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.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

John Dayal's Hate Mongering and An Open Response

DR. JOHN DAYAL
Member: National Integration Council
Government of India
National President: All India Catholic Union (Founded 1919)
Secretary General: All India Christian Council
505 Link, 18 IP Extn. Delhi 110092 India
Email: johndayal@vsnl.com
Phone: 91-11-22722262 Mobile 09811021072
26 August 2005

DR MANMOHAN SINGH
Prime Minister of India
Chairman, National Integration Council
Mew Delhi

Re: Agenda for the inaugural meeting of the NIC on
31st August 2005

Greetings

The Christian Community of India, and specially its Dalit and marginalised sections, congratulate the Government of India, acting on your commitment, for reconstituting the National Integration Council, and convening its meeting after a gap of more than 13 years.

The reconstitution of the NIC had been received with great hope and enthusiasm by the Minority communities and general and the Christian community in particular as its cries of anguish had gone unheard in the corridors of governance and administration for much the last decade. The hope was the greater because of several other welcome steps taken by your Government, including the setting up the National Commission on Minority Educational Institutions, the Rangnath Commission on backwardness among linguistic and religious groups, and the Justice Sachchar Commission to evaluate the economic condition of Muslims in India.

It is therefore that we received the Agenda papers of the NIC meeting with great disappointment and some alarm. Some of us hope to present to the inaugural Council meeting a Paper on `A Christian perspective on National Integration' reflecting our anxieties and expectations, and our great faith in the nurture and security of democracy in our great country.

But we feel obliged to challenge now certain basic assumptions in the Agenda papers which reflect insensitivity, to say the least, if not pre-conceived notions about our work, that seems to be a carryover from the past NDA government.

The agenda draftsmen of papers seem to believe that forcible and fraudulent conversions (to Christianity) are the main cause of civil unrest in tribal and other rural areas. This is a malicious myth propagated by obscurantist and fundamentalist - and often violent - political groups and their frontal organisations of a well known exclusivist ideology which believed in the thesis of One nation, One people, One Culture" totally negating the Indian reality of Unity and Diversity. The lie has been perpetrated for decades without evidence. Nuns have been raped, Priests murdered, churches attacked and believers harassed under the umbrella of this lie. No court, no state government and no district administration ahs been able to adduce a straw of evidence to prove fraudulent and forcible conversions. On the contrary, forcible and often violence `ghar wapsi' programs by criminal gangs have been the norm in the tribal belt. And yet state governments have fortified Anti-Conversion laws till they totally erode all Constitutional Guarantees of Freedom of faith and come dangerously close to India seemingly rejecting InterNational Charters of Freedom to which it is a proud signatory.

We would have expected the Inaugural NIC Agenda to be more focused and holistic, reflecting the National concern at the hijacking of the educational system, the communalization of the body fabric including the police force and the subordinate judiciary (as pointed out by the highest police and judicial officers in the land), the hunger deaths in various states, and finally, the collusion of the state and political apparatus in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, in the victimization of the religious minorities.

We also expected the Government to promise to give Statutory and Constitutional shape to the National Integration Council, to give it at least a permanent and powerful Secretariat.

I am sure you will look into it.

God bless you, you Government, and God bless India

With warm regards

JOHN DAYAL






PN BENJAMIN
------------------------------
AN OPEN LETTER TO JOHN DAYAL
FROM P.N.BENJAMIN,
Coordinator, Bangalore Initiative for Religious Dialogue (BIRD)

Dear Mr. Dayal,

This has reference to your recent letter to the Honourable Prime Minister on the National Integration Council.

I would like to as you some genuine questions on the subject. Most of them are questioning your own integrity. So, do not get perturbed or try to evade answers. You are first of all no Holy Joe, Mr. Dayal.

Can one have integration without integrity? Where is your integrity? What is integrity of the people like you who talk about it, but keep quiet when everywhere the essence of integration is being deliberately destroyed by vested interests? Are you really interested in integration?

And is integration only to be between Muslims, Christians and Dalits whom you have been using as cannon fodder for long for your vested interests, to occupy cushy positions as member of NCM and the like? Or should integration be widened to bring the whole of our neglected, despised India into the mainstream of the nation’s activities, its hopes and its dreams?

Hindu-bashing, especially RSS/VHP/Bajrang Dal bashing, seems to be your only hobby. This business has been bringing you millions of dollars and invitations to umpteen seminars and consultations in Western countries. How can such a despicable character talk of national ‘integration’ when your personal integrity itself is under cloud?

Have you ever bothered about the hungry people with hunger pangs growing in their intestines when you enjoy your life in five-star surroundings and shed copious crocodile tears for the minority communities and Dalits? What is the use of talking about integration when the hungry cannot partake at your dinner table? Will you answer these questions, Mr. Dayal, here and now?

A struggle can be likened to an onion. You take it off layer by layer and sometimes you cry. This is the situation in India, the India of the poor, which is in ferment, stirring itself to challenge the chains of bondage that have seared their very souls over the years. They are fighting the carpetbaggers and the charlatans, like you, of this country.

Without integrity, without a deep and abiding commitment to the poor of the country, all talk of national integration is only a lot of bullshit.

We are passing through a crisis of unprecedented dimensions, symbolized by the collapse of values. Self-styled Christian leaders like you have emerged bereft of principles. Our national life has been polluted by the venality of the discredited men like you. You have therefore no moral right to talk of ‘national integration’.

P.N.BENJAMIN
Coordinator
Bangalore Initiative for Religious Dialogue(BIRD)
B-1, Lan Castle
186 Wheeler Road Extn
Bangalore 560 084
INDIA
31 August 2005

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