Thursday, December 25, 2014

The False protests on Conversions in India: An investigation

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books

The Indian Press is making a lot of noise on "Conversions" in parts of North India. Though the BJP has no role in the policy of bringing back to the Hindu faith those who were "converted" to other faiths over the course of the past several centuries, the Opposition, particularly the Congress has been disrupting the Parliament demanding a Statement from the Hon'ble Prime Minister. The Television Anchors are having a whale of a time, thundering about the "religious freedoms" enshrined in the document of political settlement issued in 1950. Let us examine the truth of what is happening.

Christianity emerged in Asia at a time when the Roman Empire was at the height of its power and strength. As St Augustine writes in his City of God the birth of the Saviour in a corner of the Roman Empire made the religion aspire for a universality that other religions, particularly the many gods and semi divine characters of the Roman public religion lacked. To be a Christian in the Roman world as Peter Brown and other historians have pointed out was to reject the political entity called the Roman Empire, the earthly city of Augustine and this life was only a transition to the Heavenly City where the Lord reigns forever. Constantine in 324 made Christianity the official religion and thereby a persecuted faith became the official religion. Conversion the context of Christianity was a change in world view, the understanding of life, nature and of course the relationship with God  who sent his Son as our Saviour. The Passion of Christ and His Resurrection on the third day is the proof of God's intervention in history. The acceptance of the three central premises of Christianity is Conversio, the transformation, the inward illumination.

In India, however, the " conversion" has usually been on the basis of identity. Lower castes were induced to "convert" by economic and other inducements and though there have been several instances of sincere and well thought out "conversions" most of the converts regarded Christianity as yet another caste of Hinduism. And in the blatant embrace of identity politics due to the numerical democracy which is followed in India, conversion only meant creation of minority pockets for electoral gain. There is nothing religious and spiritual about this. And the storm over conversion is misplaced and most of the converts do not understand even the elementary aspects of the faith they were induced to join for identity reasons.

The Church in India did little to help the entrants from the lower castes. In Tamil Nadu that I know well, high caste parish priests do not perform the sacraments for the lower casts particularly the "pariah" christians. In Villupuram the untouchable Christians have even complained that the Church graveyard is segregated. I am not giving a litany of complaints to undermine the faith. I am only saying that conversion is a personal and inward transformation and public embrace of Christianity does little to change the ground realities.

The controversy over "conversions" or Ghar Vapsi, Home Coming as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad calls it is totally misplaced and the agents of vote blocks alone are affected not the poor.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Massace of the Innocents at Peshawar, Pakistan

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books

The massacre at the Army Public School located near the Cantonment at Peshawar has shocked the world and India is aghast at what happened. A two minute silence was observed in educational institutions all long the length and breadth of the country. Cynics might say that this is only a ritual for public consumption. However as a teacher myself and as a parent I, an ordinary citizen felt the pain and anguish of the ordinary Pakistani man and woman. To dismiss the gesture as a mere choreographed display of hypocritical concern will not help anyone. Unfortunately there are sick elements in the Pakistani civil society who have gone to town blaming India for the massacre and this propaganda is only to serve the purpose of diverting attention from the real perpetrators of this outrage. The longer Pakistan lingers in the twilight zone of denial the longer tit will suffer. India cannot do such an act not because it is an innocent country of lambs, but because such attacks do not serve India's interests in the region.

The Pakistani Taliban has taken responsibility for the attack which killed 132 children and 9 teachers. The motive behind the attack is said to be the ongoing Army operations against the Taliban which is going on in the North West Province, the Kim country. Apparently, the Taliban hoped to weaken the resolve of the Pakistani Army in hunting down the militants in the mountain territory. However, they seem to have seriously miscalculated an the Pakistani Army corrupt and criminal force that it is, will not forgive a blatant attack on its own raison d'etre.  I think a turning point has been reached, the tipping point which will see a dramatic changes on the ground. I wish the Army well in its hunt.

Is India responsible for what is going on in Pakistan. I have no doubt that some financial and perhaps military support is being given to some secessionist groups in the Baluchi region. However beyond that India's responsibility  lies in the fact that at the time of Partition the Pakthtoons who were led by the Frontier Gandhi were staunchly against Partition and the silly criminal man called Nehru sold them short and therein lies the roots of the problem. Nehru who wanted his seat of power by all means possible just allowed the Pakhtoons to be swallowed by the Pakistani state in the same manner that Baltistan too was taken over. Had there been an exchange of population, then the demographic character of Pakistan would have changed and the mohajirs would have been in the majority. Since the demand for Pakistan essentially came form this section, they would have defended the nation by not leaning on Islamic fundamentalism as the ideological glue to hold the disparate nation together.

India has to answer the question raised above.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Conversions, the Taj Mahal and "Secularism" in India

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books

India is back doing what it does best. Cry Havoc and let slip the dogs of secularism if I am paraphrase the words of the great Bard of Avon. In Agra, the city famed for the Taj Mahal a group of 57 families decided to leave their Islamic faith and embrace a syndicated version of the Hindu faith. There is no ban in the political statement called the Constitution on religious conversion and so the contrived outrage against the "reconversion" to a syndicated edition of Hinduism ought not to engage anyone's mind. However, things are not so simple here in India. Busybodies get on the scene and the climate gets charged with all kinds of real and imagined assaults on "secularism". Religion according to the Indian political document that these busybodies like to quote is only a matter of personal choice and so it cannot concern anyone.

A huge amount of misinformation has been put out by  those professing to stand up for "secularism". The BPL cards cannot have been given as an inducement for conversion because the state government is in the hands of the Samajwadi Party which is politically opposed to the  Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Holding the Central Government responsible for the incident in Agra is disingenuous because the Ration Cards and BPL cards can only be given by the State Government. The 57 families abandoned Islam because they found their livelihood effected by the sort of high voltage campaign that is being carried out by the likes of Azam Khan and his ilk. The Government of India under Narendar Modi has economic development of India and the infusion of technology as its main raison d'etre. It is certainly not interested in identity issues. The defeated political entities like the Janata Dal (U), the Congress party and the Samajwadi party have all based their politics on religious and caste identities and therefore are at the  present noise on the issue of these 57 families choosing a faith of their own conviction. Economic inducement was neither give nor taken. So there is no illegality here.

Azam Khan a "minister" in the Samajwadi Government at Lucknow issued a statement recently in which he demanded the takeover of the Taj Mahal by the Waqf Board of which he is the Chairman. What he does not stat is that Waqf property to the tune of several thousand crores has already been swindled and this Khan shows no interest in reclaiming that. A national monument under the protection of the Archaeological Survey of India is now being targeted. Further, the Queen for whom the Taj was built was  Shia and the Mughals themselves were probably secret adherents of the Shia faith. This is important because the Safavids rulers who helped Humayun reconquer the territories of Baber from the Afghans would have provided military and material support only after ensuring that the Mughals are on their side in the geo political situation as the Persia was sandwiched between the Ottomans and the Mughals. By deliberately insinuating the discredited theories of P N Oak the so called secularists are only providing cover to the like of Azam Khan.

The reconversion movement in Agra must be seen in the context of the communal politics injected into the region by Azam Khan and his tribe.