“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.


Opposition of Ghar Vapasi is Illogical

By: Parmanand Pandey, Advocate Supreme Court (General Secretary IPC)

 The Rajya Sabha, the elder house of the Indian Parliament, has not been transacting any business for the last many days. It is adjourned after almost sitting of half an hour and the adjectives like, pandemonium uproarious and noisy scenes etc. have become common to describe the situation in the Upper House. The members representing the political parties in the State Assemblies constitute the Rajya Sabha, which is also known as the Council of States. Hence, on the strength of a political party in the Assemblies of the states decide its representation in the Rajya Sabha. As on today the opposition parties i.e. the Congress, the Samajwadi, RJD, JD(U), TMC, BSP, DMK, AIDMK, BJD etc. have more numbers than the treasury benches consisting of the Bhartiya Janata Party and its allies.

 The purpose of this piece is neither to deal with the constitution of the Rajya Sabha nor to tell about the conduct of the Hon’ble members. Its aim, nonetheless is limited to discuss on what issue the Rajya Sabha is not being allowed to run. The only issue is the conversion of a group of Muslims to Hinduism in Agra. It is being termed as ‘Ghar Vapasi’ by those who have converted the Muslims to Hinduism and those who are opposed to it, they say that it is an attack on the secular fabric of the country. 

It may not be out of place to mention here that when the Anti-Conversion Bill was to be introduced by the previous NDA Government of the Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the entire opposition was outraged against the Bill. It was then being said that the Anti Conversion Bill was against the spirit of the Constitution, which gave freedom to every citizen to follow the religion of his or her choice. Many Christian organisations in India and abroad had vehemently protested against the move of the then government to introduce the bill.

Now the opposition is crying foul about the conversion of a small number of Muslims in Agra. The allegation of the opposition parties is that the conversion has been carried out because of the inducement of providing Adhar Cards to those who converted to Hinduism. However,only a week after the Agra incident, five Hindus got converted into Christianity in Bihar and it was not taken any notice either by any political party or even by the media. However, this is the time when spade should be called spade. Let it be asked that how large number of tribal, scheduled castes people have been converted to Christianity into last 200 years, except by the inducement of providing facilities like; education, and health etc. Let it also be noted here that the late Nobel Laureate Mother Teresa was a Christian missionary working and she did a commendable job in the service of lepers in the ‘city of joy’, the expression which is sarcastically used for Kolkota. She opened ‘Nirmal Hridayas’ in many cities of India. But how come not even one person who obtained the service of MotherTeresa’s ‘Missionaries of Charity’ has not got converted to Christianity? A person who went to Nirmal Hriday as a Hindu has not come back with his or her original religion. Almost everybody got converted to Christianity. So how can it be said that the Christian Missionaries did not offer the inducements? 

No doubt, Christian Missionaries have opened good schools and hospitals all over the country. They never openly ask the Hindus/ Muslims of relatively well off backgrounds to convert to Christianity but those who are economically vulnerable they are offered all sorts of inducements and facilities to  get them converted to Christianity. This is an open and glaring fact. People become Christians not because their hearts have changed by knowing about the religion but it is the greed that played the main role. The fact is the person, who embraces to Christianity does not know about the religion or the Bible. So how can it be the case of the change of heart? Christian missionaries, it must be said , are the past masters in hoodwinking the gullible and poor people and luring them to their own religion. Therefore, our Parliamentarians, and that too, the members of the Rajya Sabha or either naive or knave or amalgam of both, who have been disrupting the proceedings of the House for no plausible reasons.

History bears ample testimony to the fact that the people in India  have embraced to Islam because of the fear of saving their lives or properties and  Christianity spread its wings across the country by sheer dint of money, which the missionaries have aplenty and they been liberally using for the expansion their religion.Thus ,it is clear that in India proselytisation or religious conversions have taken either by force ,fraud, allurements or inducements.Now if some zealous persons from among Hindus are trying to tell and convince the other religionists that they or their forebears were led to garden path for converting to Islam or Christianity and they should again come back to Hinduism- why should there be so much hullabaloo?One fails to understand if Hindus are converted to other religion, it is a non issue and if it is other way round then all hell break loose. This double standard and hypocrisy is now clearly seen through.

Hindus have been largely divided on the caste lines. It has proved dangerous for the very existence of this religion, which otherwise is high evolved in metaphysics, learning and devotion. Tolerance and self-criticism have been the hallmarks of Hinduism but they have also proved detrimental for the sound survival of this religion.

      Unfortunately, Bhartiya Janata Party, which got overwhelming support from Hindus in  the fond hope that it would provide level playing Hindus ia also pandering to the appeasement policy. Why is it feeling shy of vociferously advocating the Uniform Civil Code for the betterment of Muslim women in the matters of divorce, property inheritance, equality and monogamy? It is hoped that it will rise to the occasion and would not be blackmailed by the pseudo-secularist or by falling in their trap. 

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