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In Your Face | Conversion is a primary reason for religious discord in India, must be stopped immediately

Author: Savio Rodrigues
Publication: Firstpost.com
Date: May 16, 2022
URL:      https://www.firstpost.com/opinion/in-your-face-conversion-is-a-primary-reason-for-religious-discord-in-india-must-be-stopped-immediately-10680281.html

We need to realise that religion is a map that helps bring us to the door of spirituality; we can either open the door or wander aimlessly looking for God

I do not believe in religious conversion because I do not believe that a person’s religious faith can decide the fate of his/her soul. Being a Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh or an atheist is not a gateway to heaven. Religions and religious interpretations are the root causes of conflicts around the world.

Religion corrupts the mind, while spirituality awakens the mind to the reality of our cohesive existence with all of God’s creations.

The root cause of conflict in today’s world is religion because one religion wants to enforce its superiority on people of other religious faiths. I wonder if I were born not as a Christian but as a Hindu or a Muslim, how I would have been different in my thought and action. My quest to understand God and the universal consciousness would not change. I would be a seeker, irrespective of the religion I would be born into.

If most religions profess to preach unification of people, then how can religious institutions and their clerics divide people based on their religious beliefs? Such is the blind faith of people in their respective religions that they are willing to fight, and wage a war only to prove the supremacy of their religious beliefs.

Islamic radicals will go on a rampage if a cartoon is made of Prophet Mohammad. In their rage they will kill anyone seen to be standing on the other side of the religious divide. A teacher in Europe last year was brutally killed by the father of a Muslim girl, just because the young girl told him that the teacher ‘mocked’ Islam and Prophet Mohammad! Upon investigations it was learned that the girl was not even in the class when she claimed the teacher ‘mocked’ Islam.

Overzealous believers from the Christian community have been advocating the path of salvation being Jesus Christ alone and have arduously pursued this agenda to convert people of the Hindu and Muslim faith in India.

Priests and pastors constantly mock Hindu beliefs and gods. Many evangelicals claim that they have come to India on a mission to save the demon-worshippers and bring them to the knowledge of the true God and saviour Jesus Christ. Sometimes the allurement is education, healthcare, employment and a better life as a Christian than being a Hindu, especially for the marginalised in the social community.

Muslim preachers too have been vehemently propagating and proselytising their Islamic faith in India and around the world. In fact, Islamic radicalisation has over the years intensified globally. Most Islamic radicals want nations around the world to come under the Shari’ah.

To fight the onslaught of conversions in India, certain Hindu groups have initiated reconversions to bring the converted natives back to Hindu fold. I am not sure whether the person who converts and then reconverts understands the tenets of the religions he first converted to and then reconverted into.

Religion is the single most dividing factor that leads to violence and conflict around the world. I cannot come to grips with the thought that states, “My God is better than your God.

It’s difficult to comprehend how any sane person can kill another in the name of religion. It’s difficult to fathom how one can atone for one’s sins by sacrificing an innocent animal. Or, how the killing of persons from another religion will bestow you with 72 virgins in the afterlife!

The nature of God cannot be encapsulated in an image or a religion or a book or a dogma. God is an energy beyond comprehension. We come in touch with this consciousness when we empty ourselves from our religious biases and reach into the depths of our humanness or soul.

Conversion is a cruel joke on all of us, because God is within and around us. No God can be bigger or better than another God because even the religion and its institution cannot guarantee that their faith is the only true path to salvation. And seriously, what is salvation? What do we need to be saved from? If we have come into this world, we have come here with a purpose to live out our karma and do our dharma.

We need to realise that religion is a map that helps bring us to the door of spirituality; we can either open the door or wander aimlessly looking for God. We just need to open our eyes to see this truth; maybe, then, there would be peace in this world.

As Norwegian sociologist Johan Vincent Galtung once stated, “Peace is not the absence of conflict, but the absence of violence in a time of conflict.”


- The author is the founder of GoaChronicle.com and a BJP leader. Views expressed are personal.

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Author: Alka Dhupkar
Publication: The Times of India
Date: May 2, 2022
URL:      https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/loudspeaker-lessons-for-india-from-a-maharashtra-village/articleshow/91259002.cms

The villagers of Barad have passed a resolution to stop the use of loudspeakers

Barad shows that strong-arm tactics are not needed to curb noise pollution; a simple matter of sitting across a table and discussing can do wonders

Barad is a biggish village in Nanded district of Maharashtra with a population of around 15,000. It is roughly 20km from Nanded city. Over time, the village has prospered and places of worship, among other buildings, have been renovated.

