Caste Disabilities Removal Act 1850
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An Act for extending the principle of section 9, Regulation VII, 1832, of the Bengal Code throughout the Territories subject to the Government of the East India Company
Enacted by Governor-General of India in Council
Date enacted 11 April 1850
Date assented to 11 April 1850
The Caste Disabilities Removal Act, 1850, also Act XXI of 1850, was a law passed in British India under East India Company rule, that abolished all laws affecting the rights of persons converting to another religion or caste. The new Act allowed Indians who converted from one religion to another religion equal rights under no law, especially in the case of inheritance.
ACT No. XXI Of 1850 [11 April 1850.] An Act for extending the principle of section 9, Regulation VII, 1832, of the Bengal Code throughout the Territories subject to the Government of the East India Company.1
WHEREAS it is enacted by section 9, Regulation VII, 1832, of the Bengal Code, that "whenever in any civil suit the parties to such suit may be of different persuasions, when one party shall be of the Hindu and the other of the Muhammadan persuasion, or where one or more of the parties to the suit shall not be either of the Muhammadan or Hindu persuasions, the laws of those religions shall not be permitted to operate to deprive such party or parties of any property to which, but for the operation of such laws, they would have been entitled; and whereas it will be beneficial to extend the principle of that enactment throughout the territories subject to the government of the East India Company ; It is enacted as follows :—
1. So much of any law or usage now in force within the territories subject to the government of the East India Company as inflicts on any person forfeiture of rights or property, or may be held in any way to impair or affect any right of inheritance, by reason of his or her renouncing, or having been excluded from the communion of, any religion, or being deprived of caste, shall cease to be enforced as law in the Courts of the East India Company, and in the Courts established by Royal Charter within the said territories.
Dalits Convert to Islam after Thakurs’ Atrocities in Saharanpur
I was born a Hindu but will not die one. – Dr Ambedkar, Yeola Conference, 1935
Dr. Ambedkar had said convert to – Islam, Christianity, Buddhism or any other religion that gives you equality. For us, equality is what matters the most. Dr. Ambedkar had even asked Dalits to convert to Islam, Christianity, Buddhism or any other religion that gives you equality.
Convert to Islam, Christianity, Buddhism – Dr Ambedkar
Dalits were expecting good times after Modi government was formed with fake promises of Acche Din but now Dalits of Moradabad say that Modi and Yogi Government are anti-Dalits hence they decided to convert to Islam.
Bajrang Dal and some other Hindutva organisations’ people tried to stop these Dalits from leaving Hinduism but Dalits from Moradabad stick to their decision to leave the religion of discrimination.
No matter how tall promises Modi and Yogi Government are making the ground reality is different. People are suffering in one way or another, gau rakshak terrorists are killing innocent Dalits and Muslims, demonetization has taken away jobs and condition of government run schemes is poor.
Dalits from Moradabad were angry that their brothers are sisters from the community were attacked by Thakurs in Saharanpur and police, as well as RSS/BJP government, did not do anything to stop Thakur terrorists from burning and looting Dalits’ houses.
Even Dr Ambedkar had said that Dalits become Hindus only when there is Hindu-Muslim conflict otherwise Dalits are treated worse than animals.
A few days ago, National Dastak team had reported that even Gods were divided in the riot-hit Saharanpur and Dalits were not allowed to enter Hindu temples. Atrocities on Dalits in Yogi led BJP government in UP has increased. Dalits are treated worse than dirt in Hinduism so why stay in Hinduism?
Considering all these Dalits from Moradabad decided to leave Hinduism where they don’t have equal rights in Hinduism. Dalits leave their Hindu idols in the river and said that their belief in Hinduism has ended.
Dalits said, we will see how Modi and Yogi build Ram Mandir at Ayodhya, we will build Masjid in Ayodhya.
Dalits should leave the religion of discrimination and convert to other religions where they get better treatment and equal opportunities.
