Flexing its muscles, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) has once again stressed on its pet demand for a law prohibiting conversions from Hinduism to other faiths. However, it wants its own ghar wapsi programs, as part of which thousands of Muslims and Christians have been made to convert to Hinduism, to be left out of this legislation. Their justification? They are reconverting people to their original faith, they say.
The Sangh Parivar body has organised a show of strength at 700 places across India including 45 in Maharashtra to press for the demand. “We are demanding a law proscribing the conversion of Hindus to Islam and Christianity,” VHP central secretary Prof Venkatesh Abdeo told dna, claiming that conversions from Hinduism usually occurred because of proselytisers taking advantage of backwardness, poverty and illiteracy and also ‘the fear of the sword’.
The VHP pratinidhi mandal, which met in Hyderabad last month, had also passed a resolution calling for an anti-conversion law, a long-pending demand, and an impetus to the ghar wapsi campaign, said Abdeo. He pointed out how states like Gujarat, Arunachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and even the Congress-ruled Himachal Pradesh had passed similar legislations. Under fire from the opposition over ghar wapsi campaigns, the Narendra Modi-led government had recently told the Lok Sabha that it favoured anti-conversion laws in the states and at the Centre.
“Most Christians and Muslims were originally Hindus who converted under the fear or because of temptations. This is underway even today,” said Abdeo. However, he said that the ghar wapsi to Hinduism from these Abrahamic faiths should not come under this law. “There is a difference between ghar wapsi and conversion. In ghar wapsi, these people are returning to their original parampara (tradition). If a Muslim converts to Hinduism, it cannot be said that a person who was originally Muslim is becoming a Hindu. They themselves accept their Hindu roots which date to hundreds of years ago,” said Abdeo, pointing to how saints like Ramanujacharya and Ramanandacharya had led attempts to revert converts back to Hinduism.
Abdeo further backed his claims by saying that warrior-king Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj had reconverted his general Netaji Palkar, who had been converted to Islam by the Mughals, and his own brother-in-law Bajajirao Naik Nimbalkar, who had been converted under pressure from the Adilshah. In recent years, Hindu missionary Masurkar Maharaj of Masurashram had also led these efforts. “We want Muslims and Christians to come back to Hinduism in large numbers,” said Abdeo.
By February end, the VHP has organised jagran (awareness) programs in 45 places in Maharashtra. More such events are scheduled at Satara, Aheri in Gadchiroli, Amravati and Bhandara in the coming days. “We are demanding (the law) but also organising these awareness programs,” said Abdeo, adding that an average attendance of over 10,000 in each of these meetings would help them reach out to crores.
“No government can afford to be in slumber when such awareness is underway,” said Abdeo, adding that these sammelans also demanded a ban on cow slaughter, an end to caste divisions, a campaign against love jihad and promoted the concept of a good Hindu family. On questions about conversions due to an oppressive caste system, he claimed that some Dalit castes had been pushed down the social hierarchy during Islamic rule and forced to do menial work for opposing these invaders.