Mass Conversions in India or a hit at secularism?
India is home to a diverse range of cultures and religions. Almost all the countries around the globe guarantee freedom of religion. Though in some countries around the world there is an issue in the practice of freedom of religion, but that does not seem to hamper the world’s secularism. It is this secularism and guarantee that makes a multi-religion country like India of great importance as it owes a history of diverse religions and cultures living in complete harmony. India has a rich economy and population that makes it one of the strongest democracy in the world. This article sheds light on the issue of religious conversion in India in the light of present constitutional provisions, judicial laws, and secularism and tries to look through the lens of modern political credo.
India and its Religious conversion hitch
Religious Conversions are of many types- a person choosing a religion who was previously not following that religion; a person moving from one religious denomination to another; and lastly a particular spiritual change which is also known as the “second conversion”. Where on one hand India is flourishing with different religions, religious conversions, on the other hand, seems to be more volatile which has led many states to enact anti conversions laws to prevent conversions that are brought by coercion or inducements. An RTI report said that 1,687 people changed religion in Maharashtra in the last 4 years! Then we see the southern region of India especially in Tamil Nadu where religious conversions to Christianity are at a very high rate. A rough figure of 50-60% conversions of India takes place in southern India only. Though there are some legal restrictions of religious conversions in almost 6 major states of India that have been experiencing high rates of such happenings and used to arrest the intimidate Muslims and Christians who convert or proselytize according to a report by US Commission on International Religious Freedom.
Article 25 to article 28 in the IPC implies that the State shall not discriminate, patronize or meddle in the profession of any religion. Article 25 of IPC says “all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right to freely profess, practice, and propagate religion subject to public order, morality and health.” Whereas article 26 says that all denominations can manage their own affairs in matters of religion and all these rights are subject to be regulated by the State.
The Orissa Freedom of Religions Act of 1967, The Arunachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act of 1978 or The Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Forcible Conversion of Religion Bill 2002, are few such acts or laws that prevent forcible religious conversions in the state. But unfortunately, these laws are subjected to a huge response of hatred that includes criticism and alleged as infringing in the freedom of religion. This is the main problem, as the laws are not against one’s freedom of religion instead in favor of this practice. No society is safe from the black whims of men who try to make themselves superior under the protection of such freedom that the state allows. Religious conversion is a great issue of India as it hampers its freedom of religion, it’s not about the conversions by choice but the proselytism that makes it a grave issue. The force conversions or what we say the manipulative conversions are ideally wrong as no religions imply any such provision which promotes the manipulative religious conversions. Yes, there are many verses in almost all religions that do promote spreading your religion and sharing your beliefs and faiths but that definitely not includes by force. It says to inspire people to come and convert by choices not by spreading hatred or manipulative techniques to make people convert.
Religion is a matter of faith and beliefs attached to the individuals or communities’ consciousness and it is not necessarily based on the beliefs related to the existence of god. Many people born in a particular religion do not necessarily believe in their gods, they are practicing that religion because they were born in it or their parents are following it, and here if that person by choice chooses to take up a different religion that’s completely fine. There aren’t many limitations in India’s freedom of religion but that doesn’t mean there isn’t any. Limitations have been introduced in the laws of India on grounds of morality, order and social protection. Our Constitution-makers, however, have personified the limitations which have been progressed by judicial declarations in the Constitution itself and also the language of articles 25 and 28 in themself is sufficiently clear to enable us to know what matters come within the acumen of religion and what does not come under it.
Thus we need to understand the difference between the conversions by choice and proselytism. The conversions by choice should be welcomed but the practice of proselytism should be monitored and controlled. Religion is a beautiful thing when it comes to our beliefs and faiths. All the religions are beautiful, not majorly because of what they follow but because they all believe in the existence of god- which is obviously the one and only. The problem of mass conversions in India will only solve when the religious leader will understand and accept the fact that there is only one god, the difference lies in the way we call him. So, no matter what religion you practice, in the end, you believe in god and it is this belief that ultimately unites every religion of the world under the same umbrella.