Dr. Ambedkar’s Bahishkrit Bharat newspaper (15 March 1929) exhorts people to convert to Islam if they are willing to change their religion. It is only after the in-depth studies of various religions vis-à-vis his goals that he decided on Buddha’s Dhamma. It is purely mischievous to say that Dr. Ambedkar was against Muslims. – Excerpts from Anand Teltumbde’s book Ambedkar on Muslims (2003)
From Dalits to Bene Ephraim
Judaism in Andhra Pradesh
The community of Bene Ephraim was established in the late 1980s in Andhra Pradesh by a group of Christianized Madiga who declared that they belonged to one of the Lost Tribes of Israel. The paper explores the extent to which Bene Ephraim narratives of origin have been and are being shaped by the responses of others on the level of national and international politics. It is demonstrated that while in the beginning the leaders of the community were keen to stress their affinity to the scheduled castes of India and portrayed their social and economic problems in terms of the upper and lower caste dichotomy, later on they modified their story of origin to dissociate the community from the untouchables. Their self-representation as victims of caste domination gave way to expressions of concern about the possibility of becoming victims of anti-Jewish terrorist attacks. The paper argues that this change in the way the Bene Ephraim chose to frame the socio-political problems that the community is facing was linked to their attempts to be recognized as a Jewish group and be accepted in the State of Israel. At the same time, it is also suggested that this tactic provides yet another example of a Dalit group attempting to attract the attention of the international community to their condition of discrimination by reinterpreting their plight in the terms that foreign audiences would be more familiar with and could relate to more easily
Dalit Youth Turns Jain Monk
In a caste-dominated society, where dalit bridegrooms are often discouraged to ride a mare in their wedding processions, upper castes treat them with disdain and untouchability remains a stigma irrespective of what the Indian Constitution outlines, the induction of a dalit youth in Jain religion comes as a welcome change.
In a historic event, a 22-year-old youth belonging to Meghwal community was anointed as a Jain monk at Ahore town in Jalore district on Monday. Hailing from Mandwaria village, Sirohi district, Chandaram Meghwal alias Sandeep got a new identity as Anant Punya Maharaj at a diksha ceremony attended by a large number of people from Shwetambar Jain community and Sandeep’s relatives from Sirohi.
Sandeep who went to Mumbai in search of a job a few years ago was so impressed by Jain saint Suryodaya Maharaj that he expressed his desire to dedicate his life to the religion. He travelled with him to various holy places and attended religious sermons with deep devotion and sincerity to the surprise of the saint. On expressing his desire to join the religion, he was sent to Ahmedabad to study the Jain ideology for almost four years. Seeing his intense desire to lead life of a Jain monk, his family gave in after initial hesitation, reliable sources told Deccan Herald from Ahore.
He was given a warm send off from his village two days ago and reportedly there was a mad rush among the villagers to touch his feet to show their reverence. His monkhood moved about 1,500 people in the village to go vegetarian and give up drinking. Monday onwards, he would be known with his new name Anant Punya, said Mahaveer Jain, a businessman from Bangalore, who was currently in Ahore to attend the diksha ceremony. His 26-year-old sister also took diksha along with Sandeep, he said. A commerce student at the MES college in Bangalore, she gave up her studies to pursue the same path.
A tough life awaits the newly inducted monk from Tuesday as he will have to walk barefoot, clad in a white robe and seeking alms. No physical comforts will be allowed, including the services of a barber.
Courtesy: Deccan Herald
Jainism for Dalits
Adivasi Conversion To Jainism
Forget the conversions to Christianity. Forget, also, the re-conversions by the champions of Hindutva. It is Jainism which is fast growing into a major religion among Adivasis of the Vadodara and Panchmahals districts of Gujarat, thanks to vigorous campaign by a number of Jain organisations, all belonging to the Shwetamber sect. Though Christian missionaries and various Hindu religious sects, like the Swaminarayan, Jay Yogeshwar, Pragat Purushottam, Ramanand, and Kabir Panthi sects, and the Swadhyaya Parivar have been active in the area for many decades, lately Jainism has been attracting more and more converts.
According to a rough estimate of the Jain missionaries, more than two lakh Adivasis in Chhotaudepur, Jetpur Pavi, Naswadi, and Sankheda talukas of the Vadodara district, and Halol and Jambughoda talukas of the Panchmahals district have embraced Jainism in the last six years.
As many as 60 Jain temples have come up, and religious schools are running in 40villages to teach the neo-converts.
What began as a de-addiction and vegetarian movement 40 years ago, with the efforts of an Adivasi convert to Jainism, Jain Indradin Suri of Salpura village in Jetpur Pavi taluka, has now transformed into ``a Jain missionary movement'', says Purushottam K. Jain, manager of the Parmar Kshatriya Jain Dharma Pracharak Sabha of Bodeli.
The Sabha is one of the two local organisations involved in conversion activities. The other is the Parmar Kshatriya Jain Seva Samaj at Pavagadh in the Panchmahals. The Vijay Vallabh Mission Trust of Ludhiana in Punjab is also active here. Its main functionary in the adivasi belt is Yashobhadra Vijayji Maharaj. Jain businessmen from all over the country, especially the Oswals of Ludhiana, regularly visit the area, according to neo-Jains.
What is the attraction of Jainism for the tribals? It is the anti- addiction and non-violent teachings of the faith which have impressed the tribals, replies deputy mamlatdar of Chhotaudepur Parsinh NarsinhRathwa, who has himself converted to Jainism. Rathwa says the tribals regard Jainism as ``a reform movement''.
