This Article is From Dec 22, 2014

Really, RSS? An Anti-Conversion Law?

(Brinda Karat is a Politburo member of the CPI(M) and a former Member of the Rajya Sabha.)

"Abhi chor pakra gaya hai. Mera Mal chor ke paas hai.Aur yeh duniya jaanti hai. Main apna Maal wapas loonga. Yeh kaun se badi baat hai" ( Now the thief has been caught. My belongings are with the thief. The world knows this. If I get my belongings back, what is the big deal?)

These are not words spoken by Pakistani terrorists targeting Kashmir. These are words of Mohan Bhagwat, the made-in-India RSS Chief. It's not just the crudity of the statement that is objectionable - for the RSS chief, human beings exist as "belongings" or "maal" to be manipulated for a political agenda. His statement is objectionable and condemnable because it is a direct threat to all minorities in India. He further said " Why should we be scared? We are not infiltrators, we are not foreigners. This is a Hindu rashtra..."

Decades ago, Bhagwat's predecessor MS Golwalkar, the second Sarsanghchalak of the RSS, had written a book called "We, Our Nationhood Defined." He considered Hitler his hero. It is worth revisiting his writings and speeches because the present Prime Minister considered him an inspiration and wrote his biography "Jyotipunj". Conflating race with religion, Golwalkar  had said, "There are only two courses open to foreign elements: merge themselves in the national race and adopt its culture, or live at the mercy of the national race."

Let's make no mistake about it. The "ghar wapasi" - the so-called homecoming programmes being aggressively practiced by Hindutva outfits -  is another term for the "merger" envisaged by Golwalkar. It is conversion by coercion, conversion by social and physical pressure.

Bhagwat's statement and the threats are against the constitution, against the law. The speech he made was in Kolkata. The West Bengal Government of Mamata Bannerjee should file a case against him under Sec 153a of the IPC for creating hostility between two communities. In addition, all the ghar wapasi programmes being organized are equally illegal and are a violation of the law under the same provisions.

Ghar wapasi has little or nothing to do with religious belief and faith. It is a straight political slogan that encompasses within it the distorted Hindutva view of history, namely that all Indians have "Hindu roots", that Hindus were "forcibly converted to Islam or Christianity which are " foreign" religions, and that therefore it is a "nationalist " duty to bring them all "home" to the Hindutva family.

For these people, India did not exist before the Aryan cultures, languages and texts became dominant. For them, for example, the rich traditions of adivasi history, spiritual and religious beliefs and rituals markedly different from "Hindu roots" are to be wished away. In reality,  if there is to be ghar wapasi for adivasis, it would be to opt out of the increased Hinduisation of their traditions being pushed by RSS fronts like the Vanavasi Kalyan Parishad.

In addition, the ghar wapsi programmes do raise the issue of continued caste discrimination and indignities against dalits. If dalits are considered unclean untouchables and are prohibited to enter the holy sanctum sanctorum of temples like the Nathdwara temple, then their conversion to religions they consider more equal are no more forced than was Babsaheb Ambedkar's conversion to Buddhism. 


His was the strongest indictment of the hated caste system, equally relevant today given the virulence of continued caste-based violence. The hypocrisy  of the ceremony of washing the feet of those " coming home" is only matched by the outrageous washing of temple premises after a dalit enters it, as the Bihar Chief Minister recently experienced.

In the BJP-ruled states, anti-conversion laws target Christian and Muslim conversions while so-called home comings or even more crudely named "shuddhikaran" or "purification" programmes are routinely held under the benign gaze of the law. It started in earnest in 1996 under the leadership of BJP strongman Dilip Singh Judeo of Chattisgarh, who organized such programmes among Christian tribal communities leading to communal hostility and tension in adivasi areas. There are numerous cases filed against Christian missionaries for " forcible conversions" in these States but not a single case against ghar wapsi organisers.

When the RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat, echoed by BJP Chief Amit Shah and Ministers like Venkaiah Naidu in Parliament, challenges the opposition political parties to accept a national anti- conversion law, first let them answer whether they include ghar wapasi as forcible conversion. Let them answer: will they uphold Article 25 of the Constitution of India  which specifically protects " freedom of conscience" and "free profession, practice and propagation of religion"?

The RSS and its various fronts do not accept the basic secular structure of India with equal rights to all citizens and with specific protections to minorities. India is not and will never be a theocratic State. But with its aggressive campaign for Hindu rashtra, that is the agenda of the RSS.

There is nothing new in this. From Savarkar to Golwarkar to Mohan Bhagwat, the language and the aim is the same. The freedom struggle rejected the divisive slogans of the RSS and it was the unity of the people which freed India from British Rule. India's constituent assembly while framing India's constitution once again rejected the RSS' sectarian view of India and its history.

For 68 years, India has maintained its secular character. If Mohan Bhagwat makes headlines today, it is because he and his organization, have, courtesy the Prime Minister, direct access to State power.

It is for this reason that the demand that the Prime Minister should make his mind known on the forcible conversions in the name of ghar wapasi through a statement in Parliament. At a time when India's constitution is under challenge, his silence is deafening.

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