|That the constitutional right to ‘propagate’ does not mean the right to ‘convert’ was clarified by the Supreme Court while upholding the validity of anti-conversion laws (the Freedom of Religion Act 1967 and the Dharma Swatantrya Adhiniyam 1968) in Odisha and Madhya Pradesh.
By Kanchan Gupta, the Pioneer
The right to ‘propagate' does not mean the right to ‘convert'. And it is this inability to distinguish between the two that highlights the appalling ignorance of those who see nothing wrong with offensive evangelism
Astonishing ignorance laces the arguments proffered by the Left-liberal commentariat and ‘secular’ politicians in defence of religious conversions through deceit, allurement and coercion. A lot of this has been heard in recent days both inside and outside Parliament. Amid the raucous din in Parliament and television studios, a point that is heard over and over again is how converting Hindus to another faith is integral to ‘secularism’,
sanctioned by the Constitution, and must never be objected to as that would hurt India’s pluralism. The Idea of India, it would seem, is hinged on the idea of allowing foreign-funded evangelists a free run. “The Constitution guarantees Christian missionaries the right to convert people to Christianity,” we are told. “In a secular country, the Constitution reigns supreme,” we are reminded. “Violation of rights enshrined in the Constitution will destroy democracy,” we are warned.
A Christian woman appearing on Barkha Dutt’s show, feigning great outrage over ‘persecution’ of Christians by Hindus, especially the clergy (her reference was to the alleged rape of a nun in West Bengal, a crime for which Bangladeshi Muslims have been arrested) absurdly claimed that India has turned into “Hitler’s Germany”. The Archbishop, a Cardinal and the woman who heads West Bengal Minority Commission, who spoke on the issue to the media, poured unadulterated hate on Hindus and have not had the courtesy to offer even an apology now that they have been exposed as liars.
But let’s return to the contentious issue of conversions, which are based on fraud and deceit and whose victims are invariably the vulnerable sections of Hindu society. What does the Constitution say on the Church’s claimed right to convert Hindus and ‘harvest their souls’? Ask the Constitution-thumping saviours of secularism, pluralism and democracy this simple question and they will be stumped.
The ‘Constitution of the Socialist, Secular Republic of India’ is likely the most mentioned and least read book in the world. Everybody loves to flaunt it; very few have actually bothered to read it. This is what Article 25(1) of the Constitution says: “Subject to public order, morality and health and to other provisions of this part, all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right to freely profess, practice and propagate religion.”
Read it out to those who pretend great outrage every time there’s a hint of protest against conversions, and they will pounce upon you: “See, the Constitution gives Christian missionaries the right to propagate their religion.” Wrong. The right to ‘propagate’ does not mean the right to ‘convert’. And it is this inability to distinguish between the two that highlights the appalling ignorance of those who see nothing wrong with offensive evangelism. That the constitutional right to ‘propagate’ does not mean the right to ‘convert’ was clarified by the Supreme Court while upholding the validity of anti-conversion laws (the Freedom of Religion Act 1967 and the Dharma Swatantrya Adhiniyam 1968) in Odisha and Madhya Pradesh.
Chief Justice AN Ray, in his ruling, left little scope for confusion between propagation and conversion. The two, he said, were different. “What Article 25(1) grants is not the right to convert another person to one’s own religion by exposition of its tenets,” Chief Justice Ray ruled. The Supreme Court, in that judgment, also ruled that States, bearing in mind their responsibility to maintain public order, have the right to adopt laws “prohibiting conversion from one religion to another in a manner reprehensible to the conscience of the community”.
Some years ago, Christian organisations, including the Catholic church, raised a huge hue and cry over violence against evangelists in Rajasthan. Then, as now, the BJP was in power and Vasundhara Raje was the Chief Minister. That was enough of a reason, it would seem, for the onslaught that came from the church and the Minorities Commission.
The furore was centred over a Hindi book, Haqeeqat, which was being freely distributed in Rajasthan’s tribal-dominated areas by ‘Archbishop’ MA Thomas and his son, ‘Reverend’ Samuel Thomas, of the Emmanuel Mission International. Here are some samples of what Haqeeqat, which was being used by the Thomases and their associates to convince Hindus in Kota to abandon their faith and embrace Christianity, has to say:
- “Hindu gods and goddesses are fictitious and were invented to persecute Dalits” (Page 9).
