A national anti-conversion law to "save" India's Hindus
Mumbai (AsiaNews) - Praveen Togadia, president of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), a ultra-nationalist Hindu group known in India for its attacks against minority communities, wants to continue "reconversions" to Hinduism (ghar wapsi). He is also calling for a national anti-conversion law.
On Sunday, Togadia spoke in Lucknow (Uttar Pradesh) at a rally organised by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a Hindu paramilitary group with which the VHP shares the same nationalist ideology.
On this occasion, the extremist leader said, "We do not want a situation in which Hindus, who are now 82 per cent of the population, become 22 per cent in our country".
On the same day in Kerala, local members of the VHP celebrated two Ghar Wapsi, i.e. "home coming" ceremonies as fundamentalists call these conversions to Hinduism.
The first took place in the village in Idduki district and involved about a hundred of Pentecostal Christians. The second took place in the district of Alappuzha, and involved 27 people.
Speaking to AsiaNews, Sajan George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), said that Togadia's claims about conversions are "baseless allegations, only intended to sow social disharmony and discord".
In fact, "the last [available] government census shows a decline in the proportion of Christians in the country," said the Christian leader. "From 2.60 per cent in 1971, they dropped to 2.44 per cent in 1981, to 2.34 per cent in 1991, to 2.30 per cent in 2001".
Starting in the second half of 2014, radical Hindu groups like the VHP and the RSS have organised several Ghar Wapsi ceremonies, involving mostly poor Muslim and Christian communities. In many cases, the "reconverted" said that they were induced by monetary incentives.
For Sajan George, such ceremonies "are a serious violation of a person's freedom of choice and conscience. They should be stopped by all necessary legal means. These elements [ultra-nationalist Hindus] feel encouraged by the silence of the authorities."
According to Fr Errol Fernandes SJ, "there seems to be a rise of fundamentalism and other forms of domination in the world, even in our country. Where does that lead to?"
For the Jesuit priest, who is a Holy Scriptures expert, "Violence is often the result of fear, and only cowards and bullies react to situations with violence and destruction. In doing so, they do not understand that they are hurting themselves. "
Calls for a national anti-conversion law also worry minority communities. In fact, whilst freedom of religion and the state's secular nature are enshrined in the Constitution, some states have already adopted laws against conversion.
In theory, only forced conversions are targeted but such laws discriminate against and persecute those who embrace religions other than Hinduism.