Dharamsheel Rathwa, a neo-Jain of Kavra village, 25 kms away from Chhotaudepur, says that alcoholism and frequent infighting in the clans, combined with ignorance and ancient evil practices, had damaged the social fabric of Adivasi society. This has been checked
to a great extent amongst neo-Jains and improved their quality of life, he said.
Thirty-two-year old Varsinh Mandubhai Rathwa of Sajwa village in Jetpur Pavi taluka, who embraced Jainisim three years ago, agreed with Dharamsheel. ``There is more peace in life now,'' he said, adding there is no protest from fellow Adivasis against Jainism.
But some do have reservations, like primary school teacher Bachubhai Nanubhai Rathwa, who alleged that the Jain missionaries were using money power to convert poor Adivasis. ``Whatever may be the reason for Adivasis' new-found love for Jainism, it will certainly lead to social tension when the convertsbegin to assert themselves politically,'' he said, citing the example of Kavra village, where some of the Adivasis had opposed the construction of a Jain temple two years ago.
According to Ganjbhai Kanbhai Rathwa, the Jain priest in Kavra, as many as 50 families of his village embraced Jainisim two years ago, and an 18-year-old youth and two children of 12 and 10 years, respectively, were ordained into priesthood recently. More than 100 families in Sankad, Asar and Kaidawat villages in Kawant taluka also embraced Jainism recently.
The visible symbols of the fledgling religion are also there. A big temple has come up in Salpura village near Bodeli and another temple and a `upasray' on gram panchayat land in Kavra village at a cost of Rs 20 lakh. Yet another temple is proposed to be built soon in
Tejgadh, said a Jain businessman in Chhotaudepur. A colony, named Mahaveer Nagar, too, has come up in the interiors of the tribal belt along Bodeli-Kawant Road.
If an SC converts to Buddhism, he continues to enjoy the benefits of reservation, so why are they denied this if they convert to Islam or Christianity?
What currently exists on the law- books is an anomalous situation.
If an SC is allowed benefits on conversion to Sikhism/ Budhism ONLY because these religious are of Indian origin, and not allowed benefits on conversion to Christianity / Islam because they are foreign origin, it is violation of the principles of the Constitution.
If the difference in treatment is allowed because Christianity and Islam are caste-less it does not stand the test of natural justice as Buddhism and Sikhism are equally caste-less. Hence again a violation of the Constitution.
So what exactly is happening ?
There are 2 political/ social groups involved.
Hindutva proponents who stand to lose a great deal (due to conversions , mainly to Christianity) if the Supreme court were to rule that SC would continue to receive benefits on conversion to ANY religion including Islam/ Christianity. The flood-gates to conversion away from Hinduism would open.
Christian organisations who would tend to gain if the Supreme Court were to rule as in the point above.
The Law is clearly favouring the Christian groups. The question that naturally follows is why are the christian groups not actively following it up ? I think it is the fear of violent back-lash from Hindutva groups that is holding the Christian organisations back. After all, Hindus are 80% of the population and Christians about 2.5 %. Plus we have a BJP govt at the centre and in many states.
I don’t think the anomaly will be resolved any time soon.
मनुवादियों के अत्याचार से परेशान होकर 80,000 धानक मुसलमान बन गये थे
अम्बेडकर जयंति को महत्व दें क्यों ब्राह्मणों का महिमामंडन कर रहे हैं। महायोद्धा झिलकारीबाई कोरी धानक समाज की है मगर गुणगान ब्राह्मणी लक्ष्मीबाई-कुलकर्णी पत्नी गंगाधर-पंत का कर रहे हैं
महाराज शिवाजी शुद्र-समाज के हैं और गुणगान पेशवा ब्राह्मण बाजीराव-मस्तानी का कर रहे हैं
सामाजिक व आर्थिक लाभ अम्बेडकर साहब ने दिलवाए मगर मनुवादी जवाहर को चाचा व गांधी को बापू बना रहें हैं
हाकी खिलाडी ध्यानचन्द , प्रथम ओलम्पिक विजेता पहलवान केशव-जाधव व उडनपरी उषा भी शुद्र-समाज के हैं मगर अनेकों भारतरत्न ब्राह्मणों को व ब्राह्मण तेंदुलकर को दिया गया है।
सन १८५७ की क्रांति मतादीन भंगी ने की मगर गुणगान नशेडी ब्राह्मण मंगलपांडे का हो रहा है।
छूआछूत, भेदभाव, हत्या, अपहरण व बलात्कार मनुवादी कर रहे हैं और बदनाम मुसलमानों को किया जा रहा है
ध्यान रहे मनुवादियों के अत्याचार से परेशान होकर 80,000धानक मुसलमान बन गये थे मगर हमारा समाज मनुवादी व्यवस्था के गुण गाकर उनके बनाए मनघडंत देवी देवताओं के भजन कीर्तन कर रहा है।
कभी मनुवादियों ने हमारे समाज के लिये, मन्दिरों के दरवाजे बन्द थे और आज शासन-प्रशासन व कोर्ट-कचहरी के उच्च दरवाजे भी बन्द कर दिये हैं। और मन्दिरों में घंटे बजाने की छूट दी गयी है मगर मन्दिर के मठाधीश बनने पर आज भी प्रतिबन्ध है
जो मनुवादी ब्राह्मण कभी-भी हमारे समाज के नहीं हैं और ना ही हैं, आज भी उनके चरणों में पडकर शीश झूका रहे हैं
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Indian Dalits hope to end discrimination through conversion
By Bhavya Dore
People shout slogans as they attend a protest rally against what they say are attacks on India's low-caste Dalit community in Ahmedabad, India, on July 31, 2016. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Amit Dave
MUMBAI, India (RNS) Fed up with the divisiveness of Hinduism’s caste system -- entrenched for centuries -- many Dalits are finding refuge in Buddhism.