- “To prevent indigenous people from acquiring knowledge, Saraswati invented difficult Vedas (which nobody can understand)”. (Page 16)
- “With the progression of time, people all over the world (except India) were freed of their ignorance and they began to disown wicked and cruel gods and goddesses. But in India, because people are (enveloped) in the darkness of ignorance, imaginary gods and goddesses are still worshipped.” (Page 17)
- “Naked sanyasis are worshipped by (Hindu) women. The moment (Hindu) women see naked sanyasis, they fall on the ground and prostrate themselves before the sanyasis. (Hindu) women pour water on the sanyasis’ penises and then happily drink that water. Ling Devata is gratified when he sees all these repulsive things and feels empowered... These people are ignorant and do not know the difference between what is right and wrong.” (Page 93)
- “Sita was abandoned in the forest as per Ram’s wishes... Ram later asked Lakshman to kill Sita. In the end, Ram frustrated with life, drowned himself in Saryu. Such are the teachings of half-naked rishis who are praised by Hindutvawadis.” (Page 100)
- “Lord Shiva, to get people to worship him, dropped his penis on Earth (Devi), shaking the ground and the sky! ... . Poor Dharti Devi was shaken by the weight of his penis. Seeing this, all the Gods were scared. It seems Gods would use their penises as bombs! Whenever and wherever they wanted to, they would drop their ‘penis bombs’ to terrorise the people. Thus, they were able to enslave the people... But compared to foreign bombs, these penis bombs were a damp squib.” (Page 106-107)
- “(Ramakrishna) Paramahansa should have known that Ganga is the world’s filthiest and dirtiest river. How many dead bodies float down this river every day? How many half-burnt dead bodies are dumped into it every day? And Hindus call it the holy river! In fact, all the rivers of India are dirty and polluted... Hindutvawadis pollute the rivers... and then depend on their false Gods to cleanse them...” (Page 122-123)
- “(For Hindus) men can be Gods, women can be Goddesses... animals are gods, snakes are gods... they (Hindu Gods) fight among themselves, marry among themselves, throw out their wives, run away with others’ wives, they steal, get intoxicated, drink blood, are reincarnated as animals, fish and tortoise, some of them can lift mountains... Some Gods are in same-sex relationships and are yet able to produce babies. These Gods and Goddesses are always armed because they believe in killing and plunder. Some Gods think their penises are more powerful than nuclear bombs. Others like animals live naked among their followers. Some of them spend their time in yogic exercises, others are in samadhi and happy to see the number of blind followers swell... You can wash away your sins by worshipping the penises of Gods.” (Page 146)
- “How could Arya Hindus bring Aryanisation on this earth. To be Arya, one has to be born of an Arya womb... If Arya Hindus want to bring Aryanisation then they must lend or rent out all Arya wombs to non-Aryans. Non-Aryans should be given Brahmin women so that children are born from Brahmin womb” (Page 182-183).
- “In modern India, many Ramas of this belief are living a carefree life. They marry several times, desert their wives, marry several times, and leave them. Many Ramas kill their Sitas. They are following their God Rama.” (Page 269)
- “(Lord) Krishna had a despicable sex life... Shri Krishna is famous because of his love life. He had 16,008 wives. And all Yadav women were his illegitimate lovers. (Hindu) women are drawn towards him because of pornographic and vulgar tales of his sex life.” (Page 391)
The Government of Rajasthan, following street protests, decided to ban it to prevent the eruption of violence. Cases were registered against the father-son duo of ‘Archbishop’ Thomas and ‘Reverend’ Thomas. Immediately thereafter, the campaign of calumny began. It’s not for nothing that Indira Gandhi, incandescent with rage after the mass conversion of Hindus to Islam at Meenakshipuram in February 1981, favoured the idea of States adopting anti-conversion laws and had the Home Ministry prepare a draft Act for circulation among State Governments. Why the draft never became law is another story best kept for another day.