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.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Expanding the Empire With Conversion

Publication: The Times of India
Date: 11/02/99

IT is good that we have finally moved to an actual debate on conversion
suggested by the Prime Minister last year. A few quick points in
response to Dilip D'Souza's spirited defence of conversions. (Oct 26):

Sangh parivar ideologues like M V Kamath (Oct 13) are not alone in
deploring the ``mortal assault on local cultures'' perpetrated by
Christian missionaries. Mr D'Souza may know innumerable Hindus whose
psyches are not shattered by the memory of ``miseries perpetrated by
Muslim and Christian invaders''. They may remain ``confident and
clear-eyed citizens of India, psyches firmly intact''. But it is rather
disingenuous to suggest that conversions do not matter to them. Swami
Vivekananda was no Sanghi; nor I presume was Mahatma Gandhi. But both
great minds were exercised at the prospect of Hindus decreasing in
numbers as a result of the conversion activities of the Christian
missionaries supported by foreign imperialists.

Simply Brainwashed

That missionary activity was a tool and an adjunct of colonial expansion
is no secret. And colonialism is not dead; it has only taken a new, more
sophisticated form. Only last week the Baptist Church in the US called
for bringing out Hindus from the darkness of Hinduism to the light of
Christianity. Which Hindu can put his hand on his heart and say that he
is not hurt or insulted? Another recent example is that of East Timor.
The tribals in that area were first converted to Christianity, then
encouraged to demand and fight for secession and have now been helped to
secede. It is possible the Indonesian economy was destroyed, in fact, to
facilitate this secession. It is no accident that this has encouraged
Muslim and Christian secessionists in India.

So much for the converted. The real danger, however, comes from those
who were not converted, who were simply brainwashed into considering
their own cultures vile, obscurantist and superstitious. And then they
were handed over power in 1947 when, thanks to Adolf Hitler, the
decolonisation process began. This is something even the Sangh parivar
doesn't seem to realise. Had it done so it would not have buried the
Swadeshi Jagaran Manch quietly and so unceremoniously. Can you find a
single neo-colonial market-economy enthusiast who is not a product of
Christian missionary schools? Not to speak of a capitalist, you will be
hard put to find even a notable communist who is the product of a
pathshala or a madrasa.

Christian missionaries are being made a scapegoat today, you say Mr
D'Souza, as the Babri Masjid was made a scapegoat seven years ago.
Either you are being economical with the truth, Sir, or are just
ignorant about Indian realities, as most products of missionary schools
are. The building that was demolished on December 6, 1992, was not a
mosque, had not been one for about hal-a-century. It had been converted
into a temple courtesy Jawaharlal Nehru as early as 1948-49. What was
demolished was a crying shame for India. It was much more hurtful for a
Muslim to be forced by Rajiv Gandhi to see on Doordarshan the gates of a
masjid-like structure being opened for idol-worship. What was demolished
on that day courtesy Narasimha Rao was a dilapidated anomaly of a temple
that had to give way for a proposed magnificent temple.

Converting to Own-fold

Who financed the Babri demolition movement and who paid crores for the
Ram Janma Bhoomi temple under construction? And who has voted for the
`communal' BJP and Shiv Sena most enthusiastically? Many of these
innumerable friends of yours, Mr D'Souza, who claim to be confident and
clear-headed Hindus, not at all hurt at the numerous indignities heaped
on their religion and culture by the Christian missionaries. Either
these people are plain and simple hypocrites in the Congress mode or the
hurt has gone so deep down in their psyche that they are unaware of it
and yet act according to its dictates. After all, the BJP has not come
to power without Hindu support. And apparently most of its support comes
from urban, presumably missionary-educated Hindus.

The world would be a much safer, happier place if Christians were to
convert themselves to Christianity. Minus its superstitions and minus
the mafia-like activities of the Vatican, Christianity is a beautiful
religion. We could then bid goodbye to a lot of evils: from colonialism
to neo-colonialism to consumerism, from inquisitions to conversions to
the Holocaust to India's partition, from Hiroshima and Nagasaki to
Vietnam, Iraq, Kosovo and East Timor. Similar good will flow to humanity
if Muslims were to convert to Islam and Hindus to Hinduism.


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