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People's Response to the Fascist Challenge

By Hasan Mansur

Events in Gujarat, Orissa and elsewhere are casting their shadow foreboding things to come. The sardonic actions of the RSS-run state in Gujarat are rather chilling, reminiscent of the horrendous events in Germany during the Thirties when the Nazis were steadily gaining ground, all set to grab power. The census ordered in respect of Christians and Muslims passing it as a routine exercise undertaken by the intelligence agencies and the pretension that the Government is not aware of it, speak of a sinister conspiracy to unleash genocidal killings there.

Questions addressed to these communities by the Intelligence are, what ‘trickeries’ they are adopting in conversions, number of Christians involved in ‘criminal actions’ and having a ‘criminal attitude’; it also wants to know the number of their children going to school, foreign funds received, gun licenses held if any etc. These sinister actions are to mark these communities and to target them.

The Chairman of the National Minorities Commission, Dr. Tahir Mahmood has been singled out by the VHP for alleging that the figures given by the centre on the funds received by Christian institutions from abroad, are not correct and on the other hand, Hindu organisations were getting more funds from abroad. He was attacked by the BJP spokesman too who accused him of partisanship. The outcry against the commission by these communal outfits and their demand that the Human Rights Commission could take care of the issues of all minorities is a strategy to do away with the rights of minorities enshrined in the constitution.

As for the campaign against conversions spearheaded by the Sangh Parivar, its affiliates are engaged in the same task of reconversion but euphemistically called ‘home-coming’. This charade was exposed by the New Indian Express date-lined 14/2/99 that the RSS had plans to reconvert 2,000 but 176 turned up, alas, most of them were not Christians. Granted there were a few of them, the Government has failed to check whether these ‘reconversions’ had been through use of force, fraudulent means which amount to violation of public order and morality and Article 25 of the Indian Constitution frowns on this, stating freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion is (1) subject to public order, morality and health. It needs to be pointed out that Sonia Gandhi’s Madhya Pradesh Government where these reconversions are taking place is providing full protection to this unholy exercise!

The country is slowly wakening to the dire threats of the juggernaut of fascism rolling across this country and even political parties that played footsie with the saffron bands have been loudest in denouncing communalism as the worst threat to democratic governance. The entire left of all shades is united in recognising the Sangh Parivar as its enemy number one. Dalits however badly divided among themselves, are one in denouncing the Manuvada theology of the RSS. There are several democratic action groups right across the land who are gearing themselves to avert the worst threat this country has been facing.

The campaign against the Sangh Parivar must not be isolated from issues like price rise, unemployment, denial of shelter, displacement of people, health and the saffron bands must be shown as unconcerned with these issues which constitute the question of life and death for millions of the poor in India. Besides it needs to be conclusively proved that Manuvada has been singularly lacking in conscience as pointed out by Ambedkar. To illustrate this new strategy, a forum of Dalits, left, social action and human rights groups has been formed in Bangalore with the hope of extending it to the rest of the state. Bangalore alone has more than 700 slums, one fourth of its population living there; every slum is a mini-India with people of all faiths, languages and cultures living there. The forum is fighting for their basic demand for land, roof over the head, basic amenities like drinking water, power, toilets and drainage. United on this score, these people would take to the democratic ethos with greater ease and understanding than the so-called literate middle class and secularism would be a natural way of life with them. This would be the most effective means of bringing people together to combat communalism.

The strength of a movement is in promoting secular actions and what could be more secular than the understanding that the right to life with dignity is inherent, man or woman and this comprises literacy, employment, shelter, health etc., that could bring people of all faiths, languages and cultures together in a campaign for a place in the sun? Merely harping on the humanism of all faiths, specially the myth of the tolerance of the faith of Manuvada, could be counter productive; what needs to be stressed is that the theology of prejudice, lying and vendetta in which the Sangh Parivar surpasses all, is murderous and so what the people need is an ideology that acknowledges that humanism underlies culture that recognises the essential sacredness of all human beings and build on that basis a society that is truly egalitarian, just, creative and life affirming.


The Confusion Called Conversion

By Yoginder Sikand

Recently we have witnessed a deluge of writing in the Indian press on religious conversions, and, predictably enough, the BJP has even called for a ‘national debate’ on the issue. That the Hindutva brigade, for want of any constructive agenda, is raking this up as yet another trump card to further its own political purposes is clearly obvious. The passions that have been raised on the matter, culminating in the burning down of churches and the gruesome killing of a Christian social activist and his two young children in Orissa, show the lengths to which Hindutva fanatics can go in their blood-thirsty crusade against all who differ from them.

