Saturday 22 September 2018

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Other Side of the Row of Conversion

 

Conversion can be political and does challenge identities and destabilize social boundaries. It becomes an interrogation of the earlier tradition that the converted person or the community abandons to embrace another religion and is often construed as a betrayal by the communities that witnesses the loss or separation of their brotherhoods due to conversion.


Conversion has become bombshell in our country in recent days. In a communally charged atmosphere, the issue of conversion is often constructed as an offence though the constitution guarantees freedom of practice and propagation of one’s religion. Hence, it is important to understand why there is such a hue and cry over conversions in our country.  The national census 2001 does not show any increase in numbers of some communities like Christians. Yet, there seems to be a clear intent to derail the secular fabric of our country. Unfortunately both religion and secularism have been used to generate political capital across party lines in our country. That is why it seems to become next to impossible to discuss the issue at hand objectively and dispassionately. Although, the fact of the need of anti-conversion law is socially engineered right in front of our eyes and that it seems to serve an agenda of politics of culture and identity played in our country, does not disturb most of us.  This numbing of our collective conscience as well as anesthetization of our souls is dangerous for the future of our secular democratic republic.

It is highly reductive and misleading to convert the issue of conversion to a mere law and order problem. Conversion is intensely complex and it involves crossing of several boundaries as we have already noticed in the case of the conversion of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar. This tendency to oversimplify and occlude boundaries of economic exploitation, social exclusion and processes of de-humanization that push and propel some of the people to validate their life in an egalitarian condition, that they hope to find in another religion cannot remain unquestioned. This does not suggest that there may not be malpractices in some cases of conversion. But what we need is to consider the issue holistically, with fraternal openness and profound love and respect for our country and its constitution. Conversion can be political and does challenge identities and destabilize social boundaries.  It becomes an interrogation of the earlier tradition that the converted person or the community abandons to embrace another religion and is often construed as a betrayal by the communities that witnesses the loss or separation of their brotherhoods due to conversion. Hence, there is a deep psycho- socio-political dimension to all conversions that cannot be annulled. Hence, what we need is a meaningful engagement with all stakeholders and not a reactive politicization of the issue to derive political benefits.  

The Ghar Vapasi programme that was conducted in Agra and now  in West Bengal is certainly a conversion that seems to have all the elements of the alleged conversions that took place with active state support during the Muslim imperialism or colonial era. It appears that history is repeating in our days. The difference is; only the actors are replaced. The colonizers are replaced by their fractural images or their clones that happen to our very own countrymen. Hence, while we can empathize with the pain felt by some of them about the past disruption and separation of communities due to conversion in the medieval period  under the Muslim imperialism or the colonial era, nothing justifies us from repeating and enacting  the  so called  acts  of the evil doers of those days. But fact that history seems to be repeating once again, it appears that trauma of the past is not yet healed and is seeking its healing through its re-enactment in our days. This mimesis or the imitation of self of the aggressors suggests that some of us end up becoming the mimic men of the very people we hate. This unconscious reproduction of the self of the hated other is not without its costs. Many innocent Indians become lambs taken to the slaughter houses as the victims are called to justify themselves. Indeed, the so-called victims of the ills of the Muslim imperialists or  the colonizers and their state and religious apparatus are once again the victims of the neo-colonizers who replicate exactly the behaviour of the colonial imperial masters as we might clearly discern in the events in Agra and other places. That is why we cannot say that colonization has ended in our country.   

 

Hence, the issue of conversion becomes very complex and raises many complicated questions in our society. The hidden imitators or the mimic men of the modes of domination and the imperial self of the colonizers can no longer remain invisible.  The fact that their actions appear to match those of the colonizers and other aggressors that they legitimately interrogate cannot conceal that they too appear to be guilty of reproducing the exploitation and oppression of the colonizers. This conversion to the selves and ways of the colonizers certainly requires interrogation as it can destabilize plurality and stability of our country.  Hence, it is vital to be sensitive to the complexities embedded in the issue of conversion.  It is only then we might be enabled to understand some of the complex shades and dimensions of conversion. We cannot like the colonial British reduce everything to a law and order problem. Complexity of conversion transcends legality and the desire to criminalize it seems to be cloning the colonial strategies of British imperialists. Conversions are certainly subversive. They interrogate the communities that lose their brethren. Law is not the solution to it. But development is! Hence, a Party that came to power on the plank of development will only regress by abandoning its developmental agenda and taint its hands with issues that concern profoundly personal and intimate freedoms.  Hence, the other side of the row of conversion reveals a complex afterlife of colonial trauma crying for therapy.    




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Fr Victor Ferrao

Fr. Victor Ferrao is a Dean of Philosophy and teaches at Rachol Seminary in Salcete taluka of Goa. He has done his Phd in Philosophy of Science. He writes often on socio-political scenario.

 

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