Saturday, September 20, 2008

Free speech and conversions

In recent days, there have been a spate of attacks on Christian churches in Karnataka, apparently fuelled by illegal conversions and by some literature that was circulated regarding the Hindu faith. Now, I've read many Christian cartoons that lampoon other faiths. They all read the same - two friends are talking, one of them is a Hindu/Muslim/'Pagan', and the other, a Christian. The non-Christian talks about how his god is great, and the Christian demonstrates by either kicking the idol, or invoking the Bible, that the Christian god is the greatest. Some other times, the non-believer in question faces trouble and invokes his god, which doesn't work. He then 'takes refuge in Jesus Christ'. Lo and behold, all his problems are solved, and he converts to Christianity.

Hilarious, don't you agree? The same stories have been used to convert masses of lower-caste and poor Hindus into Christianity. Apparently, these people were also given bribes - money, education, or health-care at missionary institutions to convert. And that, according to the BJP government, is anti-national, never mind what the constitution says about free speech and freedom of religion.

Countries have a right to free speech enshrined in their constitutions because a citizen's words must be protected from those who are 'offended' by them. Similarly, a right to freedom of religion includes freedom to propagate it, as long as it is not accomplished by coercion or force. Incidentally, religious conversions through bribes is NOT illegal nor is it a 'cognizable' offence.

Of course, I don't expect the VHP/Bajrang Dal goons to understand the constitution. But what I don't get is why the VHP, BD and whoever else produce evidence on those who convert forcibly? Why don't they setup hospitals, schools, and go and work with the poorest and most deprived, and convert them back to Hinduism? Why don't they educate the illiterate, so that they can distinguish between genuine intentions and propaganda? Instead of beating up people and generally giving Hinduism a bad name, why don't they read the Bhagavad Gita, and recognize that even Christianity is another way to the same god?

Well because, that is hard work. Because it takes an understanding of Hinduism that these goons are incapable of fostering within themselves. And because it isn't as easy as vandalizing a place of worship with implicit state backing.

Shame on you, Yeddyurappa, for supporting these acts.


gayathri said...

Some observations...
*Members of the National Commission for Minorities said the police helped the Bajrang Dal activists desecrate the churches, more Christians were jailed than others (sounds familiar? Ayodhya, Gujarat),there were no complaints found on forced or fraudulant conversions available with the district authorities. And educational institutions were served with notices for the one day closure in solidarity against the Kandamal attacks by the minister(we are apparently a democracy!!)

Priscilla said...

You write very well.