“Ghar Wapsi” or re-conversion to Hinduism from Christianity and Islam

By: Shreepal Singh, Advocate Supreme Court

Today a debate on the campaign called “Ghar Wapsi – or, Returning back to one’s own religious fold” undertaken by the Hindu organizations is raging in electronic, print and social media in India. There is stalemate in the Upper House (Rajya Sabha) of Parliament on the subject. Almost all the opposition political parties – who have majority in this House – are united in opposing the “Ghar Wapsi” campaign.

These parties may be united in their opposition to the Hindu move either because their political space in India today is being usurped by the leap and bounds of the popularity of Narendra Modi or they genuinely are worried about the religious onslaught of the Hindu organizations over the religious rights of the minority communities of this country.

If their opposition to the Hindu move is emanating from the first reason – their sense of political insecurity – we are not concerned with it in this article. However, we give them the benefit of doubt and assume that these political parties – and their supporters – are actuated in their vehement opposition by their genuine concerns only for the legitimate rights of the minority communities.

India is governed by the rule of law and Constitution of this country is the fundamental law of the land. All the issues of religious conversions – conversion from majority Hindu religion to the minorities’ religions of Christianity or Islam or “Ghar Wapsi” that is, re-conversion to the Hindu religious fold of those who had in the past been converted to Christianity or Islam – have to be examined in the light of Indian Constitution alone.

Of course, one can examine this important issue in the light of the experience one has recently gained in the current world affairs (like the plight of Yazidis or Kurds in Iraq etc.) or in the light of history of this country (after all, all activities being undertaken today by different interest-groups is essentially nothing but the history in the making). There may be many other perspectives to examine this issue of conversion and reconversion but we intend to limit our consideration in this article to the constitutional law of this country.

This subject is dealt with in Article 25 (1) of the Indian Constitution. The right provided in Article 25 (1) of Constitution is a fundamental right, which is guaranteed to Indian citizens. This Article states, “Subject to public order, morality and health and to the other provisions of this Part (Part III – containing fundamental rights of citizens), all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practice and propagate religion”.

The right to freedom of conscience is plain enough and does not admit any dispute in India. You have to just look around you in the neighborhood of India to realize how fortunate we Indians are in possessing this right to freedom of conscience. One may have faith in any God of his or her choice or even his or her faith in No-God. There are many countries in the world where you either do not have this right to choose your God or you are severally discriminated against if you choose a God other than the official one.

Then, Article 25 (1) further talks of the citizen’s right to freely profess, practice and propagate his or her religion. Also on the issue of the citizen’s right to profess and practice his or her own religion, there is no controversy. The current controversy revolves around the meaning and scope of the citizen’s “right to propagate” his or her religion. How do you propagate your religion? You may do so by dissemination the knowledge or awareness of the tenets or principles of your religion.

But this is not the only means to propagate one’s own religion. There may be so many others so-called “immoral” means to propagate one’s religion (like, threat, inducement, cheating, creating fear of heavenly punishment etc.). Can the “propagation” of a religion be accomplished by “conversion” of another person to one’s own religion, whether by moral or immoral means? The Indian Constitution is egalitarian in body and spirit and it does not countenance the “purpose” of propagation being, even remotely, to secure “conversion”.

In fact, Indian Constitution though does guarantees a citizen the right to propagate religion, it does not encourage such exercise by placing this genre of rights certain restrictions on them in the beginning of this Article. The spirit of Constitution in this respect has been authoritatively expressed by the Supreme Court of India in the case of Rev. Stainislaus vs. State of M. P. (1977) 1 SCC 677.

There the court said (and it is a long quote from the Indian Supreme Court), “What the Article 25 (1) of the Constitution grants is not the right to convert another person to one’s own religion, but to transmit or spread one`s religion by an exposition of its tenets. It has to be remembered that Article 25 (1) guarantees “freedom of conscience” to every citizen, and not merely to the followers of one particular religion, and that, in turn postulates that there is no fundamental right to convert another person to one’s own religion because if a person purposely undertakes the conversion of another person to his religion, that would impinge on the “freedom of conscience” guaranteed to all the citizens of the country alike.

“It has to be appreciated that the freedom of religion enshrined in Article 25 (1) is not guaranteed in respect of one religion only, but covers all religions alike, and it can be properly enjoyed by a person if he exercises his right in a manner commensurate with the like freedom of persons following the other religions. What is freedom of one, is freedom for the other, in the equal measure, and there can therefore be no such thing as a fundamental right to convert any person to one’s own religion.”

Propagation of religion by converting persons of other religions to one’s own religion is nothing but an open competition, much like a business competition in a market economy, to secure an end that is ulterior to the purpose of any faith. In the matter of business, the issue at stake is only money. Money is important in life but here nothing is at the stake. In the matter of religious competition, the life itself may be at the stake (would any hypocrite deny this eventuality when the plight of minorities like Yazidis alluded to above is seen?).

