We ought to be afraid. Extremely afraid, in fact. Maybe that is their intention too. Otherwise what else can explain the impunity with which VHP leaders justify their attacks on churches and communalisation of our history. In the latest incident, VHP joint general secretary Surendra Jain aggressively defended the demolition of a church in Hisar, Haryana, questioning whether Christians would allow construction of a Hanuman temple in Vatican City.
Jain has conveniently forgotten that India is not a city or a state and we are a secular, socialist republic country, at least the last time I checked. A church wasn’t being built on the ghats of Haridwar. It was Hisar! It could’ve been Ambala, Jhajjar or even Rohtak.
I’m Christian and not even a practicing one at that. But when Jain decides to communalise history by asserting that the 1857 war of independence was a communal war fought for religion and that similar wars would be waged if Christians did not stop conversions, it makes me want to prove the intensity of my religion within me. Maybe that’s why I was smiling in glee when the Kerala government allocated Rs five crore to its Budget to study how to integrate converted Christians into mainstream society.
If VHP leaders have a problem with the conversions, they should start by mitigating the problems of people where these mass conversions take place. The masses in India have always been deeply devout and they often look up to their sect for survival. It is an unnatural expectation, but religious sects are "expected" to take care of their followers. In the absence of this, when another sect offers to sort out their primordial needs, then the lure of conversion becomes irresistible. It’s a matter of better life and economics. Who is to know to whom I pray or light a candle to in the confines of my house – Ram, Allah or Jesus?
If priests, for some reason, have a secret horde of brides, and I haven’t been able to find one, why shouldn’t I convert? Maybe it’s high time these "religion-apprehensive" leaders provide reasons to their followers to celebrate the birth of a girl child.
If leveraging my religion will bring me a better quality of life, who is to say I can’t use it? Religion will only stop being a moot point when the needs for one’s existence have been met. Aspirations are universal, not just for the middle-class and rich.
VHP leaders, Praveen Togadia and the rest, should begin by going to these villages where these conversions happen and start by building schools, hospitals and probably electrifying the areas too, whether it is in Orissa, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh or West Bengal, rather than going on a rant about the threat of conversion.
Without blinking an eye, these leaders supported RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s statement on Mother Teresa. I have been critical of Missionaries of Charity, especially because they steadfastly refuse to use modern-day therapy to care for the inmates, medical negligence and most of all, financial opaqueness.
But, these charitable institutions exist because there is a need for them. Plug the need. Begin institutions where men and women can serve the disabled, the challenged and the ill, irrespective of their religion. No one ever wants to do that because that means work. It’s easier to instigate those following you into believing the words that you spout into the world. And definitely much more beneficial than running those Durga Vahini camps!
Even the prime minister with his "deeply concerned" remarks seems just as ready to dip into the communal cauldron again to solidify his position. Does that mean all of us should brandish our religion on our sleeves and be ready to fight for it? It’s easy to forget that an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.