The Politics of Religious Conversion
by Vatsala Vedantam
Vatsala Vedantam is a former associate editor of the Deccan Herald in Bangalore, India. This article appeared in The Christian Century, June 19-26, 2002, p. 25-27. Copyright by The Christian Century Foundation; used by permission. Current articles and subscription information can be found at www.christiancentury.org. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted and Winnie Brock.
In their long struggle for equality, India’s dalits, or "untouchables," have often exchanged their Hinduism for Islam, Christianity, Sikhism or Buddhism, believing that they will better their lives by doing so. They have been persuaded that Hinduism, with its varna ashramas (caste distinctions), has been solely responsible for all their ills. But when they switch to other religious faiths and experience the same distinctions -- albeit in different forms – they realize that such a change neither improves their social status nor remedies their economic problems of unemployment and poverty -- the real source of their social discrimination.
A letter written by M. Mary John, president of the Dalit Christian Liberation Movement, to Pope John Paul II during his 1999 visit to India speaks volumes about the treatment meted out to dalit Christians within the churches of India. The dalits are oppressed and persecuted by "the hierarchy, the congregation, the authorities and the institutions of the Catholic Church." Despite the condemnation of such practices by the Catholic Bishops Conference of India, casteism still persists among Christian communities. A state commission on dalits has pointed out that they are "twice discriminated against" -- in society and within the church. At the time of conversion, they are assured that they are being inducted into a religious fold that is egalitarian and free from the twin curses of caste and untouchability. But the reality is altogether different.
Sikh places of worship have separate quarters for dalit Sikhs. High-caste Muslims do not marry dalit Muslims. Dalit Christians can hardly hope to reach any high position within the church. (They are not even allowed to occupy the pews meant for higher-caste Christians.) And Buddhist monasteries have not been able to prevent their converts from continuing their earlier casteist practices.
At the same time, in breaking away from Hinduism, dalits lose out on the basic safeguards provided to them in the Indian Constitution. In 1981, thousands of dalits in southern India converted to Islam to escape social victimization -- only to find that they had forfeited whatever state privileges they enjoyed earlier as Scheduled Caste Hindus. Converted dalits are now fighting for these privileges, having perceived the age-old caste system still dogging their footsteps. The very fact that they still have to label themselves as "dalits" even after conversion in order to seek special privileges exposes the futility of that exercise. Today, India’s dalits are 82 per cent Hindu, 12 per cent Muslims and less than 3 per cent Christian.
A mass conversions of dalits to Buddhism in recent months in India poses the question once again whether religious conversion alone can improve the social and economic status of people who have been marginalized for centuries. Some 50,00 dalits assembled in New Delhi in November to embrace Buddhism. In January another 25,000 followed suit in the southern state of Kerala. Such conversions expose the hypocrisy of the religious and political leaders who exploit the socially and economically backward groups for their own ends.
In the November mass conversion, participants from both northern and southern states converged on India’s capital city. They were led by Ram Raj, an official working for the Indian Revenue Service, who also heads the All India Confederation of Scheduled Caste/Schedule Tribes Organizations. Giving himself a new name and identity after his own conversion, he used the occasion to lash out at the Bharatiya Janata Party -- led Government at the Center, claiming that it had denied opportunities to the dalits.
