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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 10/8/18

Poor Indian Muslims being forced to convert to Hinduism

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On October 2, 2018, 13 members of a Muslim family in Badarka village of Baghpat, Uttar Pradesh, were converted to Hinduism. Akhtar Ali, 68, was renamed Dharam Singh. Three sons of Akhtar Ali, now Dharam Singh, also converted and changed their names from Dilshad to Diler, Naushad to Narendra and Irshad to Kavi. Those converted also included Akhtar's three daughters-in-law, two grandsons and four granddaughters.

Hindu Yuva Vahini activists said it was a case of "ghar wapsi" and conducted a havan as part of their "re-induction ceremony" at a local temple. Vahini's district president Yogender Tomar said, "It is not a case of conversion, but reconversion. This family's ancestors had converted to Islam some 5-6 generations ago. Now, they are back into Hinduism."

This is the latest case of conversion of Muslims by Hindu extremist organizations backed by Prime Minister Narinder Modi, who came into power in 2014 on the agenda of Hinduvita, which "forms the basis of an exclusionary national narrative focused exclusively on the rights of Hindus."

In simple terms, the key tenets of the Hindutva ideology are that (1) Hindus are the rightful rulers of India, which is a Hindu nation; (2) the Christian and, especially, Muslim minorities are viewed with ambivalence because their religious allegiances are not indigenous to India (in a way that those of Sikhs, Buddhists, and Jains are).

How this conversion of Muslims is maneuvered is frequently reported in the India media? Poor Muslims are offered at least two/five-lakh rupees (about $2,800/ to $7,000). Sometimes they are offered a house for conversion.

The Dharama Jagran Samanvay Vibhag, an offshoot of the RSS, in December 2014 distributed pamphlets seeking donations from the public to help pay a Muslim Rs 5 lakh while in the case of a Christian Rs 2 lakh for conversion. The RSS has set a target of annually converting 100,000 each of Muslims and Christians to Hinduism.

In February this year, George Marlin of National Review wrote: "India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a member of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), also belongs to Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), widely considered to be the BJP's parent entity and considered the world's largest missionary organization. Modi's rise to power has gone hand in hand with growing Hindu intolerance of Christianity and Islam. Fanatic adherents of radical Hindu nationalism regard both faiths as foreign imports that do not belong on Indian soil."

According to Hindutva, the ideology of Indian nationalists determined to make their nation exclusively Hindu, every Indian is in some sense a Hindu even if he is Muslim or Christian. Hindutva is the driving force behind campaigns by the RSS and the Hindu World Council to aggressively reconvert the country's Christians and Muslims. On Christmas Day 2014, close to 4,000 Christians and 1,000 Muslims were "reconverted." The RSS has set its sights in particular on India's northeastern states and its largely tribal populations. That is where the Church is having remarkable success at evangelization.

RSS men convert 43 Muslims in Uttar Pradesh to Hinduism

Adityanath of BJP's elevation as the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh created a climate of uncertainty among the state's minorities while activists of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) were finding greater success in their program to persuade Muslims to convert to Hinduism.

In April and May 2017, at least two instances of Muslims being converted to Hinduism have been recorded in Faizabad. Nineteen Muslims were converted on April 23, while 24 more were converted on May 20. Both sets of conversions took place in a temple in Faizabad, according to Surendra Kumar, an RSS worker in Ambedkar Nagar district, who helped organize the ceremony.

"Saffronize" India through violence

According to the US Congressional Report on Religious Freedom in India, released on August 30, 2018, reported abuses of religious freedom in India attract international attention, in particular when the Modi government and its allies are assumed to be moving forward with emotive, Hindu-nationalist initiatives promised in the BJP manifesto and eagerly sought by Hindu groups. Domestically, the BJP's 2014 national victory appears to have empowered extremist groups in ways that can undercut both India's and the Modi government's international standing, the US report said, adding:

"Hindu-nationalist groups sought to 'saffronize' India through violence, intimidation, and harassment against non-Hindus and Hindu Dalits. Both public and private actors pursued this effort." At the federal level, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made statements decrying mob violence, but members of his own political party have affiliations with Hindu extremist groups and many have used discriminatory language about religious minorities."

The US Congressional Report also pointed out that the Sangh Parivar ("Family of Organizations") is an umbrella organization for Hindu nationalist groups. The BJP was born as the political wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS or "National Volunteer Organization"), a hardline Hindu nationalist and social-service group, and leading component of the "Sangh." Prime Minister Modi is a lifelong RSS member, and his 2014 elevation to the head of India's government evoked widespread fears that a victorious BJP would pursue Hindu-majoritarian policies. Many Sangh Parivar groups share a core motive to protect India's assumed Hindu identity from the perceived threats of Islam and Christianity, by some accounts through "purging" those religions from Indian society.

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Author and journalist. Author of Islamic Pakistan: Illusions & Reality; Islam in the Post-Cold War Era; Islam & Modernism; Islam & Muslims in the Post-9/11 America. Currently working as free lance journalist. Executive Editor of American (more...)
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