THE noises made, with increasing loudness, in recent weeks, for conversion of Muslims into Hinduism are part of the Sangh Parivar’s covert plans to convert a secular polity into a Hindu Raj. The actors have varied, but the theme of the sordid drama has remained unchanged. A thread of continuity in blazing red—or, if you like, saffron—runs through all the pronouncements and actions for well nigh a century.
In 1925, the Pratap of Lahore carried what Lala Hardayal called his political testament. “I declare that the future of Hindu race, of Hindustan and of the Punjab, rests on these four pillars: (1) Hindu Sanghathan, (2) Hindu Raj, (3) Shuddhi of Moslems, and (4) Conquest and Shuddhi of Afghanistan and the Frontiers. So long as the Hindu nation does not accomplish these four things, the safety of our children and great-grand children will be ever in danger, and the safety of the Hindu race will be impossible. The Hindu race has but one history, and its institutions are homogeneous. But the Musalmans and Christians are far removed from the confines of Hinduism, for their religions are alien and they love Persian, Arab and European institutions. Thus, just as one removes foreign matter from the eye, Shuddhi must be made of these two religions. Afghanistan and the hilly regions of the frontier were formerly part of India, but are at present under the domination of Islam. … Just as there is Hindu religion in Nepal, so there must be Hindu institutions in Afghanistan and the frontier territory; otherwise it is useless to win Swaraj” (emphasis added, throughout). Much has changed since. But that mindset has endured to this day.
By now it has been fully established that the 350 Muslims who were converted to Hinduism in the slum areas of Agra by the Bajrang Dal and the other Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) front Dharm Jagran Manch were lured with promises of BPL and Aadhaar cards (Sandeep Joshi, The Hindu , December 10, 2014). It was part of the “Purkhon ki ghar wapsi” (homecoming for ancestors). (See also Hemendra Chaturvedi, Hindustan Times , December 10, 2014.)
A senior journalist, Bharat Bhushan, has ably exposed the modus operandi . He deserves to be quoted in extenso for he has also exposed American deceit. “The Dharam Jagran Samity, an RSS body, is seeking donations for conversion—Rs.5 lakh to convert a Muslim and Rs.1 lakh to convert a Christian—to Hinduism. Its letter soliciting cash contributions claims that Christians and Muslims have become a ‘problem’ for the country and says, ‘Bandhuwar (Friends), lots of money will be required in the “ghar wapsi” because the work of conversion is increasing—more workers and more people need to be covered.’ In offering allurements for conversion, how is it any different from the Christian proselytisers the RSS criticises?
“Moreover, foreign funds for conversion are used just as Christian missionaries are said to do. The activities of the RSS in tribal areas have been funded by a U.S.-based body, International Development Relief Fund (IDRF) . According to the Campaign to Stop Funding Hate, also based in the U.S., 82 per cent of All IDRF funding goes to the RSS in India and 70 per cent of the monies are used for ‘Hinduisation/tribal/education’ work, aimed at spreading Hindutva ideology among tribals.
“The main focus of the RSS had been the reconversion of Christians. Its prominent organisations which work among the tribals are Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, Ekal Vidyalaya, Sewa Bharati, Vivekananda Kendra, Bharat Kalyan Parishad and Friends of Tribal Society. Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, Ekal Vidyalaya and Sewa Bharati have been implicated in the past in anti-Christian violence in Madhya Pradesh” ( Asian Age , 13 December 13, 2014). The U.S. administration should be ashamed of itself.
Lala Hardyal’s lament in 1925 very much persists in these quarters. “At a point of time, the entire world was Hindu. There were 700 crore Hindus, and now there are just 100 crore,” said Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Praveen Togadia, addressing the Virat Hindu Sammelan in Mumbai on December 14 ( The Indian Express , December 15). A pamphlet circulated by the Jagran Samity in Aligarh listed the enemies—Muslims, Christians, Maoists and terrorists—and spoke of the “purification” of Hindu society.
The “shuddhi” (purification) movement began in the 1920s. Its aim was to convert—“reconvert”, according to the Parivar—Muslims and Christians to Hinduism and thus “realise the ideal of unifying India nationally, socially and religiously” (R.C. Majumdar, H.C. Raychaudhuri and K. Datta, An Advanced History of India , 1950; page 883).
Unequal citizens This is the heart of the matter and its sinister implications are obvious. It implies a clear rejection of Muslims and Christians as equal citizens unless they become Hindus. Hence, the RSS’ opposition to the Minorities Commission in 1978, hence also Murli Manohar Joshi’s objection to Muslim names, a decade later. He said: Why not call yourselves Mohammediya Hindus?
