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For Sangh, it's a 'homecoming'

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By Our Special Correspondent
  • Published 11.12.14

The 'conversion' ceremony underway in Agra on Monday. (PTI)

New Delhi, Dec. 10: The RSS today defended the conversion of Muslims to Hinduism in an Agra slum by the Bajrang Dal and the Dharma Jagran Samanway Vibhag, a new outfit that is part of the Sangh.

RSS chief spokesperson Manmohan Vaidya told The Telegraph: "This is not a conversion. It is homecoming of those who wish to return to the original fold. I am travelling so I do not have the details. But please recall there are several incidents when Hindus were forcibly converted to other faiths. That is conversion, when force and allurements are used."

Vaidya referred to the mass conversion of Dalit families in a Tamil Nadu village, Meenakshipuram, to Islam in February 1981. It was the first time mass conversions hit national headlines and made the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, virtually unknown until then, famous.

Many of the 350-odd Muslims who converted to Hinduism on Monday have told Agra police they were promised land, BPL cards and voter identity cards if they attended the programme. An FIR has been filed.

Another such conversion programme is planned for Christmas Day in Aligarh.

The BJP's Gorakhpur MP, Mahant Adityanath, has organised the programme at Aligarh to "reconvert" targeted Christians and Muslims to Hinduism. Adityanath, who is away in his constituency, could not be reached. But Aligarh MP Satish Gautam, also of the BJP, confirmed the "ceremony" was on.

"I will meet Mahantji tomorrow to discuss the details. Any person is free under the law to practise a faith of his choice. But if such a person was compelled to embrace another religion, he is free to return to his original faith of his own volition. That's what we are doing," Gautam said.

The BJP MP added that this would be the third successive Christmas Day "re-conversion" in Uttar Pradesh.

On December 25 last year, the VHP with the help of the Bajrang Dal, the Arya Samaj and the Hindu Yuva Vahini, had converted "more than 5,000" Christians in Agra, Aligarh, Bareilly and Mainpuri, Gautam said. Mainpuri was Mulayam Singh Yadav's Lok Sabha seat.

In 1981, the immediate spur for the Meenakshipuram conversion was that a Dalit had eloped with a Thevar and the powerful landed community of Thevars had taken up arms against the Dalits. The Dalits turned to Islam for protection and, later, for a sense of equality and belonging.

The VHP maintained that the Meenakshipuram conversions were not an "outburst of local grievances" but "part of an old conspiracy to destroy Hindus, Hinduism and Hindustan", as an editorial in the RSS mouthpiece Organiser alleged in its July 5, 1981, issue. The VHP publicised the conversions, floated an offshoot called the Hindu Munani and roped in the Arya Samaj to try and reconvert the Dalits. But there were few takers.

In 1982, the VHP took up " shuddhikaran" (purification) and " ghar vapsi" (homecoming) programmes - and marshalled the services of Hindu clerics to contain the activities of the Church, particularly in tribal pockets.

Once the BJP came to power in Uttar Pradesh in 1991 and then in Rajasthan and Gujarat, its "reconversion" programmes began to succeed.

After the Modi government came to power at the Centre, one such programme was held in August. On August 28, newspapers in west Uttar Pradesh reported that a church in Aligarh's Eram Agha village had overnight turned into a temple. A portrait of Shiva was put up on a wall of the Seventh Day Adventist church after the Hindu activists, who banded themselves into an outfit called the Dharam Jagran Vivad, claimed that 72 Dalits who converted to Christianity in 1995 had "returned" to Hinduism.