Sunday, Dec 14, 2014
The Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC – www.iamc.com), an advocacy group dedicated to safeguarding India’s pluralist and tolerant ethos has condemned the forced conversion of Muslims in Agra as well as the government’s suggested “remedy”, of pushing the anti-conversion bill, currently adopted in five states across India, as brazen attacks on the nation’s Constitution. News reports indicate 200 Muslims were made to participate in a ceremony, “converting” them to Hinduism. The individuals later denied having changed their faith, and referred to false promises as well as intimidation at the hands of the Hindutva militant organizations as the reason for their participation in the ceremony.
The fact that an RSS offshoot is seeking donations to convert Muslims and Christians in Aligarh to Hinduism on December 25th, also exposes the Sangh’s hypocritical position on the issue of religious conversion. While genuine religious conversion is a personal choice that should be respected, the Hindu nationalist organizations have championed anti-conversion laws, ostensibly to combat the very tactics they are now adopting. In practice the laws are used to curtail conversions out of personal choice, and thus represent a further constricting of the religious freedom landscape.
The movement to forcibly convert India’s minorities, mainly Christians, Muslims and Dalits to Hinduism, is being spearheaded by offshoots of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) such as the Bajrang Dal, that have been implicated in some of the worst massacres of minorities in recent Indian history. In the context of the rapid increase in violence and a sustained hate campaign against minorities, the forced conversion drive is another attempt to undermine India’s secular fabric. The anti-conversion laws, on the other hand, compel the individual seeking to convert to solicit permission from the state, and represents an unconstitutional intrusion in a matter of personal religious belief. The UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion has referred to such laws as threats to religious freedom.
The government’s duplicity on this issue is further evidence that the new administration led by the BJP, itself an offshoot of the RSS, is actively pursuing the Hindutva agenda that seeks to remake India as a Hindu nation where minorities are relegated to the status of second-class citizens. Social analysts and thinkers believe the Hindu ultra-nationalist movement is also manipulating Dalits to further their own supremacist agenda.
“Compelling individuals to adopt one faith, while actively seeking to curtail genuine conversions out of that faith, exposes the desire to impose a majoritarian agenda on the country. It is also a travesty of international norms, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to which India is a signatory,” said Mr. Ahsan Khan, President of IAMC. “The fissures within the NDA government are a natural outcome of the narrow and divisive agenda being pursued by BJP leaders and Hindu supremacist organizations aligned with the RSS,” added Mr. Khan.
In recent years, religious conversion issues came to the fore when Swami Aseemanand, a senior Sangh leader who is currently on trial in a series of bombings in India, revealed howhe spearheaded the forced conversion programme of the Sangh in Gujarat’s Dangs district, that involved destruction of at least thirty churches just between mid-December of 1998 and mid-January of the following year. His fiery zeal to convert the tribal’s did not involve any concern for alleviating their poverty or social status. Aseemanand was later rewarded by the RSS for his violent tactics when he was granted the annual Shri Guruji award. The bombings for which Aseemanand is currently in prison, had a combined toll of over 85 lives, and were initially blamed on Muslim youth, for which they were illegally incarcerated.
IAMC has called upon the BJP-led administration, to rethink its approach to India’s resurgence. Creating an atmosphere of fear and intimidation and heaping abuse on minorities will gain neither respect nor influence on the world stage. On the contrary, India’s vision for development can be seriously compromised if it involves the alienation of minorities, representing a population of over 250 million.
Indian American Muslim Council is the largest advocacy organization of Indian Muslims in the United States with chapters across the nation.
For more information, please visit http://www.iamc.com
address: 6321 W Dempster St. Suite 295, Morton Grove, IL 60053.
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