Hindu Vivek Kendra
«« Back
Anti-conversion law

Anti-conversion law

Author: Hilda Raja
Publication: The Hindu
Date: December 3, 2002

It has been reported that a broad-based platform comprising 65 Dalit organisations, religious minority fora and civil rights groups has decided to take their opposition to the anti-conversion law to a higher political platform. So they also want to rope in the Left parties. Each of these in its own perception seeks political gains out of the whole opposition strategy.

Conversion is a question of faith but what seems to surface is that it has become a ransom to demand this or that and it is used as a threat. "If you do not give us land we will convert, we want equality and so we will convert," are the reasons given to justify the need for conversion. Constitutionally equality is guaranteed to all. The operation of this has been far from satisfactory. What is needed is social awareness, a change in the attitude and recourse to the judiciary in specific cases of discrimination. The cases of oppression and the discrimination against the SCs as reported in the media and from what I have personally witnessed are perpetuated by the BCs and the MBCs (these are referred to as `caste Hindus' in the media).

In a village in Villipuram district, the SCs are not allowed to enter the village temple by the Udayars. The tragedy is that the SCs too practise discrimination. For example, the Pallars will not inter-dine or intermarry with other SCs such as the Arunthathiyars. Political parties and leadership are also based on these divisions. Exceptions are not the rule. For that matter quite a few Pallars have married Brahmins. The former are Sanskritised and have become highly ritualistic.

Sad reality

So when conversion from one faith to another is being discussed I fail to understand how it can be an escape route to equality and dignity. No religion including Hinduism sanctions oppression and discrimination. It is a sad reality that the Dalits come in handy for exploitation in every field and in any cause by the politicians, the church leaders and those who are involved in the business of conversion to suit their own vested interest. The protest against the law which prohibits forced conversions is a telling example. For one thing the Christian churches do practise discrimination even in death, and continue to bury the Dalits in separate cemeteries even today. If it is dignity and equality that force the Dalits to embrace Christianity it is for them to articulate so when they get converted and prove their volition. The Dalit leader Ambedkar opted for Buddhism because he found Christian religion too practised discrimination and Dalits were oppressed within its fold. So to state that in Christian churches they find dignity is far from truth and that makes it a misleading inducement - to promise equality and then deny them that. Too long they have been exploited and made scapegoats and used as a camouflage for the vested interests of the high and mighty even by their own Dalit leaders.

The Dalit leaders who today are forging a broad-based platform also have their political goals rather than the intricate faith question of `conversion.' Even if all the SCs out of their free will opt to become Christians or Buddhists who and what is preventing them? If the Tamil Nadu CM showed an inexplicable hurry in ushering in such a law the Dalit organisations are exposing their eagerness to use this as a tool to gain political mileage and the Minority church leaders are revealing their heartburns, because for them their `targets' for each year will be affected - this will affect the flow of funds too.

Even the State Minority Commission which had a belated meeting with the CM put forth very illogical views to press its demand for revoking the law. For example, it stated that the punishment in other States where such a law was in force is less harsh, that the minorities are engaged only in service and that no statistics are available to substantiate the argument that forced conversions took place.

Is the law illegal? Does it violate personal freedom and the Constitutionally guaranteed rights? Does it prohibit and/or hinder service by the minorities? These should have been raised and validated. If the law violates personal freedom, then would less harsh punishment justify it? The law will become operative not against service but against conversions.

Similarly each State has laws with its own degree of severity and leniency. Is there any law that says that all the States should have a uniform set of punishments? For example the minority institutions in this country follow different sets of rules and regulations - differing from State to State. In this State they come under no government regulation! What is puzzling is why the church leaders while saying that they do not indulge in forced conversions are so worked up and demand the revocation of the law? On the other hand when there is blatant discrimination against the Christian SCs and STs in denying them the same concessions and reservation guaranteed to the Hindu Dalits there was/is no consistent struggle and protest. Half-hearted attempts were made. Even the neo-Buddhists are given the same benefits as the Hindu SCs and STs.

The argument that the law can be misused is valid. It is reasonable then to ask for safeguard provisions. But do the churches not have the resources - the power and the strength: financial political, and social - to prove in the courts the `truth'? All laws are misused. Do we do away with them?

Back                          Top

«« Back
  Search Articles
  Special Annoucements