Subsequently, the converts recited the 22 vows taken by Baba Saheb Ambedkar, founder of the dalit movement in India, who in a similar exercise in 1956 had embraced Buddhism, along with half a million other dalits, "to escape the tyrannies" of Hindu society. Senior monk Buddha Priya initiated the new converts into the Buddhist fold. Surprisingly, well-known Christian activists also participated in the conversion ceremony to provide "moral support" to the dalit movement. Although no Christian literature was circulated, a Syrian Christian bishop who had traveled all the way to New Delhi sat through the ceremony, offering to convert to Christianity anyone who desired it.
Dalits seem to prefer Buddhism to other religions unless they are enticed with gifts or other allurements. The reason is that Ambedkar, who was also one of the main architects of the Indian Constitution, stated that of all religions only Buddhism advocates equality of all human beings as a fundamental principle. Declaring that Lord Buddha alone raised his voice against separatism, and that the religion he taught is the only one which does not recognize caste, the dalit leader exhorted his followers to convert to Buddhism -- "which is a religion of this country" -- rather than Christianity, which enticed the poor and the oppressed "by giving them porridge free of cost."
It has also been argued that Buddhists are accepted more easily in Indian society than other minority groups. Since Buddhism, like Jainism or Sikhism, is an Indic religion, it is not considered alien. Christianity and Islam are both perceived by Hindus even today as the religions of the conquerors and invaders.
"Dalit" literally means depressed. Mahatma Gandhi named these hapless citizens Harijans, meaning "the children of God." In the ancient and much abused system called varna ashrama, citizens were originally divided into castes based upon the professions they followed. Even during the days of British rule, manual workers in India’s villages were placed in the lowest hierarchy of the caste system. It was only after independence in 1947 that the govenment instituted a policy of affirmative action, through its Constitution, to reduce these inequalities.
By reserving 23 percent of all central and state government jobs for Scheduled Castes and Tribes, with comparable reservations for school and university admissions across the country, India paved the way for improving dalits’ professional and educational opportunities. They also have seats in legislatures, state assemblies and Parliament so as to allow them greater participation in the country’s governance. Conversion, unfortunately, only deprives the dalits of these special privileges, which are intended only for Hindu Scheduled Castes and Tribes.
The answer, then, is not in religious conversion so much as in streamlining the system of reservations itself. While this system has gone a long way to better the economic status of India’s 82 million Scheduled Castes and Tribes, it has lost its direction because it is not envisioned as a time-bound program. The earlier beneficiaries and their progeny continue to enjoy its privileges even after half a century. These privileges are now passed on to the second and sometimes to the third generation. Families who have reaped the full benefits of the Indian governments reservation policies have already advanced in both social and economic terms. And they continue to corner desirable jobs and university or school admissions through the reserved quotas.
Result: the poorest sections of the same reserved categories are denied their due. It is not uncommon, especially in rural India, to find poor and illiterate Scheduled Caste workers serving as the bonded laborers of their rich and influential kinsmen. An insidious caste system has thus crept into dalit circles as well. Privileged members of the community do not many those doing menial jobs, since they consider them inferior. A few years ago, the Indian government reduced the opportunities of dalits further by extending reservations to other backward castes. And lately the government in New Delhi has extended reservations in promotions to those who have already benefited by its policies. Consequently, almost every caste is seeking the "backward" tag to claim a piece of the pie.
No wonder this poorest and most backward segment of India’s population is constantly exploited: by politicians for their votes; by religious leaders for their numbers; by their self-styled advocates for power. Despite much touted policies of compulsory primary education, there are no proper school facilities for dalit children, Family planning and other health-care programs rarely reach dalit women. Illiterate, impoverished and vulnerable, the Scheduled Castes cannot even reach the jobs that are earmarked for them because they are not qualified.
These crucial issues are completely ignored by their champions, who prefer to harp on caste discrimination and religious conversion rather than take the real measures that might improve dalits’ lives.
Politics Of Conversion
By Rashid Salim Adil and Yoginder Sikand
'Islam Gave Me Self Respect' Rashid Salim Adil, a Delhi-based advocate, social activist and politician, is a Dalit convert to Islam. Here he talks to Yoginder Sikand on Dalits, social liberation and Islam.
Q: What made you convert to Islam?
A: I see my conversion to Islam as the culmination of a long search for liberation from the caste system and as the answer to my quest for self-respect. I was born in a poor Chamar (Dalit) family, who are hereditary leather-workers, in a small village near Delhi. We were considered as untouchables by the uppercastes. My illiterate father had a small shop which catered to the Dalits, and it was with great difficulty that he managed to send me to school. I failed the high school examinations, and came to Delhi looking for a job. It was in Delhi that I was exposed to a totally different world of ideas. I was an atheist initially, but later turned to religion. I first joined the Arya Samaj enamoured by their slogan of social equality. The Aryas present themselves as very radical, but if you closely examine their writings, and, even more, their attitudes, you will discover that in matters of caste there is little to distinguish them from the other Hindus. I soon gave up the membership in the Arya Samaj and became a Buddhist.
