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Dalits and religious conversions

Tamil Nadu government’s ordinance seeking ban on religious conversions ostensibly by force or allurement is bound to fail in bringing about desired results as it is politically motivated and goes against the basic ethos enshrined in our Constitution. On the contrary it could even be counterproductive and disturb communal harmony in the long run. 

For instance, in a typical case of conversion involving Christian missionaries, if a Dalit family consisting of five members voluntarily accepts Rs. Five lakh as allurement money, then it is unlikely that anybody would lodge a complaint with the police against the concerned missionary. Similarly, it is a proven fact that in majority of the cases of conversion to Islam, the concerned persons are swayed by the ideological superiority of Islam and the character of Prophet Muhammad. In support of this argument one can cite examples of boxing legend Mohammad Ali, famous musician A. R. Rehman and well known literary figure Kamala Suraiya and many others who have embraced religion of Islam wholeheartedly and without any coercion or threat of sword as is normally alleged by some apologists. In such cases also, judicial interference would be of no help and totally uncalled for.

In this context, instead of blaming Christian missionaries or Islamic scholars it would be worthwhile for Hindu community to do some introspection and find out as to why Dalits and other high caste Hindus are lured or attracted towards other faiths especially Christianity and Islam? Paradoxically, it can be seen that on the one hand the higher caste Hindus won’t digest the conversion of their fellow religionists to other faiths in order to enjoy equal status in the society while on the other, they themselves won’t do away with the inhuman caste system so as to give lower caste people equal opportunity in all spheres of life. The crux of the main problem lies here. In this connection, recent Supreme Court judgment allowing lower caste Hindus to perform pujas in temples is a step in right direction. Nevertheless, one must accept the fact that striving for true religion is a natural right of all human being in order to attend to the call of conscience and there should be no unjust interference of any sort in the matter of faith from any corner be it judiciary or government.

Mohd. Aslam, Mumbai

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