Contrary to what Hindutva leaders assert, and what some newspapers, uncritically relying on their statements, have claimed, there have been no instances of forcible conversions to Christianity among the tribals and Dalits. True, many conversions have been made by offering would-be converts promises of material reward, but to brand these cases of ‘rice-bowl Christians as ‘forced conversions’ is grossly misleading. Admittedly, the methods of some Christian missionaries are nothing short of bribery, but this sort of conversion has been condemned by many Christians themselves as not only unethical but also as completely un-Christian. It must also be remembered that offering what in effect are bribes for conversions is a method not limited to certain Christian missionary groups. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad and allied outfits are believed to be using similar tactics in their drive to convert several Muslim groups in Rajasthan, most notably the Cheeta Merats and Kathats in the Ajmer-Beawar area, to Hinduism.

The present debate on the issue of conversions has almost wholly focused on conversions to Christianity, and conversions to Hinduism, sponsored by organisations such as the Arya Samaj and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, have been totally ignored. Christianity and Islam have been sought to be portrayed as ‘predator’ religions that ‘prey on the flocks’ of other communities to build up their own numerical strength. This completely one-sided portrayal totally ignores the historical role of Hinduism as a missionary religion. If Brahminism has not been as eager to spread its teachings to people of other communities the reason lies not in any supposed unique essence of Brahminical tolerance, but in the fact that, historically, the Brahmins have kept the knowledge of the Vedas as a caste monopoly so that they could exercise an unchallenged control over the rest of the Hindu society. So carefully did they guard this monopoly that was the source of their power that they refused to allow non-Brahmin Hindus, leave alone non-Hindus, access to the Vedas. The Manusmriti, the Bible of Brahminism, goes to such lengths to protect this Brahmin that it lays down that if a Shudra should merely hear the words of the Vedas, his ears should be filled with molten lead and glass as a punishment.

Since Hinduism has no fixed or central beliefs or texts, the only qualification of being a Hindu being a member of a certain caste within the caste or varna order headed by the Brahmins, traditionally Hinduism, or more properly Brahminism, spread by the gradual absorption of non-Hindu groups into the caste system. This is how, for instance, Brahminism was able to absorb millions of Dalits, tribal and backward castes, who, being outcastes or outside the caste system, were non-Hindus, into the Hindu fold. This process of conversion through gradual Hinduisation is still in operation in many tribal areas in the country and among several Dalit groups. It is probable that the annual conversions of tribal and other such groups to Hinduism far exceeds the conversions to Christianity or any other religion. Will those who, in their fierce opposition to the activities of the Christian missionaries, are today calling for a ban on all conversions also agree to ban tribal and Dalit conversions to Hinduism? The Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Arya Samaj are active in converting not just Hindu converts to other religions back to Hinduism but also born Christians, Muslims and others. Would those opposed to the Christians on grounds of conversions also agree to outlaw conversions by these Hindu groups?

In societies, such as India, that have not undergone secular transformation, religious conversion movements are essentially a form of social protest against oppression that is legitimised by the dominant religion. That is why, almost all those who joined the Buddhist and Jain religion and later, Islamic, Sikh and Christian fold, were drawn from among the oppressed castes. For them, joining a new religion was, above all, a dramatic demonstration of revolt and protest against Brahminical tyranny. Social protest against Brahminism and the caste system that it sanctifies lies behind Ambedkar’s conversion to Buddhism in 1956 along with three hundred thousand of his followers as well as the continuing conversion to Christianity among Dalits and tribals. To put a ban on conversions would, therefore, be tantamount to silencing the voices of protest among the oppressed against the most inhuman social order that mankind has ever devised-the caste system. Radical Dalits would certainly find, and rightly so, any legislation aimed at banning conversions a devious ploy to keep them enslaved within the caste system, forever at the mercy of the ‘upper’ castes.

In this context, it is instructive to reflect on the seemingly unending spate of attacks on Christian activists in various parts of the country. Mostly, these attacks were masterminded by local ‘upper’ caste feudal elements who see the work of the Christians as threatening their own entrenched positions in the local power structure. Whether or not the activities of these Christian missionaries who are helping the poor is resulting in conversions to Christianity, the point is that their work among the poor is increasingly felt to be an attack on ‘upper’ caste hegemony. Hence, the recent spate of attacks need to be viewed in a broader perspective, as not just flagrant violations of religious freedom, which is serious enough, but as an assault on the struggles of the poor and the marginalised fighting for a more just and humane society free from the shackles of the caste system that Brahminism has bound them up in for millennia.


On Dialogue
Wadhwa Commission
The evil in our midst
Truth Behind Forcible Conversions
Alternate accent
Bjp View
Without Conversion
Right to preach
Cast, not cash
NCM report
Towards Hindu Nation
Orissa Killing
Dhara Singh
RSS media on Christians
Index of Attacks

HINDU ,Dalit, Muslims, INDIA , 

Fascism, Nazism, GenocidesHuman rights

Indian fascism :Intro,Myths, Organizations, Cultural Fascism,Babri Masjid, Bombay Riots , Role of Govt. 

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Last updated: February 23, 2000 .