In the modern world, religious conversions are almost always aimed at bigger, mundane and this-worldly goals than mere cultivating the souls to sow and reap the conscience by “propagating” one’s religious tenets. It is the hard reality of our materialist world. There are very few cases in the world today where individuals change their religious conviction on their own and in those cases also the credit goes to their own inquisitiveness, study and efforts and not to any “propagating teacher”.

Let us take a digression for a moment. After all, what is the objective – this-worldly objective – for people to undertake the exercise of conversion of individuals from another religion to their own religion? The root cause for this activity lies deep down in the human biology. Self-preservation is one of the basic instincts of humans and they act in fulfillment of this instinct not only in the form of individual behavior to guarantee their physical survival but also in the form of collective or social behavior.

Humans seek their security in common interest-groups, like family, tribe, caste, nation, religious group or anything – even an idea – that binds them together as a group and provides an extra element of force – a powerful force – in ensuring their physical safety and security. This collective behavior is the evolved form of the evolutionary mechanism – struggle for survival and the survival of the fittest – and is very natural.

Why does the humans’ self-preservation-instinct manifest in their tendency to seek security in a common-interest-group and to try to strengthen such group’s power by increasing its numerical superiority? In all living beings – including human beings – there is a sort of inbuilt biological inertia. This inertia is expressed in their way of life and this particular way of life opposes any change in their life-style. However, this biological inertia – tendency to stick to one’s own way of life – is pitted against another element of Nature – the element of change. Life is surrounded by natural environment that is always changing (and surrounding natural environment includes rival common-interest-groups like religious communities also). This environment forces life to change itself and adapt to the newer circumstances. The force of a single individual to resist the change being thus thrust upon him gets reinforced – as if a wave reinforced by harmonic synchronization – when he finds him in the presence of a large similar group. In the face of the evolutionary demand of change, people find themselves at ease in the company of a similar group. It is an evolutionary mechanism.

Expansion of a similar group – and religious community is a similar group – by propagation of a tenet that binds them together is a natural evolutionary phenomenon. It is not proper to judge the behavior of certain people to undertake religious conversion of others to their own religion on the moral ground. There is no right or wrong in such issues.

If in the past some Hindus were converted to Christianity or Islam or if they are being re-converted from Islam / Christianity to Hinduism today (termed Ghar Wapsi), it is all natural behavior. One who succeeds, gets more secured and ultimately survives. Now let us come to our subject.

The Hindu organizations’ “Ghar Wapsi” campaign is “conversion” in the legal sense, as is the case when Hindus are “converted” to the religions of Christianity or Islam.

The opponents of “Ghar Wapsi” campaign have ensnared themselves in a paradoxical situation. It is the classic case of logical dilemma. They are being weighed at the moral-scale by the people at large. These opponents may not admit, but the fact remains that it is only because of such hypocrisy of these political leaders that they have massively lost the ground to Narendra Modi.

If these opponents succeed in their demand, “Stop the conversion”, they end up stopping conversion of Hindus to Christianity or Islam; if they succeed in their demand “Christians / Muslims’ right to convert Hindus to their religious fold”, they end up supporting Ghar Wapsi.

 

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Authors of posts
    Dec 28, 2014 @ 20:22:11

    If you go on the meaning of words contained in scriptures of different faiths, they all contradict each other. If you go behind these diverse words into their spirit, they all indicate something in common. No scripture could be and should be read literally. They were all written in past ages, under different circumstances and for peoples who were different in culture, thinking and habits. You go to any Sufi saint and he will correctly tell you that it is the conduct of humans that matters; you go to any Hindu saint, he will tell you that it is the conduct alone that matters. You talk of Buddhism; Dalai lama – the Buddhist saint of Tibbet – is crying hoarse that improve your conduct to achieve your supreme goal. All books – be it manu Smiriti or others – that talk of discrimination on outer things, like caste or creed, are out of sync with truth, utility and modern times. Even Hindu sacred book like Rig Veda says that Caste is determined by conduct or Karmas alone. Any way, all such books are contradictory to each other in outer sense and one in essence; provided one is rational in his thinking.
    Thanks for comments.

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  2. Kaleemulla Mohamed Ali
    Dec 28, 2014 @ 19:35:15

    Faith is embeded in heart and mind. Flowers, fire, words are oral and physical presumtions. In Hinduism no one can be converted to high caste BRAHMIN, they are converted as low cast SHUDRAS AS per MANUSMRITI:

    The tongue of Shudra who spoke evil about Brahmin should be cut off (Apastamba Dharma Sutra II/10-26.
    Those who are with stinking conduct they will enter a stinking womb, either the womb of a dog or the womb of a swine or womb of Shudra (Chandogya Upanishad 5-10-7)
    Shudras must be prohibited from hearing, studying Vedas (Brahma Sutras 1.3.9.38)
    More on google Why Dr.Ambedkar burnt Manusmriti.

    Due to Brahmins discrimination of Shudra Hindus converted from, 850Bc to Jainism, from 500Bc to Budhism. Budhism was born in India but stamped out of India by Brahmins. Due to this discrimination Hinduism was confined to India only. In Asia from SriLanka to Japan there are more Budhists than Hindus.

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