No ghar, so no ghar wapsi


Kancha Ilaiah

kancha ilaiahThe Sangh Parivar is conducting the so-called "ghar wapsi" programmes all over the country. According to a newspaper report, about 8,000 people have been brought back to "ghar" from Christianity in newly formed Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. The reconversion of some dalit Christians in Kerala is also widely reported. Nobody knows when did the dalits leave the Hindu "ghar". Where is this "ghar", which they left? And where is it that they are returning to now?

The Sangh Parivar launched the "ghar wapsi" campaign to create a fear psychosis among the evangelical Christians because they have been converting dalits and adivasis. Though the Sangh Parivar tried this programme with poor Muslims at Agra, they know that now Islam does not have an open conversion practice. But the moment one embraces Islam, his/her caste and cultural identity changes very quickly. Since Islam believes in one identity, after a generation or two, those who are converted into Islam would not know what their caste roots were.

On the contrary, in Christianity, the caste roots remain even after generations. For example, the most ancient Catholic Christians of Kerala, Mangalore and Goa would know their caste roots. But among Indian Muslims, such clear identities are non-existent.

The classical Catholicism of India is identified with brahmins and shudra upper castes like Nairs and Menons in Kerala and Kammas and Reddys in Andhra Pradesh. There are several Goan and Mangalorian Catholics, who claim their ancestry to Saraswatha and Konkani brahmins. This is not to contend that there are no dalit/OBC/ tribal converts into Catholicism. But they, too, are aware of their caste roots.

Several upper caste Catholics not only claim their brahminic ancestry, but that they share the nationalism of the kind that the Hindutva forces are claiming as some of them agree that Bharat is a Hindu rashtra. Top Christian political leaders, who have been sharing political power with upper castes in Kerala, Goa and Delhi come from this kind of Christian cultural background. These are the ones who turned Jesus into Brahma and Mary into Bharat Mata. They have huge properties and businesses. They are the ones who established world-class English Medium schools and colleges and educated the children of top five per cent of Indian rich and upper caste in their schools and colleges.

Deen Dayal Upadhyaya, Syama Prasad Mookerjee, L.K. Advani, Arun Shourie, Arun Jaitley and even intellectuals like Swapan Dasgupta, Chandan Mitra (both of them got their education from La Martiniere, Kolkata and St. Stephen's College, Delhi University) are a product of these schools and colleges.

Can the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh bring Christians back into the Hindu ghar? Those brahmins, who converted to Christianity long back do have a ghar in Hinduism even now.

If the RSS can get them back into Hinduism, then it can probably shake the Vatican too.

The real intention of the RSS is to terrorise the dalits, adivasis and the OBCs, who have been converting into several evangelical Christian denominations that have no centralised structure. After B.R. Ambedkar opened the lock of conversion at Nagpur in 1956, to Buddhism, the right to convert to a religion that they find useful or even beneficial has become a respectable spiritual and democratic right. Though Ambedkar expected dalits to convert to Buddhism most of them, across the country, preferred Christianity. Hardly any tribal or an OBC converted to Buddhism. This worries the RSS most.

The most significant issue is that the historical untouchables and the oppressed OBCs found a "spiritual home" in Christianity. The only thing they lost after conversion was the right to reservation.

Now with an NDA government at the Centre coupled with the Sangh Parivar's threats of re-conversion, Christians may be forced to choose between God/Jesus and reservation. Most of them, in my view, would choose the first option.

The RSS ideologues know that this will become a global issue dislocating Narendra Modi's development agenda. But the RSS, as an organisation, has never preferred economic development of all including SC/ST/OBCs; rather it has always opted for sustaining Hinduism with Varna dharma as its core. It never gave an open call for spiritual reform, which includes abolition of idol worship, caste and untouchability. The higher form of that reform should be of total man-woman equality, an issue with which all religions are still struggling.

This definitely requires a recodification of Hindu scriptures, particularly the Rig Veda and the Bhagavad Gita and formulating one Hindu book for constant reference. Their so-called slogan of "one culture" does not mean anything if there is no common scripture, which only talks about universal spiritual principles of God and human relationship, without alluring caste/varna to any one.

Hinduism today is a caste-based, idol-worshipping religion. It is like pre-Jesus Judaism and pre-Muhammad Arab religions. There cannot be one "ghar" in such a religion. That is the reason why even the Supreme Court could not define Hinduism as a religion like Buddhism, Christianity or Islam. The apex court's three-judge bench in 1995 had held that "Hindutva/Hinduism is a way of life".

The RSS encouraged massive idol worship and "Baba-ism" ever since it was established. Idol worship and caste segregation co-exist. Each caste has its own idol god/goddess in the villages and towns. No prophet could bring about religious oneness without abolishing idol worship. Since the RSS is opposed to abolishing idol worship and caste, it cannot save Hinduism in the long run. They know where it is heading. They know where it has headed in Indonesia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Today's political power at Delhi cannot alter that direction; only a massive religious reform can.

A few dalits or tribals might say that they got reconverted from Christianity. But they all keep reading Bible in their homes and keep praying to Jehovah and Jesus in their hearts. Even if the RSS keeps a watch on their homes, how can RSS men stop people from praying to Jesus in their heart? It was Jesus, who told them that your house (ghar) is your body and you are your soul. An RSS man can take an idol of Ram to him/her and they might pretend to worship that particular idol. But it was again Jesus who told them that pretentious worship is no worship and no idol is God. Their real prayer is within them.

I do not think when the Chinese Communist government, Army and developmental drive have failed in eliminating conversions in China, the RSS and its government at Delhi would succeed. The BJP must know that China is on the course to become "world's most Christian nation" within 15 years. Evangelism is an Asian phenomenon. More than anybody Mr Modi must understand this and check the RSS or lose all credibility.

The writer is director, Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy, Maulana Azad National Urdu University, Hyderabad

[Courtesy: The Asian Age, January 4, 2015]

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