Cultural invasion and inter-religious marriages!
By Chinmay Bajekal
In today'smodern world, the biggest challenge to humanity and humanism is the threat it faces from sectarian forces. Forces which draw inspiration from ?sectarian? beliefs that their path alone is the right or valid one for the whole of mankind. It is high time that the international community understands the fact that any ideology, philosophy or culture which does not recognise or acknowledge the right and freedom of other cultures, religions or philosophies to exist is a threat to humanity and human values.
The aggression carried out by such sectarian cultures or philosophies is rightly termed as ?cultural invasion?. This sort of invasion is not new. The world has been a victim of this for more than a millennium. Famous civilisations in history have been victims of such invasions. Not only were they victims but they completely perished and vanished from the face of earth due to their native cultures being lost to these invasions.
All that remains today of ancient Greece, Persia or Egypt, are some shattered monuments here and there. This stands as a testimony to the fact that the culture or way of life is the soul of a nation. Whereas the land and people only form the necessary physical attributes of a country.
In the 21st century cultural invasions are carried out through different means. The Christians several centuries ago organised crusades to invade lands and wipe out other existing ways of life. So did the Muslims organise Jihads. But today these aggressive elements have resorted to peaceful methods which, under the law of many lands is not recognised as violence. However, if we think deeply into the consequences of conversions, we learn that conversion by any means is violence. It causes an emotional hurt to the entire family of the victim of conversion. Hurt could be of many kinds. It could be physical, mental or emotional. But a hurt caused intentionally is an act of aggression. Thus, it is not misleading to conclude that conversion of a person through force, coercion, incentives or emotional compulsion is an aggression and a violence. Not just to the individual but to his/her entire family or anyone who feels concerned by it.
Bridegrooms and brides of sectarian cultures in India and among the Indian community abroad have for long resorted to conversions of Hindus through marriages.
The Hindu context
Among the living cultures of today, Hinduism has been the worst victim of cultural invasion. For the past 800 years or more the Hindus were subjugated by foreign rulers who saw the Hindu culture with contempt. Several places of worship of the Hindus were destroyed and their woman folk humiliated and taken as slaves. After all this India had to suffer partition which resulted in one-third of its territory going under Islamic rule. Now these same territories which form neighboring states of India, are carrying out hostile activities from across the border. More than 20 million illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh are today residing in the country. This has added to India'sproblems of population explosion.
Hindus have always been a tolerant community. Several persecuted communities around the world have found safe refuge in India. The Jews, Zoroastrians, Syrian Christians or even the Tibetan Buddhists when driven out from their native lands were not only given refuge in India, but even honoured with complete freedom to practice their respective religions. The reason for such a great magnitude of tolerance lies in the perception of Hindus towards other faiths. Hinduism as a culture has always propagated that there is no one single path to God. Hinduism declares that there are always innumerable paths to God. And that one'sbelief or perception of God is an individual matter and best left to the individual to decide his own path. Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa said, ?As many minds so many paths to God?.
Thus, the Hindus have never hesitated to respect the freedom of other faiths to exist and flourish in their own land. However, with the advent of sectarian cultures that claim to be the only valid or relevant ones in today'sworld, there is a need for Hindus to change their stand.
These aggressive elements have resorted to peaceful methods which, under the law of many lands is not recognised as violence. However, if we think deeply into the consequences of conversions, we learn that conversion by any means is violence.
Cultural invasion through inter-religious marriages!
One of the less highlighted and not-so-commonly known methods of conversion is that of inter-religious marriage. Bridegrooms and brides of sectarian cultures in India and among the Indian community abroad have for long resorted to conversions of Hindus through marriages. Usually a Hindu girl or a boy when asked by their non-Hindu lover to change their faith fails to grasp the gravity of the situation. Considering that all religions are equally true and whether you live as a Hindu or a Muslim or Christian should not make much of a difference, he or she agrees to convert.
In this manner every year lakhs of Hindu youths are taken away from their ancestral faith. Even if in some cases the Hindu does not officially convert the children born out of such a couple follow the religion of the non-Hindu parent, whether it may be the father or the mother.
It is time that Hindu organisations concerned with the plight of Hindus, take up this cause of cultural invasion through inter-religious marriages. We should not fail to realise that when the future mothers and fathers of the Hindu community produce non-Hindu children, it results in a major decline in numbers of the Hindu community.
Let us never forget that all our great masters whether Swami Vivekananda, Mahatma Gandhi, Rishi Aurobindo strictly warned us against the disastrous consequences of conversions. In the words of Anne Besant…, ?Make no mistake, without Hinduism, India has no future. Hinduism is the soil into which India'sroots are struck, and torn out of that, she will inevitably wither, as a tree torn out from its place. Many are the religions and many are the races flourishing in India, but none of them stretches back into the far dawn of her past, nor is necessary for her endurance as a nation. Every one might pass away as they came, and India would still remain. But let Hinduism vanish and what is she? A ?geographical expression? of the past, a dim memory of a perished glory. Her history, her art, her monuments all have Hinduism written across them. And if Hindus do not maintain Hinduism, who shall save it? If India'sown children do not cling to her faith, who shall guard it? India alone can save India, and India and Hinduism are one.?