The passionate Buddhist that I was, I took to reading all of Ambedkar's books and doing an M.Phil. in Buddhist Studies, after which I took a degree in law. Later while working as a law officer in the Delhi Development Authority, I became actively engaged in the Buddhist movement among the Dalits. I helped set up a number of Buddhist viharas (temples) in the slums. It was in 1981, shortly after the conversion to Islam of several hundred Dalit families in the village of Meenakshipuram in Tamil Nadu, that an event took place that totally altered my perception of social realities in India. One day, as I was going to office, I saw a team of bulldozers of the Delhi Development Authority tearing down a Dalit Buddhist vihara which had been illegally built on government land. However, they spared a Hindu temple standing nearby from similar destruction, although it, too, was an illegal construction. It struck me that the only reason that they destroyed our vihara was because we are Dalits. Even after converting to Buddhism, I realised, we were still treated as untouchables. Buddhism had, it dawned on me, not helped us at all in our quest for empowerment. If it had, do you think that they would have had the courage to raze the vihara like that?
Q: How did you veer round to the opinion that Islam could help you and your people in your quest for empowerment?
A: When the Dalits of Meenakshipuram converted to Islam, there was a sudden change in the attitude of the local so-called upper castes towards them. Now they could enter village tea-shop, could wear shoes, something that was not possible earlier. This was because the Hindus knew that the Muslims would not let them carry on treating our people who had become Muslims as they had been treating them before. In this way, Islam gave these Dalits a new sense of identity and pride. The news about the Meenakshipuram conversions spread like wild fire and soon even in the North many Dalits began thinking about Islam. Judging by the panic that struck the upper castes, and even the Indian State, I realised what a powerful tool of emancipation Islam really was. I now began studying Islam myself to see what it was in that religion that has drawn oppressed people to its fold over the centuries, and I found what particularly attracted them was Islam's stress on justice and equality and the sovereignty of God alone. All man-made masters, all priests, pundits and moulvis, are denied completely. And so, after a detailed study of Islam, I decided to convert. I recited the kalima [the Islamic creed of confession] at the historic Jamia Masjid in Old Delhi, on December 6, 1981, the 25th death anniversary of Dr. Ambedkar, and was given my new Islamic name.
Q: How was your conversion received by your people?
A: By that time I was quite active in the Dalit movement. Several Dalit activists had come to congratulate me on my bold decision. My radical Dalit colleagues agreed with me in private that the step I had taken was the only way out for the Dalits to seek their liberation, but many of them could not muster the courage to take the same decision. Some of them were scared of what their relatives would say or do, or of how the upper castes would react, and others feared losing their jobs if they were to become Muslim. But deep down in their hearts they knew that the only solution to the plight of the Dalits was through conversion to Islam.
Q: But surely you must have faced some hostile reaction to your turning Muslim?
A: Oh yes, I had more than my share of that! My wife and children too had converted along with me. When my wife's parents came to know about this, they instigated her against me, and our marriage ended in a divorce. Then, of course, I had to face opposition from many upper castes who naturally did not take too kindly to my conversion. A team of Arya propagandists came to meet me to persuade me to renounce Islam and enter the Arya fold, saying that the Arya Samaj, which they claim is true Hinduism, preaches social equality and brotherhood. They did not know that I had been in the Arya Samaj myself at one time, so when I quoted Sanskrit verses from their scriptures that sanctify the caste and racial prejudice they were shocked.
Q: Dalits are today looking at various alternative paths in their struggle for liberation, religious conversion being only one option. Why do you feel that conversion is so important for the Dalits?
A: Well, in order to address this question one would have to go way back to the earliest periods of Indian history. You see, the Dalits were the original inhabitants of this land, and some three thousand years ago, the fair-skinned Aryans invaded India from the north-west, subduing the original inhabitants, the Dravidians, and turning them into slaves. Now to keep them subjugated, physical force had to be supplemented with ideological and cultural force, and so you had the development of Brahminism and all its scriptures and superstitions. The real basis of Brahminism, which is really what Hinduism is all about, is the caste system, based as it is on the supremacy of the Brahmins and the degradation of the Dalits, treating them worse than animals. Cows, snakes and monkeys are worshipped in Hinduism, while the Dalits are treated worse than vermin. Thus, in order to be liberated from the caste system, the Dalits first need to liberate themselves from Hinduism. That Brahminism spells eternal mental slavery for the Dalits is something that all thinking Dalits are well aware of. That is why Dr. Ambedkar himself announced in 1935 that conversion was a must for Dalit liberation. He himself renounced Hinduism, along with some 400,000 of his followers at a mass ceremony in 1956.
