By Dhiraj Kumar
Edited by Namrata Caleb
The first session of this newly constituted Parliament was the most fruitful since 2005 with Lok Sabha functioning for 104% of its scheduled time and Rajya Sabha working for 106%, but the concluding days of the last session of Rajya Sabha saw repeated chaos and adjournments on conversion issue. Lok sabha worked for 98% of its scheduled time and Rajya Sabha for just 59%.
India is a secular country and article 25 of The Constitution of India guarantees freedom of religion yet certain Hindu extremist groups are pushing forward for a ‘Hindu Rashtra’. They are justifying their ‘Ghar Wapsi’ campaign by saying that Hindus were converted to Islam in Muslim era at the point of sword. First of all, current actions are not a justification of what had happened in the past and secondly, there seems to be no scientific evidence supporting their argument. These sort of actions compels us to compare them with remorseless Talibans. Famous American historian Richard Eaton has already proved forceful conversion to Islam as untenable. The largest concentration of Muslims were in Punjab, North West provinces, Bengal and along the coastline from Gujarat to Kerala. All were areas where Muslim population were tenuous. All these areas were well connected with land and sea trade routes, people might have come with trade purpose and settled there. The presence of Parsis, Jews, and Christians strengthens this argument. Also the north Indian areas where Muslim rule was concentrated had the fewest of Muslims. As majority of converts belong to the lower class Hindus, they might have converted to escape from the vicious circle of casteism.
In the second half of the nineteenth century, many social reformers stood against ‘varnavyavasta’ or caste system, prominent among them were Baba Amte, Raja Ram Mohan Roy (his special contribution for abolition of sati-pratha), Swami Vivekanand, and Swami Dayanand Saraswati. Many of our freedom fighters have stressed on communal harmony. The famous book “Way to Communal Harmony” written by Mahatma Gandhi stresses on communal harmony among people of different faiths. The book is a compilation of Gandhiji’s reflection on certain problems that divide mankind. He also felt the importance of communal harmony during his stay in South Africa. If Hindu-Muslim unity is established, then unity with other communities can also be easily strengthened. It is a well-known fact that we gave a jolt to British forces in the revolt of 1857 by a strong pillar of Hindus and Muslims unity. The British very well understood this and the “divide and rule” policy was the result of it. Also, every major religion of world favors religious tolerance. It seems that these religious zealots are not even familiar with basic Hindu ideology of ‘vasudhaiva- kutumbakam’ or world as a family. Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the United Nations General Assembly initiated his speech by paying tribute to ancient Indian civilization and the ideology of ‘vasudhaiva-kutumbakam’, which has guided the nation since Vedic times. Communal unity is the need of the hour to maintain the secular fabric of India, otherwise there will be no difference between Pakistan and India.
The catchword for National Unity Day was ‘unity diversified’. Government should intervene to support this notion and protect the rights of minorities. Extremist groups are demanding for an anti-conversion law but such a law would devoid us of the fundamental right to freedom of religion. NDA government is talking of an anti-conversion law that will stop forceful conversion is welcome as it would create a fear of law in the minds of converters. The government should quickly iron out this problem to keep on track with its growth agenda.