Question of Faith:

Anti-Conversion Legislation in Tamil Nadu


— Ram Puniyani

- “The most surprising part of the forcible conversion story was that this took place when the percentage of Christian population is declining. The census data, and the data from Justice Wadhava Commission of inquiry gave the truth of conversions away. The All India Christian population in 1971 was-2.6%, in 1981 it was 2.44% and in 1991 it stood at 2.32%. This shows a marginal decline in the all India population of Christians.”

- “A slight peep in to history of conversions in India will make the matters clear for us: whether conversions are active or a passive process? If we recall a while ago the major component of anti-Muslim propaganda was that Muslim Kings converted the Hindus by the sword, and this construct formed the base of the anti Muslim sentiments in the social common sense. Before we go into the historical process whereby Islam spread in India lets have a look at the opinion of Swami Vivekanand on the issue (Collected works- Vol. VIII, page 330). Says Swamiji Why amongst the poor of India so many are Mohhamedans? It is nonsense to say that they were converted by the sword, it was to gain liberty from Jamindars (Feudal lords) and priests.”

- “Similarly even today there are some insignificant boisterous Christian groups who blow their trumpet and propagate in an aggressive way. Again their impact is insignificant. It is interesting that Sikhism, which drew heavily from Islam as well as Hinduism, attracted more of low caste untouchables in big number. Many of them converted to Sikhism in the early part of twentieth century despite stiff opposition from the Arya Samaj and other elite Hindu streams. The case of Ambedkar and his followers embracing Buddhism needs a bit of recounting. Dr. Ambedkar tried his best to have a place in the Hindu social order. In this direction he led the Chavdar Talav movement, to have access to public drinking water, he led the Kalaram temple agitation, to gain entry to Hindu temples. The violent reaction of the upper caste Hindus to these agitations made him to say that that though I was born a Hindu I will not die as a Hindu. Further he went on to burn Manusmriti and later decided to convert to Buddhism.”

- “Dr. Ambedkars trajectory is the classical example of low caste Hindus adopting a different religion by choice. And this is what has been the phenomenon all through-attempts by the low castes to escape the Brahminical Social Order by embracing different religions. Be those the religions of Indian origin or be they of foreign origin, what is important is that, the oppressed have been active partners in the process and not the mere objects for the conversions. Using this as a tool for communal politics is a favorite weapon all through. As such Hinduism is based on caste system and Brahminism has been its dominant factor. It is not a religion based on the teaching of any prophet, and there by spreading, preaching it to others is not the norm.

- “Today, despite the claims to the contrary many a Hindutva outfit is indulging in proselytization. The spread of Hinduism is always a problem. Politically Hindutva needs to assert that all those except Muslims and Christians, are Hindus. Here, the criterion applied is the Nationalism of Religions. One is doubtful if Religions can be tied to any Nation. Buddhism, which originated in India is the religion of majority of people in Thailand, Sri Lanka. Christianity, originated in Jerusalem but today it is major religion of US Europe etc. What is remarkable is not that conversions as a marginal phenomenon have been a part of Indian reality from ages but the fact that political phenomenon of intolerance has made it a political issue today.”