Having been detached from the Indian political scene lately, I got to know about the ‘Ghar Vapsi’ drive of certain fringe ‘Sangh Parivar’ groups recently. Unequivocally I’d say that it is a sad development and more so for anyone who believes in the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita or has an inkling of belief in the true tenets of Hinduism.
Mattah Parataram Nanyat, kincid asti dhanan-jaya
mayi sarvam idam protam, sutre mani-gana iva
O conqueror of wealth, there is no truth superior to Me. Everything rests upon Me, as pearls are strung on a thread.
Being a believer in a Cosmic Force, a greater symmetry in the Universe, and not necessarily a ‘form’ of God per se, I see the raison d’etre in this verse. One need not put this faith in Truth and Beauty in Creation (which in Tagore’s words are creations of human perception and active understanding) in the narrow confines of a particular religious order necessarily. It is a way of life, and for me Hinduism encapsulates this simple truth beautifully. It however does NOT and has never professed forcible conversion or the idea of ‘Ghar Vapsi’.
I am sorry to see the discourse around religion wallowing into a battle of one-upmanship, in the light of conversions and need for legislation to curb conversions. When did religion have to become such a binding constraint on the human psyche so as to let us lose even the semblance of the divine in freedom of realizing the nuances of the Cosmic Force in our own ways? Why does a Hindu need to bring anyone ‘back’ to the fold when one believes in the idea of ‘Vasudeva Kutumbukam’.
One must not forget that this is happening at a lot of places and in a lot of ways, and is often being carried out by members of quite a few religious orders. What constitutes ‘forced’ and ‘voluntary’ is a highly debatable issue. A person living in a certain environment that forces him to ‘voluntarily’ convert is hardly voluntary. A case to illustrate this would be the negative environment that some lower caste Hindus found themselves in, and converted to get a certain amount of respect and benefits such as education. This was surely with their will but this was not for the sake of liking or disliking a religion but rather because of the social conditions that had got attached to the fundamental teachings of a particular religion. Society made the person convert in many instances, looking at worldly conditions, and not the religion per se. Hence, what qualifies as conversion from and to a religion, and what qualifies as ‘forced’ or ‘voluntary’ is a problematic topic of discussion, and it is most unfortunate that fringe Hindutva groups are presenting such a detestable side to a religion that has never professed forcible conversions.
I will not go for an idyllic solution where one blurs the lines among all religions and goes for one universal faith, after debate and prolonged discourse over the merits and demerits of the teachings put forth by various orders in all religions, much like in the First Council of Nicaea. Rather I believe that if one has to persist with religious orders as they stand, one should profess and spread the teachings of the religion and let individuals decide their course of action with regard to accepting or not accepting them (in all probability, one will accept the teachings since the core ideals in each religion essentially relate to the idea of a virtuous existence). Faith and understanding in a higher Truth and Beauty in the Universe is a most fluid and beautiful experience one has realize oneself and not push into someone. One may find it in the confines of a temple, mosque or church, or even in symmetry and symmetry breaking in Particle Physics!