The Great Conversion Debate 

 

There has been a lot of fervor recently about how conversions are hurting the Hindus in India.

But have we learned anything from our past ?

Who is being converted ?  How are they being converted ?  What is the benefit for the converted ?

 

People who are converted are mainly those from the "lower stratas" of society.  People who have been down trodden and derided at every opportunity by their Hindu brethren.  If the Hindu majority truly wants to stop the conversions, than let them start to treat the tribals and untouchables as equals. 

After the first conversions under Buddhism and later under Islam, Hindus should have learned their lesson and started to reform.  Having learned their first lessons almost 2500 + years ago, they should have done something to stem the flow of conversions by dealing with the cause of conversion - genuine desire to feel wanted / loved.

Apart from food and medicine, one of the prime reason for conversion is, the missionaries (Buddhist, Muslim, Christians, its all the same) treat the down trodden in the society as humans and show love and compassion for them.  It is this that the converts respond to.  Who would not want to be loved or feel wanted ?  When a person comes up to you, treats you like an equal and genuinely wants to help you uplift your material and spiritual life, why would you not want to join that person ?  This is what the rishies of yore did to spread the message of Vedas across India.  They brought prosperity, new tools, new agricultural methods and new knowledge to help the people rise from pre-history to new cultural heights.

Over time, these ideals were lost and rigidity set in.  The genuine compassion and understanding of rishies was replaced by orthodox priests who wanted only to preserve the status quo to further their own cause.  Much of the revolution of Buddha's time occurred as a direct result of people's genuine desire to rid themselves of "sorrow".

Later Islam bought a different sort of relief, relief from the strict caste system and move towards a more open religion that allowed you to fulfill your spiritual goals in life without having to be reborn to do so.  The egalitarian views of Islam appealed to those who were called Hindu, but had never been allowed to enter a single Hindu temple.  

Christians offer not just religious relief, but drought, flood and educational relief too.  

They are helping to educate the people us Hindus refused to teach even the basic literacy skills.  We refused to even allow them to learn the very hymns that may allow them access to their Gods, for fear of polluting the scriptures and Gods !  If a God can be polluted by being spoken of by a low born, how can that God uplift me ?  Why should a person of low birth want to keep faith with a God and a religion that had no faith in them ?  Apart from  food,  water and education, we also failed to help them realize their spiritual aspirations.  Those brave souls who spoke out against such strictures and wanted to make God available to them, were reviled as dangerous, demented men.  Likes of Tulsidas and Narsiha Mehta had to fight tooth and nail to bring God closer to His own people !  

What did we do for the masses who did not have birth or money to help themselves ?  Did we give them housing that was weather proof ?  Did we even give them the opportunity to build better housing themselves ?  Did we even give them proper access to clean drinking water ?  Instead, the wells of the villages were strictly segregated between the high and low born !  How can such an arrangement help keep our community together ?  Unproductive fields and bad land was given to the lower castes, and even this was passed off as "charity" !  Only second grade food was ever given to them and their health was seen as not the concern of the high browed members of the society.

Why than should these people stay faithful to the Hindus who have not helped them ?  If a new group of people came and promised to help them come out of the quaige mire of social ills, why shouldn't they take up this opportunity ?  With a new name, new surname and a new religion, they can find a whole new world opens up for them.  When you are offered better life in THIS life, rather than here-after, why not convert ?

To really deal with the conversions, the Hindus who are railing against the conversions, should do something positive about it.  Why beat up the priests and nuns ?  They are not the cause of the conversion, they are the effect of centuries of neglect.  Deal with the cause.  Treat the down trodden as humans, Hindus, treat them as our fellow brothers and the conversions will stop - as that will no longer be necessary as a method of advancement, social, spiritual or material.

 

Sadly, in many cases, the converted people are not any better off even after conversion.
After initial relief of getting house or education, the converted people still get treated as untouchable in their new community. 
Their political leaders want to keep their "dalit" tags to get the government sops / reservation / /education / jobs / monetary assistance from around the world etc.

It is sad that caste and untouchability still plays such a major role in India.

 

Bhagwat    Bhagwat_s@Yahoo.com

 

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