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, May 28, 2006

Experiences of an India trotting Kashmiri Pandit-Relation between Conversions & Cow Slaughter?

Dear friends Namaskars and Hari Om,

I would like to thank respected friend for introducing articles from other groups into this forum. Most of these articles are really great!

The note sent by Mr. Stephen Voith to Mr. Sajan K.George, National President, Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) (May 2) is really a thought provoking one. It is my strong belief that a good Christian or a Muslim with deep faith in his or her own religion, has to be as good as a good Hindu. The problems crop up when we tend to lose the essence of religion, and start indulging in politics, and distort the entire religion itself.

As a Kashmiri Hindu who spend his childhood in Kashmir, and a major portion of life in the rest of the country , I always felt that the ban on religious conversions was justified. There have been reasons for that, and I would like to share these experiences with our VFA friends in the later part of this note. But, after reading the above note of Mr. Voith, I feel probably my thinking was not on the right spiritual track. I feel what he has advised Mr. George is very much right, and should be universally applicable . If one has got spiritual conviction and does the same for the sake of the Lord only, one should not have to depend upon the political crutches. In case it is done , then the very essence of spirituality is lost. Hats off to Mr. Stephen Voith! If there are a good number of such real Christians in the world, the establishment of God's kingdom or Satyayuga for that matter is not far of. I think as members of we need to popularize and strengthen great souls like the Voiths, who are truly religious people.

Going by his recent statements about religious freedom in India, I think even Pope Benedict could learn a few lessons on spirituality from Voiths !

Conversions and cow slaughter

Now let me share my experiences as mentioned above:

1. In 1979, I got a Government of India job in Mumbai. Now the biggest challenge in Mumbai was accommodation. I ran from pillar to post looking for a small room . Even a dormitory accommodation was acceptable. After a search for about a month, I was directed to a church in Bandra where a men's hostel was also being run. 'Father F…' was the in charge over there. I explained my problem to him. He was very kind to me. He told me that boarding and lodging would cost me only Rs. 165 per month. I was shocked as till then nobody had quoted less than Rs.700 for accommodation only, while my salary was supposed to be Rs.1100 only. I could not believe my ears. I reconfirmed the same with 'Father'. I asked him as to when I could join the place. "Today", was his reply. I thanked him, and was about to leave to get my belongings when he stopped me. He told me that there are two conditions. First , I would have to participate in the prayers in the morning. I told him that I had no problem with that. Second , I would have to eat all that was cooked in the mess- non vegetarian food included. I told him that I would eat the vegetables. He told me that was not acceptable. He insisted that I would have to eat all that was cooked including beef , pork etc. No amount of argument with him helped . So, I told him that I would revert back with my decision. He told me that I would be welcome any time, but on the stated terms. I had to struggle hard for another month, and God was kind to put me in a fantastic residential colony. There was no need for me to go back to the 'Father' , but the incident left me thinking for years.

2. Years later , in the North Eastern part of the country, my domestic help Ram told me his story when he was ill a few months back. He had to be hospitalized. After a four day stay in the hospital he was discharged . He was handed over an inflated bill of Rs.7,000, before his discharge by this 'charitable' hospital. Now, for a person earning just Rs.1800 a month, this was a big amount. He was told that had he been a Christian, the bill could be one tenth! He was also told that it was still possible to get the bill reduced. I told him that there should have been no problem in becoming a Christian if it would help him tide over his financial crisis. "You can pray in the church, without giving up your own regular prayers", I told him. He looked at me with a terrified face. He told me that he had been told that the first step in the direction of accepting Christianity was eating beef! He was shocked and told them that he would prefer to die rather than accept it. Every one cannot be like Ram. Many would succumb. That is how in the North Eastern part of India, a majority of the population is Christians today. The local tribals in this entire region are simple and nice people.

