Of Forced Conversions, Love Jihad, And The Politics Of Communal Polarisation

Posted on September 8, 2014 in Politics, Society

By Mayank Jain:

Imagine living in abject poverty and ostracisation from the society. Imagine being marginalized and humiliated. Imagine the trials of a life of penury, and the times when your own community doesn’t stand up for you because you are of a ‘lower caste’. What if someone comes along and bullies you into changing your religion? You try to resist because you are still a believer, but the moment they promise money and respect in the new religion, your mind begins to wander. What do you do? Convert or stand your ground with penury and an added threat to life from strongmen?

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There’s money in conversions. Paid conversions have been here for as long as we can remember. There have been accounts of Portuguese churches in 1800s forcing Hindus to convert to Christianity, and similar accounts exist about conversions of Christians being forced by Hindus. 250 years and counting, but we are still stuck on the similar saga of religious expansion, political polarization of communities and harvesting votes by inventing newer ideas like Love Jihad, which essentially point towards the same problem of people trying to expand the base of their faith and persecute others’.

Tara Sahdev is a gold medallist Indian shooter who could not escape this tug of war and has alleged that her husband hid his Muslim identity before marrying her. He also put her through trauma and forced her to convert to Islam, she alleges. According to reports, she got married in July to Ranjit Kohli and the marriage happened in accordance with Hindu rituals. Come Ramzan, the holy month of Islam, and invitation cards addressed to her husband revealed that his original name was Rakibul Hassan.

The inquiry into the case is on as calls for a CBI probe are being raised. A police raid at her husband’s place unearthed 16 mobile phones and 15 SIM cards among other things. “We have also seized two CPUs, four printers, two air shooting guns and documents related to court from house of Ranjit Kholi alias Rakibul Hassan,” according to the Senior Superintendent of Police Prabhat Kumar.

Her husband as well as mother in law were taken into custody by the police. Following the incident, right wing outfit Vishwa Hindu Parishad held massive protests all across Jharkhand.

Converting Church To A Temple

A disturbing case of conversion and subsequent reconversion of 72 people came up in Aligarh. The people belonging to the Seventh-day Adventist Church, which is a Protestant Christian denomination, were turned into ‘valmikis’ by Hindu groups and the pastors then re converted them into Christians and sealed the church, which also became a target of aggression from the agitated right wing.

The church was turned into a temple by the groups as they hung a Shiva poster on the wall and tried to claim it but the Pastor locked it down without losing much time. According to Advocate Osmond Charles, “The havan took place inside the church. Christians don’t feel safe regarding their properties. Tomorrow, another church may see a ‘shuddhi karan’ exercise. The issue is not about leaving a faith, but about maintaining the sanctity of a place of worship.”

Fake Conversion Allegations In UP

Uttar Pradesh, which is a flashpoint for the most communal violence and polarization in the country, witnesses multiple complaints every week of forced conversions, some of which often turn out to be fake and the police comes under fire for not responding ‘appropriately’.

A similar complaint was filed against 10 pastors in Gautam Budh Nagar, Greater Noida, by BJP leaders in Kulesra village alleging “Forced conversions of Hindus to Christianity.”

Meanwhile, the Dalit valmikis, who were allegedly being forced, have denied the charges and the police has found no evidence of any forced conversion. The case has been wrapped up after an investigation.

Religious Arm Wrestling: Forces at play

The wrapping up of these cases leave much to be desired since there is no concerted effort to contain such conversions in the first place, and only corrective action is initiated. The country ails from religious violence from Jammu & Kashmir to Assam, and in this regard, incitement of hateful sentiments by political forces, dominated by the right wing, is clearly not the right way to make gains in the upcoming elections. But, more often than not, it works.

Another issue to be noted about Love Jihad and cases of forced conversion is the fact that they are highly skewed towards constituencies going to elections. Incitement, conversions and violence, are all steps in the same process to claim more ground. No attention, however, is given to the electorate that feels disenchanted and is continuously worried about it’s own future in this ballgame of religious domination.

The conspiracy theories are all lined up and being pushed through outlets of different faiths as they intermingle with political aspirations, but the police has busted the myth. The full blown conspiracy of Love Jihad has been nullified by the police, clarifying that there is no such concerted effort to convert Hindus into Muslims. “Investigations find different stories in different cases. But we have never found any particular pattern that can establish any such conspiracy being claimed by various organisations,” says IG (Law and Order) AK Sengar, Uttar Pradesh.

Money, muscle, power and politics all intermingle when one goes deeper in the reports of conversions. These are termed as legitimate attempts to prevent extinction of a community in this cosmic battleground of religions. But, if we continuously discredit others and blow our own pipe in their ears until they give in, which God are we trying to please?