The Conversion Agenda

"Freedom to convert" is counterproductive as a generalized doctrine. It fails to come to terms with the complex interrelationships between self and society that make the concept of individual choice meaningful. Hence, religious conversion undermines, and in extremes would dissolve, that individual autonomy and human freedom.

Monday, January 27, 2003

Berating Hindutva forces

Author: Balbir K Punj
Publication: The New Indian Express
Date: January 27, 2003

Two recent incidents have exposed the chinks in the armour of the 'secular' cabal and put a question mark on its credibility, which was never high any way. One is the nabbing of a former Director General of Police-turned-Human Rights' activist from outside a college in Delhi for eve teasing. The other is the quit notice served on an American Protestant preacher in Thiruvananthapuram district of Congress-led Kerala for indulging in a conversion campaign against the stipulations of a tourist visa. A man is known by the company he keeps and going by this adage 'secularists' now stand in poorer light. In the incident in Kerala, an American missionary, Joseph Cooper, could not escape the heat of mob fury because he was in a devious company that shared his denouncement of Hindu deities. A section of the English media has resorted to one-dimensional portrayal of the episode by describing it as a RSS attack on a Christian missionary, especially when one out of the three nabbed is a former RSS affiliatee. But what is the reality behind this volatility? My investigations with the National Commission for Minorities independent sources in Kerala revealed the answer. Those following the Malayalam press seldom need further edification.

The outrage has its genesis in the 'un-Christian' behaviour of Cooper's host and escort, Benson. Actually, a Hindu OBC girl, Laly was allegedly sexually abused and harassed for four months by Rev. P.K. Sam of Bible Christian Centre (Mallasserri, Pathanamthitta District, Kerala), and his sons Dr. Samson, Benson and Stephen. Laly was working as a Home Nurse in Convent Hospital, which belonged to the family of Benson. With the lure that an employment would be arranged for her in the USA, Laly was taken to Trivandrum Bible College.

Laly was not allowed to contact her family but she could somehow send an SOS to her brother. Her brother lodged a complaint with the Pathanamthitta police station. The police registered a non-bailable case against Rev. P.K. Sam and his sons. The entire family of Rev P.K. Sam went into hiding. But afterwards Rev. P.K. Sam and all his sons except Benson took anticipatory bail. Benson remained in hiding since October 2002. This became a major news item in the Malayalam media of Kerala on many days of September and October 2002. It aroused so much public fury that the Convent Hospital belonging to the family of Benson was ransacked by local people.

Cooper, who is one of the financial sponsors of Rev.P.K. Sam's work in India, was invited to speak at a Gospel Convention near Koppam Harijan Colony, Kilimanoor, Thiruvananthapuram district. Benson, after all his hiding, resurfaced at this convention. The public, who had heard about the alleged misdeeds of Benson saw him and his family members along with the American missionary, and got infuriated. He and his family members were attacked by a mob on his way back from the convention. The inflammatory speeches against Hindu gods added spark to the fuel of Benson's immoral acts. Being in the tangle, Cooper also got thrashed. He should have known the morality of the family he was funding in India. And secularists, in turn, would find that supporting such people is subject to the law of diminishing returns.

Another incident has come as an affront to secularists, since they had been keeping the company of an eve-teaser upholding 'Human Rights' in Gujarat. Mr. K.S.Subramaniam (63), former DGP, Tripura, has been accused of eve teasing (that too a women constable) outside Sri Ram College of Commerce in Delhi. Interestingly, his wife is the principal of the neighbouring Daulat Ram College. What is paradoxical is the fact that only a few months ago he had been part of the Concerned Citizens' Tribunal, "an independent fact-finding mission on the carnage in Gujarat". The tribunal had cast grave concern on "the terrible humiliation faced by women in particular in the Gujarat violence". Now, will those 'secularists' of Concerned Citizens' Tribunal like Justice P.B. Sawant, Hosbet Suresh, Kamal Mitra Chenoy, disown Subramaniam, whose own shameful act has been a threat to the dignity and freedom of women? I am not sure how the 'secularists' in the intelligentsia and politics will react to this unraveling of Hindu-baiters.

A couple of years ago they created an anti-Sangh Parivar hype around the bomb blast outside some churches in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. But when the hand of Deendar Anjuman, an ISI outfit was established behind those attacks, the 'secular' media dropped the issue completely. The vehemently championed Grahams Staines murder case lost media visibility when the culprit Dara Singh was found to have acted on his own. More recently, the credibility of Tehelka.com went bubble bust when its 'investigative journalist' Kumar Badal was exposed for having hired professional poachers in Uttaranchal to shoot a 'real-life poaching scene' with a digital camera. In another case, a fake doctor Hare Krishna (a sacked employee of Citibank who became a quack in Agra) was exposed feigning eyewitness to the Anzal Plaza shootout and convoluting facts. The twosome 'secular' journalists who had catapulted him to attention quietly withdrew at this reversal of fortunes. But the question returns again - at whose instance, on whose behalf, are these well-planned moves undertaken to berate a particular target, viz., Hindutva forces? Is it because their presence is a clear threat to the survival of the shop of 'secularism'? Does their meeting with poetic justice signify something?

(The writer, a Rajya Sabha MP and Convener of BJP's Think Tank.)

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