But the Parivar and its covert sympathisers in the media go into high dudgeon whenever there are reports of conversion of Hindus to Christianity or Islam. A false report of forced conversion of 180 families of Harijans to Islam in the village of Meenakshipuram, Tirunelveli district, Tamil Nadu, fouled the communal atmosphere in the entire country (story on page 126). K. Arumugam, Regional Director for SC/ST Welfare, Government of India, Madras, found two things: the Harijans were treated disgracefully “by caste Hindus”. They could not go to temples and schools. But there was no allurement, least of all, foreign money. “It was they who approached the Muslim leaders first.” The Hindu ’s detailed report was to the same effect (June 15, 1981; for texts of both reports, see the writer’s compilation The Muslims of India , OUP, 2003, pages 186-196).
A solemn compact It is a touchy subject. Article 25(1) of the Constitution of India guarantees the fundamental “right freely to profess, practice and propagate religion”, implicitly, without recourse to fraud, deceit or bribery. When the provision was debated in the Constituent Assembly on December 6, 1948, a leading member of its Drafting Committee, K.M. Munshi, expounded its meaning and the history behind it. “I have only a few words to say with regard to the objections taken to the word ‘propagate’. Many honourable Members have spoken before me placing the point of view that they need not be afraid of the word ‘propagate’ in this particular article. When we object to this word, we think in terms of the old regime. In the old regime, the Christian missionaries, particularly those who were British, were at an advantage. But since 1938, I know, in my part of Bombay, the influence which was derived from their political influence and power has disappeared. If I may mention a fact within my knowledge in 1937 when the first Congress Ministry came into power in Bombay, the Christian missionaries who till then had great influence with the Collectors of the Districts and through their influence acquired converts, lost it and since then whatever conversions take place in that part of the country are only the result of persuasion and not because of material advantages offered to them. In the present set-up that we are now creating under this Constitution, there is a secular state. There is no particular advantage to a member of one community over another; nor is there any political advantage by increasing one’s fold . In those circumstances, the word ‘propagate’ cannot possibly have dangerous implications, which some of the Members think that it has.
“Moreover, I was a party from the very beginning to the compromise with the minorities, which ultimately led to many of these clauses being inserted in the Constitution and I know it was on this word that the Indian Christian community laid the greatest emphasis, not because they wanted to convert people aggressively, but because the word ‘propagate’ was a fundamental part of their tenet. Even if the word were not there, I am sure, under the freedom of speech which the Constitution guarantees, it will be open to any religious community to persuade other people to join their faith. So long as religion is religion, conversion by free exercise of the conscience has to be recognised. The word ‘propagate’ in this clause is nothing very much out of the way as some people think, nor is it fraught with dangerous consequences.
“Speaking frankly, whatever its results we ought to respect the compromise. The Minorities Committee the year before the last performed a great achievement by having a unanimous vote on almost every provision of its report. The unanimity created an atmosphere of harmony and confidence in the majority community. Therefore, the word ‘propagate’ should be maintained in this article in order that the compromise so laudably achieved by the Minority Committee should not be disturbed” ( Constituent Assembly Debates , Volume 7, pages 837-8). This accomplished lawyer was also a critic of Jawaharlal Nehru’s secularism. Article 25 was not based on a majority vote. It was based on an accord.
But that solemn compact, recorded in Article 25(1) was “disturbed”—by the Supreme Court itself. In Rev. Stanislaus vs State of Madhya Pradesh (1977)1 SCC 677, Chief Justice A.N. Ray, of the Emergency era, ruled that what Article 25(1) “grants is not the right to convert another person to one’s own religion, but to transmit or spread one’s religion by an exposition of it tenets. It has to be remembered that Article 25(1) guarantees ‘freedom of conscience’ to every citizen, and not merely to the followers of one particular region, and that, in turn postulates that there is no fundamental right to convert another person to one’s own religion because if a person purposely undertakes the conversion of another person to his religion, as distinguished from his effort to transmit or spread the tenets of his religion, that would impinge on the ‘freedom of conscience’ guaranteed to all the citizens of the country alike.” He did not refer to its draftsman K.M. Munshi’s authoritative exposition. The ruling was dutifully followed by a Division Bench of two Judges in Satya Ranjan Majhi & Anr vs State of Orissa & Ors (2003) 7 SCC 439. It would suggest that while a writer is entitled to express his views, he has no right to persuade the reader “purposefully”—which is what all writers do!
