Intro: Can Obama ask the new Saudi king to open the doors to other forms of Islam for starters and then permit Christian churches and Hindu temples in the kingdom?
Everyone from Digvijay Singh to Sudheendra Kulkarni and other assorted members of the psuedo-secular establishment have latched on to US president Barack Obama’s most unsolicited advice to our government to adhere to Constitutional provisions relating to freedom of religion and religious tolerance. Obama’s observations, which were most unbecoming of a visiting head of state, were clearly made at the behest of the powerful church in the US. The powerful influence which the church, specially the fundamentalist born, wields in American politics is well known to discerning people. And given the widespread influence of the church in India, it is not in the least surprising that Obama chose to deliver a homily to his hosts even at the risk of leaving a bad taste in the mouth of the Indian Government. It may be recalled that the US administration under George Bush Junior too had given free advice to India when some churchs in eastern India were attacked by those opposing conversion activities of these bodies. Whenever Christian interests have been at stake, the American Government has unfailingly reminded India about its Constitutional obligations. But Washington never found it necessary to utter a word when thousands of Hindu families were hounded out of Kashmir Valley by anti-national elements fronting for Islamabad.
All those endorsing Obama’s stand conveniently forget the fact that growing opposition to the church and the popularity of the Ghar Vapasi programmes are legitimate outcomes of the widespread proselytisation activities of Christian missionaries. The right to propagate religion has been grossly misused by several Christian organisations to convert thousands of unsuspecting tribals and members of the backward castes. Everyone knows that thousands of crores are pumped into India every year for these nefarious conversion activities. None of the pseudo-secularists have thought it necessary to decry these cheap tactics of many missionaries, belonging to both the Catholic and Protestant streams, to convert the downtrodden. In fact, these missionaries, who belong to organised hierarchies with foreign links, are engaged in a frenetic race to baptisise as many Indians as possible. It is not for nothing that a visiting Pope envisioned a “rich harvest” (scope for conversions) in India. Conversions, most of which are based on offering allurements, are one of the most anti-secular activities of the churches in India. Over the decades an atmosphere was created by the Congress which made any criticism of these insidious activities politically incorrect. When RSS sarsanghachalak Mohan Bhagwat suggested a law to ban all conversions he was opposed fiercely by the archbishops. Their reaction was to be expected because Shri Bhagwat was striking at the very root of the controversial campaign of conversions. If the Ghar Vapasi programme of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), which was only aimed at bringing back non-Hindus to the Hindu fold, is bad in what way are the conversions of people to Christianity justified? Why are the so-called secularists silent about the disgusting activities of many of the missionaries?
Obama could freely speak of religious freedom only on India soil. He cut short his visit to India to be able to attend the funeral of the Saudi king. Can he dare to lecture the Saudi administration about the virtues of religious freedom too? In Saudi you are not allowed to even bring along with you any scripture except the Koran. Will Obama ask the new king to open the doors to other forms of Islam for starters and ask him to permit Christian churches and Hindu temples in the kingdom? He won’t do that because Saudi Arabia is a huge source of oil and is a major destination for the US arms and oil industries. America also has had no problems in dealing with the late President Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq of Pakistan who declared his country to be an Islamic republic. He has problem only with India which is known for its pluralism and religious freedom. The Narendra Modi government should respond to this gross interference in our internal affairs by quickly enacting an ordinance banning all religious conversions and making the offence cognisable and punishable by a life term of minimum ten years. Also, the flow of funds from abroad should be strictly monitored. It is high time the humbug and selective approach of the “secularists” are exposed once for all. Certain people are accusing Modi of not responding to the activities of the so-called fringe elements. The enactment of an anti-conversion ordinance will be his best response to these biased critics.
S Balakrishnan (The writer is ex-city editor and chief of bureau of The Times of India, Mumbai)