Missing: A Strong Hindu Ecosystem To Support Ghar Wapsi And Reconversions
The only way Hindu demography can be maintained or expanded in India is by making Hinduism a missionary faith, but this means creating an ecosystem to support such missionary activities.
Two high-profile conversions to Hinduism, one in India and another in Indonesia, have been welcomed by many Hindus with relief, for it signals a small reversal of the trend of Hindus moving away to Abrahamic faiths. However, these cases should prompt Hindus and Hindu organisations to ask themselves a fundamental question: do they have the necessary eco-system to support ghar wapsis and formal conversions of people who were never Hindu on a wider scale than now?
In Indonesia, former President Sukarno’s daughter, Sukmawati Sukarnoputri, left Islam to become Hindu in October. This week, former Chairman of the Uttar Pradesh Shia Wakf Board, Wasim Rizvi, was converted to Hinduism by Swami Yati Narsinghanand, head priest of the Dasna Devi Temple in Ghaziabad, and renamed Jitendra Narayan Singh Tyagi. While speaking to India Today TV, the new convert said: “I was removed from Islam. The prize money on my head is increased every Friday. Today I am embracing Sanatan Dharma." Bounties are being offered for Rizvi’s head.
In March this year, Rizvi created a huge backlash from Muslim organisations when he moved a public interest litigation in the Supreme Court seeking the deletion of 26 verses from the Quran which were anti-kafir. The petition was dismissed by a bench headed by Justice Rohinton Nariman, who claimed it was frivolous, and imposed costs on Rizvi. A so-called liberal judge apparently declined to act on a petition that sought exclusion of some of the Muslim holy book’s illiberal verses.
Not that any judiciary can edit any holy book, but the least Justice Nariman could have done was make positive comments on the need to review those verses by Muslims themselves. But that’s another story.
What is material here is the fact that Hindu society does not have the ability to protect the new convert, and demanding state protection from Islamic fanatics who are willing to die in their cause is not feasible on a large scale if ghar wapsi is to be pursued beyond one or two high-profile cases. The state could not protect Kamlesh Tiwari from his Muslim assassins.
Worse, Hindu society at large does not even know how to help new converts adjust to Hinduism – though the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and some of the Sangh’s front organisations do report some success in this regard.
An ecosystem for encouraging ghar wapsi, and conversions of members belonging to non-Hindu societies (say, in America, Europe or Latin America) needs a solid support structure.
One, there needs to be a formal system of training priests and pracharaks who know the basics of Hinduism and know how to approach potential crossover members from another community.
Two, the wider society at large should be educated on how the new converts need to be treated and helped adjust to their new religion, rituals and practices. On the contrary, many Hindus probably have a suspicious attitude to new converts, and even quickly write off people who convert away from Hinduism. If this was not the case, one wonders what stopped Hindus who were forcibly converted by Tipu Sultan or the Moplahs from reconverting them once the scourges were dealt with by the British and other law enforcers. Forced conversions are usually reversible in the first generation as the converts would normally be ambivalent over the use of force to obtain their loyalties for a new faith. But this return can happen only if their old faiths are willing to accept them back, but Hindus have often raised taboos about those returning to the fold. In the case of evangelical Christianity or Islam, ordinary members of the communities go all out to support new converts. There are also penalties in place to prevent new converts from slipping back into their old religions.
Three, a proper ecosystem should include plans to retain the members beyond one or two generations. Many churches, for example, allow first generation inter-faith marriages to continue without conversion (ie, if one partner insists on it), but they often insist that any children born in this marriage must be raised as Christians. In Islam, there is no such thing as an inter-faith marriage; if you accept a nikah ceremony, you are deemed to be a Muslim, and your children will be raised in that faith. This happens because both Christianity and Islam know that till a conversion is confirmed in succeeding generations, it remains dicey.
Fourth, we cannot wish away the reality that converts may be seeking more than just spiritual and dogmatic guidance. Easier admissions to schools run by the new faith, or support to find employment are equally important drivers of conversions (or retentions within one faith). One can deride such converts as “rice-bag” cryptos, but we cannot deny that material benefits are important incentives for conversion in the first generation. Once the second and third generation remains in the faith, the investment in new converts become self-supporting, for these generations start contributing to churches and religious causes.
This fact alone tells us how important it is to wrest back control of temples from the state, and insist on autonomy for Hindu-run institutions.
The only way Hindu demography can be maintained or expanded in India is by making Hinduism a missionary faith, but this means creating an ecosystem to support such missionary activities. Islam and Christianity are leagues ahead of Hindus in this race. But if we don’t start building this ecosystem now, the two Abrahamic faiths will gain at our cost. Hinduism will shrivel and wither in the land of its birth.
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