India, Hindustan or Bharat all signify that this great country is a land of great heritage and diversity, which extends as religious diversity with Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains- all calling the country home. Off late, the integrity of our diversified nation is put to test by people of divisive mindset. The Bench of Honorable Supreme Court presided over by Honorable Justice Mukesh Shah and Honorable Justice Hima Kohli asked the Government of India to file an affidavit on the issue of forcible religious conversions in India, terming this as a very serious issue involving national security in the Petition preferred by Advocate and renowned BJP leader, Ashiwini Kumar Upadhyay.
The Honorable Court has also observed that religious conversions by means of force, allurement or fraud may “ultimately affect the security of the nation and freedom of religion and conscience of citizens”. Recent times are witness to the notorious re-emergence of the issue of forceful religious conversions. It is noteworthy that changing religion in India is a tedious and time consuming process involving numerous steps and varies from Religion to which one intends to convert to. The Constitution of India under Article 25 guarantees freedom of religion to all citizens, including the right to change one’s religion, thus no law restricts religious conversions in India apart from social barriers. It is often observed that the issue of religious conversion is surrounded by tremendous controversies as majority of conversions evidently are Hindus converting to Christianity or Islam. In general, there have been reports of forced conversions which have been stopped from happening by various religious groups which at times have become violent.
The issue is conversion by means of force, allurement or fraud; which essentially involve fraudulent intention and specific object. The secular fabric of this country constitutionally or by its inherent nature of majority religion does not prevent anybody to convert to any religion being influenced by greatness of that religion. However, if the conversion is by force, allurement or fraud; the demystified objective behind such conversion appears to be to create imbalance in heterogeneous, yet balanced society and to disturb the equilibrium. Consequently, the majority religion followers get threatened and feel vulnerable, insecure and create unrest in the individual mind which pervades the group and thus enlarges the unrest. And the end is violence! Therefore, to check forceful conversion, the vulnerability of the section of people needs to be addressed. The religious conversion is still a grey area in law and where many convert out of personal faith and their inclination towards the beliefs of another faith, which is understandable and remotely logical, however motivated conversion or forceful conversion is not uncommon.
The conversions have been rampant across the State of Tamil Nadu, the memories of Meenakshipuram are still fresh in our minds when hundreds of Hindus (around 180 families) were converted to Islam by making false promises so induced by the so called educated youths. And now an educational institution in Thanjavur harasses a teenager to such an extent that she preferred ending her life to converting to Christianity.
The conversions have been rampant across the State of Tamil Nadu, the memories of Meenakshipuram are still fresh in our minds when hundreds of Hindus (around 180 families) were converted to Islam by making false promises so induced by the so-called educated youths
Going back to the Judicial comment falling from the Apex Court of the Land, it becomes of paramount importance to remind ourselves of the 2009 Judgment passed by the Honorable Kerala High Court wherein it quoted the Police Report which narrated horrific tales of roots of Love Jihad tracing to organised efforts in that directions as early as 1996. It is heartening when one observes this situation from a bird’s eye view. As one look at the huge data on conversion which for political mileage is being manipulated as a minority question. And the issue of forced conversions is not restricted to the territory of our beloved motherland Bharat Mata, but it can be traced globally with the aggressive proselytising tendency of those religions. Faith Based Organisations, controversially active in India, include Human Life International established in 2011 and Samaritan’s Purse which is active in both India and Africa and whose deep disdain for Hinduism in India is funded by both Republicans and Democrats in the US and is reportedly amongst the top ten recipients of the USAID funding colonial mindset for religious conversion.
Indian Government has launched crackdown of foreign a funded NGO’s and Faith Based Organisations, however Parliamentary logjam instigated by opposition parties have stalled the issue. The redressal to this colonial mindset of forcible religious conversion has been attempted to be undone by several States like Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan etc which have enacted anti-conversion laws. This has left the so-called secular forces in a limbo since the Hindu organisations with Sanatan Dharma ideology have been strongly supporting the proposition that values of Hinduism are fundamentally non-proselytising as opposed to Christianity and Islam. So the efforts of Government of India towards affirmative action have been acting as a deterrent in fraudulently walking people into the trap of conversion by luring them of benefits, since the Hindu’s of all strata belonging to economically weaker section by the pronouncement of the Honorable Supreme Court on the 103rd Amendment to the Constitution have been upheld in which I played a small part in assisting the Hon’ble Supreme Court. It remains to be seen how Honorable Supreme Court judiciously deals with the issue when the Government files its Reply As on the previous date of hearing the Honorable Court observed “This is a very serious matter. Sincere efforts are to be made by the Centre to stop forced conversions. Otherwise a very difficult situation will come. Tell us what action do you propose….You have to step in.”
“It is a very serious issue which affects security of the nation and freedom of religion and conscience. Therefore, it is better that Union of India may make their stand clear and file counter on what further steps can be taken to curb such forced conversion”, the bench said.
The Petition seeks stringent steps to control fraudulent religious conversion by “intimidation, threatening, deceivingly luring through gifts and monetary benefits”. In the name of secularism, the political class is staying away from addressing the burning issue, therefore, the Honorable Court is constrained to step in and the secularism they are trying to cling to is the Nehruvian idea of secularism which in present times as per many scholars have been rendered obsolete.