Chief Justice Ray’s ruling received devastating refutation from the country’s foremost constitutional lawyer, H.M. Seervai: “The right to propagate religion gives a meaning to freedom of choice, for choice involves not only knowledge but an act of will. A person cannot choose if he does not know what choices are open to him. To propagate religion is not to impart knowledge and to spread it more widely, but to produce intellectual and moral conviction leading to action, namely, the adoption of that religion. Successful propagation of religion would result in conversion. Ray C.J. mistakenly believed that if A deliberately set out to convert B by propagating A’s religion, that would impinge on B’s ‘freedom of conscience’. But, as we have seen, the precise opposite is true: A’s propagation of his religion with a view to its being accepted by B, gives an opportunity to B to exercise his free choice of a religion.
“To sum up: the word ‘religion’ in the expression ‘the right freely to profess, practice and propagate religion’ means any religion. Freedom of conscience gives a person freedom to choose or not to choose any one of the many religions which are being propagated. On his deciding to choose a particular religion which is being propagated with a view to its acceptance, and on his being prepared to comply with the requirements necessary to be a member of that religion, he has the freedom to be converted to that religion. Therefore, conversion does not in any way interfere with the freedom of conscience but is a fulfilment of it and gives meaning to it. It is submitted that the above view harmonises with the legislative history of Art. 25(1) and the inclusion of the word ‘propagate’. …
“This is true of the propagation of any doctrine which calls for action. To give an example which is not charged with emotion, Cobden, Bright and other leaders of the free trade doctrine propagated that doctrine for the economic salvation of a protectionist United Kingdom. They preached that doctrine in Parliament and out of Parliament; they organised meetings, formed associations, engaged in public discussion and the like. Their propagation of the free trade doctrine was successful, for a great political party was converted to it and gave effect to it by repealing protectionist laws, and bringing in free trade” (Constitutional Law of India , Fourth Edn., Volume 2, page 1,289).
Historical continuity Now, for the thread of historical continuity. On March 22, 1939, the RSS supremo M.S. Golwalkar published his infamous pamphlet We or Our Nationhood Defined . Years later, A.B. Vajpayee sought vainly to deny its authenticity. Golwalkar wrote: “Thus applying the modern understanding of ‘Nation’ to our present conditions, the conclusion is unquestionably forced upon us that in this country, Hindusthan, the Hindu Race with its Hindu religion, Hindu Culture and Hindu Language (the natural family of Sanskrit and her offsprings) complete the Nation concept; that, in fine, in Hindusthan exists and must needs exist the ancient Hindu nation and nought else but the Hindu Nation. All those not belonging to the national i.e. Hindu Race Religion, Culture and Language, naturally fall out of the pale of real ‘National’ life.
“We repeat; in Hindusthan, the land of the Hindus, lives and should live the Hindu Nation—satisfying all the five essential requirements of the scientific nation concept of the modern world. Consequently only those movements are truly ‘National’ as aim at re-building, re-vitalising and emancipating from its present stupor, the Hindu Nation. Those only are nationalist patriots, who, with the aspiration to glorify the Hindu race and Nation next to their heart, are prompted into activity and strive to achieve that goal. All others are either traitors and enemies to the National cause, or, to take a charitable view, idiots. …
“The foreign races in Hindusthan must either adopt the Hindu culture and language, must learn to respect and hold in reverence Hindu religion, must entertain no idea but those of the glorification of the Hindu race and culture, i.e., of the Hindu nation and must lose their separate existence to merge in the Hindu race, or may stay in the country, wholly subordinated to the Hindu Nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment—not even citizen’s rights. There is, at least should be, no other course for them to adopt.”
Over a quarter century later, in February 1966 came Golwalkar’s magnum opus, Bunch of Thoughts . He wrote: “The question before us now is, what is the attitude of those people who have been converted to Islam or Christianity? They are born in this land, no doubt. But are they true to its salt? Are they grateful towards this land which has brought them up? Do they feel that they are the children of this land and its tradition, and that to serve it is their great good fortune? Do they feel it a duty to serve her? No! Together with the change in their faith, gone are the spirit of love and devotion. They look to some foreign lands as their holy places. They call themselves ‘Sheikhs’ and ‘Syeds’. Sheikhs and Syeds are certain clans in Arabia. How then did these people come to feel that they are their descendants? That is because they have cut off all their ancestral national moorings of this land. …
“Everybody knows that only a handful of Muslims came here as enemies and invaders. So also only a few foreign Christian missionaries came here. Now the Muslims and Christians have enormously grown in number. They did not grow just by multiplication as in the case of fishes. They converted the local population. We can trace our ancestry to a common source, from where one portion was taken away from the Hindu fold and became Muslim and another became Christian. The rest could not be converted and they have remained as Hindus.
