘ritual’ of the hawan was held in the compound of a makeshift temple in the Muslim dominated Sadar Bazar locality of Agra. More than 200 Muslim and mostly slum-dwelling rag-pickers of the area had been asked to attend the camp along with their identity papers.

While some of the participants said they were told it was an Aadhar card registration camp, some others, including elderly Muslim men, said they knew beforehand that it was a meeting organised by the Manch to reconvert them to Hinduism. The organisers also said that they will be given new Hindu names and a crash course in Hindu rituals for about a month. After the ceremony which quickly attracted a big crowd, photographers and mediapersons, the participants were hastily taken away by the organisers.

A local cleric, Mufti Abdul Khubeb Rumi, condemned the exercise saying the organisers had “tricked” the participants into adopting Hinduism by saying they will be given a BPL card, land and money. While he said these families would continue to be Muslim despite their conversion because there was no need for a re-entry into Islam, another cleric Maulana Muddassir said they were “neither Hindus nor Muslims” and will have to go through the conversion procession once again if they wanted to remain Muslims.

The upcoming exercise in Aligarh has been defended by Adityanath who is a BJP MP and no stranger to controversy.

According to local media reports from Gorakhpur, he was quoted as saying there was nothing irregular or illegal about it since it involved a homecoming by the descendants of those who had left Hinduism generations ago.

A professor in ancient history in a Lucknow University college, Prof Rahul Shukla, says there is no provision of converting to Hinduism since “one is born a Hindu and can remain one as long as one likes.”

However, if someone wanted to embrace Hinduism formally then there was a complicated procedure which only specified priests could perform and that too only in a proper temple.

“The exercise in Agra appears guided more by political considerations since the participants are poor, old and probably illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. I wonder what political mileage this could give to any Hindu outfit,” he said.

However, he said that programmes for large-scale conversions to Christianity were common in UP.

In November last year, the police and administration had to intervene following complaints that large-scale conversions to Christianity were allegedly planned at a Changai sabha in Allahabad that was being addressed by Canadian evangelist Peter Youngren. He also recalled an incident in Jhabua in adjoining Madhya Pradesh where the police had last month disrupted a meeting where scores of school children were allegedly being forcibly converted to Christianity at the behest of some elements.

The Uttar Pradesh government has also taken a serious view of the Agra incident and announced an alert in all districts to check any such incident.

“Forced conversions are illegal and action will be taken against such elements regardless of which religion they belong to,” said a Samajwadi Party spokesman.

By: Ratan Mani Lal

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