It is quite ironic that one of the most vocal opponents of religious conversion in India was none other than Mahatma Gandhi and yet we do not have any effective law or system to prevent the illogical and immoral process of religious conversion. Foreign and local missionaries are still having a good time in India harvesting souls to increase their numbers. Scores of old and new factions of Christianity are vying with one another in getting more numbers into their fold. All patriotic Indians were stunned when a few years ago the then Pope, who is also the Head of State of another sovereign nation like India, declared during his visit to this country that they will target Indian sub-continent in the 21st century for organized harvest of souls. There was no official protest for this blatant violation of India’s sovereignty from any of India’s leaders or officials.
The same status continues even today. When the so-called Hindu Nationalistic party was in power at the centre we expected enactment of laws to put a full stop to the evil of religious conversion. But nothing happened. Many of our leaders are conveniently forgetting that we the people of India voluntarily opted for secularism and democracy with universal franchise in 1947. So it is of utmost importance that demography is maintained at the same level at all times. Otherwise both secularism and democracy will fail in no time. Religious conversion will alter the power equations in a democratic setup and this will destroy the concept of secularism that we proudly advocate. We should remember that Indian secularism is not merely keeping religion divorced from the State but giving equal respects for all religions. And that can be practiced only if all religions are given a level playground.
In a democratic and secular setup of more than one billion people and dozens of religions and religious factions, if a few of them are converting people and others are not doing so, the end results are obvious. Organised religions and religious factions will soon start bargaining with the political parties for favours, most often undue and unreasonable. When it is not succeeding, they will start creating political parties of their own. Political parties are the only vehicle to political power in a democracy and the organized religions know this more than anyone else. The degeneration of a secular democracy to a theocratic monarchy is not very difficult and we have seen this happening many times in the past. The least that should be done to protect our secularism is to introduce very tough hurdles to organized conversion of peoples’ faith.
Architects of Indian constitution had a lot of foresight into the potential challenges to our secular democracy from the various religious organizations. The simple fact that the term ‘minorities’ is not defined in Indian constitution is proof enough for this. It can be (and should be) a variable based on different parameters and can vary from state to state. But now we have come to a sorry state where some of the organized communities have anointed themselves as minorities forever and everywhere. Their agenda is only to enjoy the special privileges that are supposedly there in the constitution. But whatever be the special privileges in the constitution, it is definitely not for unhindered conversion of people’s religion. Religion is a very personal affair and must remain so if it is to be a meaningful exploration to reach God.
One of the poorest and impoverished groups of people who have borne the brunt of organized religious conversion is the Adivasis of India. They too are descendents of the original inhabitants of our nation but they have been very reluctant and slow in adapting to change with the times. Like the tribes in Africa they have their own version of customs, rituals and even Gods. These highly unorganized sections of Indian society are easy prey for the organized predators like Christian missionaries and ultra-left Communists. Not used to the deceptiveness of modern men and their organized isms, the Adivasis are lured en masse’ into believing that there is only one God and one religion. Their inborn innocence is manipulated by modern techniques of the conversion machinery to believe that they have been in hell all the while and Christianity is the only way to God.
The standard answer from any Christian missionary when caught red handed indulging in organized religious conversion is that they are only spreading the ‘suvisesham’ – good news. But they should be spreading the news (good or bad) to only those who want to hear it. In India, especially among the Adivasis, they are forcing the unwanted news into unwilling ears. It is time for Vatican and the whole world to understand one thing. If evangelization was the answer to all our problems, the African continent would have already become a paradise on earth. The Pope himself had admitted that they had targeted African continent in previous centuries. But what is its present condition? From cradle of mankind it has become the cradle of poverty, bloodshed and AIDS. As the enlightened ones among say now – “When missionaries came, they had Bible and we had land, and now we have Bible and they have taken our land”.
Religions are playing an excessively dangerous role in the lives of humans now. The organized ones are more determined than ever in globalization of their own religions. Each of them wants to convert every human into their religion and capture power in this world. Though alleviation of misery and salvation of souls are the declared objective of all religions, the real target of organized ones is power. All that the clergy and agents of God require is enjoinment of their power over the lives of followers. The whole organizational setup is meant only for that purpose. In countries like India where plurality, inclusion, religious freedom and freedom from religions are the very basis of our culture, these organized religions are like cancer and ulcer in our society. In the tri-polar world that is emerging, India is best advised to align itself with the American block but with the sole condition that any encouragement for religious conversion in India would be absolute taboo.