Re-conversions or Ghar Vapsi or Shuddhi Movement - First Steps of a Global Process
In the past few weeks, there has been lot of heat on the subject of RSS and its parivar organizations events for ghar vapsi or reconversion of Christians or Muslims to Hinduism. The grand old party founded by an Englishman, in association with some others, stalled the Parliament on the issue. The impression created is as if RSS has started a new campaign. Nothing could be farther from truth. Let me quote here from the website of Aarya Samaj.
"The Arya Samaj opposed conversion of Hindus to Islam and Christianity. Arya Samaj advocated re-conversion of recent converts back to Hinduism. Arya Samaj launched shuddhi movement to bring non-Hindus back to Hinduism this process was called shuddhi.
The first recorded shuddhi of a born Muslim was reported in 1877, when Dayanand Saraswati performed the shuddhi of a Muslim man from Dehra Dun, The first attempts by the Aryas at mass conversions of Muslim groups dates back to 1908, when Arya missionaries began touring certain area of India calling upon newly converts to Islam to renounce Islam which had been forcibly imposed on them. Arya missionaries found that some who claimed to be Muslim but still followed several Hindu customs and beliefs, as their 'ancestral religion'.
This Vedic mission of Swami Dayanand Saraswati was carried on by Swami Shraddhanand still known as Mahatma Munshiram, took sanyas and become an active member of the Hindu reform movements with success with the help of new generations He left the social arena and plunged whole-heartedly into the shuddhi movement, which he turned into an important force within Hinduism.
This shuddhi offensive was thus seen as a grave challenge by Muslim leaders, and did not sit well with Muslims who responded to it by advocating a grand community-wide effort of Islamic reform, reaching out to the Muslim groups, seeking to draw them back into the fold of Muslim community. So on 23 December 1926 Swami Shraddhanand paid the ultimate sacrifice when he was assassinated by a Muslim fanatic."
The above makes it clear that the movement to get people back into Hinduism is older than RSS. Surely, the movement has not been very successful. Number of people that have been converted back to Hinduism is negligibly small in demographic terms. The question that arises it - Why is the reaction against it so strong? Why have the leaders / clergy of Muslims and Christians not just ignored it as a fringe movement not worthy of their valuable time? Why did they need to murder Swami Shraddhanand? Why was it necessary to raise such a hue and cry and stall the Parliament?
The answers to the above questions can be found only when we look at the whole matter from a wider historical and global perspective. While Shuddhi and Ghar Vapsi are local movements, the issues that they throw up are global. Islam and Christianity have grown by crushing the native religions in every part of the world including Europe, Africa, Americas, Australia and, of course, Asia. The native religions also called as pagan religions are receiving attention globally as the world is trying to look beyond the straitjacketing of one-book-religions.
In Europe and North America majority of the population, even though carrying Christian sounding names and using the services of the Church for marriage and funerals, does not follow the Church for deciding key moral and philosophical issues of life. It is not an exaggeration to say that they have moved away from Christianity in real terms. Church has failed to stop the spread of yoga, meditation, Santa Claus, Halloween and many such non-Christian activities. Regular attendance at churches has fallen to such low levels that many of them have to be closed down. Beliefs like reincarnation and practices like cremation are now part of the mainstream thought. All this has created a crisis for Church and Christianity.
Church knows that Islam and its fundamental ways are not much of a threat to it. They have fought crusades with Muslims for hundreds of years. Yes, there have been conversions from Christianity to Islam (note the white skinned soldiers of ISIS). But they know that Islam can only get a small trickle and there will always be a traffic from Islam to Christianity - so the two traffics will balance out more or less.
They know that the real problem is with the flexible Hinduism which is not much different from most of the native / pagan religions of Europe, Americas, Australia and Africa. The native / pagan religions can take on the shape of Hinduism and Hinduism can well accommodate all of them and give a face to them. The leaders of the Church know that the fascination and passion evoked by the native / pagan religions in their respective regions is enormous. They know that if the people start walking back to their old faiths, rituals and practices, it will be impossible to stop them. It will be unlike the trickle to and from Islam. it will open the floodgates. That is surely, a matter of extreme concern.
At this point in history when one-book-religions have been weakened by three-four centuries of scientific thought, one-book-religions are in no position to face the floodgates of return to native / pagan religions or Hinduism. They know it very well and use every trick / weapon at their command to stop the start of this process.
Unfortunately, we in India have no understanding of the global processes that may be unleashed by a few hundred returning to Hinduism. Did I say, "unfortunately"? Sorry! The correct word is probably, fortunately. Most of those who are leading the ghar vapsi or shuddhi movement are blissfully unaware of the great global role that their innocent actions might play. Similarly, the ones opposing them are either following the crowd or only doing as told to them by their masters. The ones in opposition most probably are not aware of the way their actions are being guided by the interests of the Church and the global Muslim interests. While both sides are playing their part based on local considerations and petty issues, we are witnessing a grand historical global process which will probably shape the history of the next thousand years.
28 December 2014
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ANIL CHAWLA is an engineer and a lawyer by qualification but a philosopher by vocation and a legal and management consultant by profession.
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