Q: But Ambedkar himself converted to Buddhism, not to Islam?
A: I consider this as the biggest blunder by Ambedkar. But in a sense he was forced into it. You see, I am convinced that Ambedkar was aware that the most effective means for Dalit liberation was through converting to Islam. In this he was following in the tradition of Mahatma Jyotiba Phule, who argued that by becoming Muslims, the Dalits could overcome the stigma of untouchability that the upper castes branded them with. In 1935, in a public address to his fellow Mahars, Ambedkar first spoke out on the need for the Dalits to renounce Hinduism and to convert to another religion. He said that the Dalits could choose from between Sikhism, Christianity or Islam, but added that Islam seemed to offer the Dalits the best deal. He commented on how Muslims are so closely united, and how the bond of Islamic brotherhood has no parallels in any other religious community or tradition. It is revealing to note that at this time he made no mention at all of Buddhism.
Q: Why then did he not convert to Islam himself?
A: I think he was gradually moving in that direction and then the Partition took place in 1947, which made him change his plans. As I see it, he was increasingly co-operating with Muslims on the political plane. The Nizam of Hyderabad granted him a huge sum of money for his educational projects and Muslims in East Bengal helped him get elected to the Constituent Assembly in the face of stiff Hindu opposition. Ordinary Muslim villagers went out of their way to support him in his struggles for justice for the Dalits, as in the case of the well-known Mahar tank agitation to allow Dalits use of village tanks. Ambedkar was also increasingly co-operating with Jinnah and the Muslim League in opposing upper caste hegemony. I think he was quite clear that if the Dalits embraced Islam en masse, then the Muslims would have become the single largest community. He clearly saw how this could empower the Dalits in their struggle. This is why some sections of the upper castes in the Congress and the Hindu Mahasabha, conspired to drive Jinnah to the wall, and forced him to come out with the demand for Pakistan by refusing to seriously consider any measures for the protection of Muslim interests in a united India. In doing this, they killed two birds with one stone. By creating Pakistan, the upper castes got rid of a large chunk of the Muslim population, and reduced the Muslims remaining in India to a persecuted minority. In addition, by inflaming anti-Muslim prejudice and launching anti-Muslim pogroms, the Dalits were clearly told what fate they would meet if they dared to contemplate converting to Islam. Naturally, in this context, Ambedkar had to change his strategy. Since converting to Islam was now ruled out because that would have meant the mass slaughter of Dalits in every village and town, Ambedkar took to Buddhism as the next best alternative.
Q: How do you see the Buddhist conversion movement today?
A: Very small number of Dalits, mainly among the Mahars of Maharshtra and a section of the Chamars of western Uttar Pradesh have actually converted to Buddhism. So, in that sense, it has not brought all the Dalits of India within its fold. The biggest problem with conversion to Buddhism is that because there was no pre-existing Buddhist community into which they could merge themselves and lose their Dalitness, when Dalits went over to Buddhism they could still be identified as Dalits. In this way, conversion to Buddhism has not been able to rid the Dalits of their Dalit identity, and as long as they are identified as Dalits they cannot escape from the shackles of the caste system. Further, if you see what conversion to Buddhism has actually meant for most Dalits, it appears that this has entailed only a cosmetic change in some rituals. On the whole, however, most Buddhists carry on with their pre-conversion Hindu practices and beliefs. Little wonder then that Hindu chauvinist groups that are so vehemently against Dalits converting to Islam argue that Dalits may, if they like, become Buddhists, because in their view Buddhism is a branch of Hinduism.
Q: If conversion to Buddhism has not been successful in empowering the Dalits, why do you feel Islam is the answer?
A: Islam and Brahminism are two diametrically opposite ideologies. This comes out strikingly if you compare their views on social affairs. Brahminism is based on extreme hierarchy, the caste system, the supremacy of one priestly caste and the slavery of the Dalits. Rama, whom Hindu chauvinists claim as their supreme god, lopped off the head of a Shudra for spiritual austerities that would have taken him to heaven. Contrast this with Islam, which is based on social equality, on the oneness of humanity, of us all as children of Adam and Eve. No religion gives such importance to justice and social equality as Islam does. So, in that sense I see Islam as offering the Dalits a powerful means to challenge the oppression of caste, providing a new social order, a sense of self-respect and a feeling of being accepted as fully human for the Dalits, which Hinduism, of course, cannot provide. In addition, there is this massive Muslim population in India. If the Dalits were to convert to Islam, they could easily be absorbed into the Muslim community, shedding off their Dalit-ness, in the process empowered by joining the fold of a large community.