The village has 15 religious places — 12 Hindu temples and a place of worship each for Buddhist, Jain and Muslim communities. In some neighbourhoods, these religious places are in close proximity. No problem there.

It was only when these places started using loudspeakers to broadcast sermons, aartis and bhajans that the problem started. It became a veritable Tower of Babel — all noise and confusion.

“Since five in the morning, we used to play songs. In some places, one couldn’t hear the other’s songs or for that matter what was played in our temple,” says Suresh Deshmukh, a trustee of the local Hanuman temple.

For days on end, farmer Sharad Kawle’s 80-year-old grandmother couldn’t get a peaceful night’s sleep because of the rampant use of loudspeakers in the village.

But all this is in the past now. In charged times like these, Barad stands out as a model of communal harmony. Back in 2018, the villagers unanimously decided to remove loudspeakers from all religious places.

So, what happened in 2018?

According to deputy sarpanch Balasaheb Shankarao Deshmukh, sometime in December 2017, a Ganesh temple was using loudspeakers to broadcast maha aarti and a Buddha vihar nearby was playing religious songs. This went on till late at night.

“Groups from both sides started raising voices against each other, asking that the volume be lowered. Harmony in the village was completely disturbed,” he says. “Somehow we managed to cool tempers, but the tension simmered.”

But this wasn’t the only incident. A local school kept complaining about noise pollution to the Shiva temple trust and others in their area. The students couldn’t concentrate on studies because there was a kind of competition in using loudspeakers till late night and early mornings among all the religions.

The villagers were fed up. Some of them met after the tension escalated between Buddha and Ganpati followers. During a meeting with the local police, they discussed the proposal of removing all loudspeakers.

Thereafter, the villagers held a meeting with all the religious groups separately. Everybody accepted that the use of loudspeakers was a cause for concern and social discord. The religious trusts said if it was mandatory for all religious groups then they would also stop using loudspeakers.

After the consultations, a special gram sabha was called and a unanimous resolution was passed.

The villagers agreed to use sound boxes instead of loudspeakers. The only caveat: the volume of the sound box should be maintained at a pre-mandated level so the sound does not go beyond the walls of the holy place.

The gram panchayat has already installed around 40 small sound boxes for local announcements such as deaths, vaccination or other government programmes.

After the noise, peace

Yogesh Ratnparakhi, who runs Om Sai Coaching Classes in Barad, says, “In my centre, there are around 100 students and I can’t tell you how happy we all are that the loudspeakers have finally stopped. Earlier, students would use unending noise as an excuse not to study. Now, they properly focus on studies.”

Kiran Mahajan, a trustee of Chandra Prabhu Digambar Jain temple, says, “Ours is a private temple that is open to the public. We too had installed a loudspeaker because others installed it too. But after the removal of loudspeakers, we didn’t lose any devotees. Loudspeakers actually don’t matter.”

Sharad Kawle, the farmer, says, “Many of us in this village are followers of the Varkari bhakti movement. I believe that your religious activity should not disturb others. Keep it personal, so we all supported this proposal.”

His views are echoed by Sardar Sattar Khan Pathan of Jama Masjid in Barad. “We respect festivals of all communities. The kind of communal harmony we have maintained would not have been possible with loudspeakers at each religious place in the village.”

According to Vasant Lalme, a trustee of the Shiva temple, loudspeakers are not essential for singing bhajans or kirtans. “Devotion is a very personal feeling. It can be attained without loudspeakers. We have proved it.”

Model village

Deputy sarpanch Deshmukh, however, is disappointed that his village has not been given due recognition for the innovative solution to the menace of unchecked loudspeakers. The village doesn’t encourage the use of loudspeakers even for political rallies, weddings or other celebrations.

In other ways, too, Barad can be touted as a model village. It has received state awards for cleanliness and drinking water distribution management, open defecation-free status, success of ‘tanta mukti’ yojana (a scheme to clear local disputes at the village level) and other achievements.

The village has 20 CCTV cameras, which have helped curb theft, sexual harassment and other crimes. The village has developed a proper watershed system; a dormitory near a rural hospital is a unique feature of the village. It has also built a hostel for girl students, it has a zilla parishad school, multiple anganwadis, among other facilities.

As the noise over the use of loudspeakers at religious places grows louder and various state governments are using strong-arm tactics, perhaps it is Barad’s use of consultation that stands out more than its other achievements.