Now , the whole of North East turning Christian is not a big issue. But I realized that there is another dimension to it. Nagaland became 100% Christian state a few decades back and the struggle for a separate country started .They also want a part of other states like Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh where the Christians are in a minority. Mizoram followed the suit. Northern part of Assam where Bodos reside, a similar cry for a separate Bodoland (outside India) started. A majority of the Non Christian Bodos were forced to leave their land for the other parts of the country.

3. Kashmir , where I was born was an example of truly secular state. The Sufism is not in conflict with any religion of the world and is more like a Persian version of Bhakhti Yoga. Same was prevalent over there. Hindus and Muslims had a good rapport and knew which boundaries to maintain. There was no cow slaughter in Kashmir. No beef eating. Even mutton was not sold on Tuesdays and Saturdays when Hindus would abstain. Even the Muslims were not violent. There were riots, there were agitations but the injuries were never serious and no deaths till ----- 1989, when death started ruling the roost .

What had changed? Just a little-----. When Pakistanis found that all their efforts of more than 40 years of grabbing Kashmir had failed . the process of indoctrination through local 'Maulvis' started. Kashmiri Muslims during the Friday prayers were told that cow slaughter was a holy act as per Islam, and so was beef eating. When this too didn't have the desired impact, A moulvi slaughtered a cow in Lal Chowk of Anantnag in Kashmir. People were told that it was holy food and those not eating the same would no longer be Muslims. To compound the problems of the simple people, they also called for civil curfew. During that period the food was supplied not by the government but by the Mosques. Vegetable prices touched the roof. Mutton was equally expensive. The obvious choice for the simple people was beef which was heavily subsidized. After this, it took only a few months till January 1990, when all the mosques in the Kashmir valley simultaneously , on that fateful night , with full volume on the public address system ordered the Hindu men to leave the valley , leaving behind their womenfolk , within 48 hours or face death. To emphasize that they meant business, next day they killed about 15-20 young Hindu men in their twenties, and also a few women were molested. The police being local Muslims were mute spectators. He common muslim population thought that it was not their problem . So the message was clear—Kashmiri Pandits had to leave Kashmir once again.

Our Kashmiri Pandit history ( Verbal ) has taught us that in the 11th century , there was a mass conversion by Renchen Shah in Kashmir Valley, which was a Hindu majority area till then. All got converted or fled the place except 11 families who managed to survive the sword and remain Hindus, with the help of another group of people who just got converted to Islam. Now this group of people who got converted and yet saved the 11 Hindu families were – the milkmen! The reason they preferred to get converted and not flee was – their love for cows. Just to ensure that the cows were taken care of , they even preferred to be muslims! This ethos continued for centuries till 1989………… These milkmen also remind me of the Voiths of USA who despite being Christians are showing so much of compassion towards the cows.

Now, why have I brought all these issues of Mumbai, North East and Kashmir together? Just that I see a common thread – Cow slaughter . Is there a relationship between cow slaughter beef eating and conversions , when it comes to India? It looks like a well tested international formula by all the so called religions interested in increasing their so called 'market share'. When will great spiritual leaders of these religions concentrate on the real essence of spirituality ? When will they stop concentrating on 'educating and reforming one billion infidels and barbarians of India' ? Does Mr. Sajan K . George have an answer to this ?

Is there a need for debate on this issue?

Hare Krishna,

Vimal Vakhlu

Shillong, India


At 5/29/2006 02:55:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

With hundreds of evalgelist blogs talking nothing but ' only we know the truth and will keep proclaiming it because we are concerned for you' on this issue, your blog comes across as a breath of Indianness and its beauty. Balance and belief are the defining qualities of our old civilization and losing its beauty and not our numbers is the biggest thing we lose when people are asked to renounce their legacy because they are poor.

Frankly I'm not as tolerant of hypocrisy as you are and I always mention the inquisitions (Goa too) and witch hunts and the dark ages to reveal the true face of the 'compassionate'. However, you are more effective than I can ever hope to be.

Mr. Adullah, you are right sir. But isn't this right infringed when one is made to do it for material things? or even worse, coercion?


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