“… It is our duty to call these our forlorn brothers, suffering under religious slavery for centuries, back to their ancestral home. As honest freedom-loving men, let them overthrow all signs of slavery and domination and follow the ancestral ways of devotion and national life. All types of slavery are repugnant to our nature and should be given up. This is a call for all those brothers to take their original place in our national life. And let us all celebrate a great Diwali on the return of those prodigal sons of our society. There is no compulsion here. This is only a call and request to them to understand things properly and come back and identify themselves with their ancestral Hindu way of life in dress, customs, performing marriage ceremonies and funeral rites and such other things.”
Cultural nationalism This nationalist then took a swipe at Indian nationalists: “There are some people who claim that they have achieved unity of Hindus, Muslims, Christians and all others on the political and economic plane. But why limit the oneness only there? Why not make it more wide and more comprehensive so as to fuse them all in the Hindu way of life, in our dharma and take them back as lost brothers? To those who speak of unity on the political and economic plane, we say that we stand not only for political and economic unity but also for cultural and religious unity.”
This is what the BJP’s manifestos call “cultural nationalism” or Hindutva. Chapter 12 of Bunch of Thoughts is devoted to “Internal Threats”. Three are named and denounced—the Muslims, the Christians and “the Communists”. Let us turn to the bible of bigotry, V.D. Savarkar’s Hindutva (1923). His message was the same: “To every Hindu, from the Santa to the Sadhu this Bharata bhumi this Sindhusthan is at once a Pitribhu and a Punyabhu—fatherland and a holy land. That is why in the case of some of our Mohammedan or Christian countrymen who had originally been forcibly converted to a non-Hindu religion and who consequently have inherited, along with Hindus, a common Fatherland and a greater part of the wealth of a common culture—language, law, customs, folklore and history—are not and cannot be recognised as Hindus. For though Hindusthan to them is Fatherland as to any other Hindu yet it is not to them a Holyland too. Their mythology and Godmen, ideas and heroes are not the children of this soil. Consequently their names and their outlook smack of a foreign origin.”
Hence, Savarkar’s call: “Ye, who by race, by blood, by culture, by nationality, possess almost all the essentials of Hindutva and had been forcibly snatched out of our ancestral home by the hand of violence—ye have only to render whole-hearted love to our common Mother and recognise her not only as Fatherland (Pitribhu) but even as a Holyland (punyabhu); and ye would be most welcome to the Hindu fold.”
Quarrel with history The ghar wapsi campaign is based on these texts. If it picked up speed after Narendra Modi became Prime Minister, it is because he has calculatedly projected himself as the icon of Hindutva. He has worn many caps in the last couple of years, but the episode of his brusque rejection of the Muslim cap stands out. In the sunshine of his benevolence, the worms of Hindutva began crawling out of the woodwork. The harsh truth is that now a divisive figure like Modi is the country’s Prime Minister. In his very first speech to the Lok Sabha, he referred to “1,200 years of slavery”, calculatedly. Indian nationalists speak of 200 years of slavery under the British. Hindu nationalists refer to 1,200 years. Like the rest of the RSS, Modi has a quarrel with history. Which is why the Sangh Parivar will never be at peace with others—or with itself. If it gets more powerful, it will plunge the country into turmoil. It must be fought and stopped now.
The signs are ominous —the Gita as the National Book, the uniform civil code, the Ram temple, praise of Godse, and so on. There is dissociation and disapproval but no condemnation, not even of reference to Muslims as “haramzade” (persons of illegitimate birth) by a Minister of State. The Sadhvi is not sacked. It was not a mere swear word. It was an obvious innuendo.
Connect the dots and what emerges is a rejection of Muslims as Muslims unless they convert themselves to Hinduism—to pave the way for the establishment of a Hindu State. Muslims must accept moral suicide. One is reminded of the couplets Jab Gulistan ko lahoo ki zaroorat padhi/ Sabse pahle hamari hi gardan kati. Phir bhi kahte hai hamse ye ahle chaman / Yeh chaman hai hamara, tumhara nahi (When the Garden needed blood for its survival, it was our throats that were first slit. Yet people in the Garden tell us/ This garden belongs to us not to you).