Q: But surely there is the problem of caste within the Indian Muslim community?
A: Yes, Muslim society in India is characterised by caste-like features. But this is entirely because of the result of living in a largely Hindu environment. Since Islam is fiercely opposed to caste, as Islamic movements for reform gather strength, these distinctions would gradually give way. In my own case, for instance, I was able to marry into a Sayyed family after my divorce. My children, too, have married Muslims who come from so-called upper caste families. That has been no problem at all.
Q: How, as a Muslim, do you see your role in the Dalit liberation project? Do you see any role for Dalit-Muslim dialogue that is not predicated on Dalit conversion to Islam?
A: I am closely involved with various Dalit groups. We have set up a publishing house to bring out literature to show how Islam can offer the Dalits a means to their salvation, freeing them from caste slavery. Further, we have also set up a political party, the Sab Jan Party, All People's Party, which is still in its infancy. Through this party we are trying to bring all oppressed groups on a common plane.
Dalit conversions: An act of rebellion against caste supremacy
The mass conversion of Dalits to other religions continue to stir anxiety and anger among India's Hindu intelligentsia.
There is a long-standing history of conversion of Hindu Dalits to other religions in various states of India [Reuters]
The recent mass conversion of Dalits to Buddhism in Gujarat's Una district, which included the Dalits who were brutally assaulted by cow vigilantes for allegedly skinning dead cattle, has stirred anxiety among the upper-caste Hindu intelligentsia. Once again, India's liberals, radical leftists and conservatives are asking, if not in one then in an analogous voice: "Why are Dalits choosing conversion?"
Disturbing liberal sensibilities The ones who seem to be worried the most, intellectually if not politically, about these conversions are India's liberals. Their "liberal mind", couched in an elitist, urban habitus, believes all religions, including Hinduism, to be respectful and egalitarian. This is, of course, nothing but a figment of their imagination. Outside the elitist liberal bubble, the victims of a religion built on inequality, whose caste and communal norms deny humanity to entire communities, are as real as they can be. These victims, the members of the Hindu-Dalit community, face the devastating consequences of transgressing caste and communal hierarchies dictated by the Hindu religion day in and day out.
None the less, India's liberals seem to be blind to this reality. They go around spreading the fallacy that "Hinduism is respectful to all" like a disease - in university classrooms, newspaper columns, books, public lectures and in day-to-day conversations. Those who seek to challenge this concocted imagination of the liberal mind, especially in academic and literary spaces, risk being quarantined and labelled an "ignoramus". As result of this twisted conviction, when Dalits choose to opt out of Hinduism, asserting that it enforces a system built on inequality, the liberal mind goes into a frenzy. But liberals are not the only ones among India's upper-caste intelligentsia who are disturbed by Dalit conversions. Hindu nationalists, who dream of transforming India into an homogenous Hindu nation based on upper-caste supremacy are also worried about mass Dalit conversions, albeit for different reasons.
Shattering the dream of 'Hindu Rashtra' There is a long-standing history of conversion of Hindu Dalits to other religions in various states of India. Dalits have been converting to Christianity and other anti-brahminical sects like Kabir Panth for a very long time. And in contemporary times, conversions into Buddhism and Islam became common among Dalits thanks to the efforts of organised movements that seek to counter caste discrimination.
The history of conversion movements clearly shows that Dalits have not been converting to other religions simply because they prefer to adhere to a different belief system. They convert because they actively "reject" Hinduism. The very idea of rejecting Hinduism goes against the Hindu nationalists' dream of "Hindu Rashtra", which is fundamentally a concept based on upper caste supremacy. Although conversion into different religions may not free Dalits from clutches of caste, as upper castes maintain their supremacy in other religions too, the very act of conversion prevents the right-wing from achieving their goal of homogenisation.
This is why the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is a right-wing party with close ideological and organisational links to Hindu nationalist organisations like the Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), is actively working to halt Dalit conversions. Although the Indian Constitution protects Indian citizens' right to choose and practise any religion they want, the BJP enacted anti-conversion laws in various states it rules. In 2013 in Gujarat's Junagadh when around 60,000 Dalits and members of other lowered castes converted to Buddhism, the BJP government of Gujarat ordered an investigation and arrested local Dalit- Buddhist leaders. In 2014 in Madhya Pradesh when four Dalits converted to Islam due to caste humiliation and oppression, the police arrested them.
by Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd With state sanctions on one-hand and socio-political impunity on the other, right-wing groups and organisations like the RSS, Hindu Vahini, VHP and others are targeting those who choose to leave Hinduism in the BJP ruled states like Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Jharaknad and Odisha.
For India's right-wing, it is morally and politically unacceptable for anyone to leave the Hindu religion.
Disproving the radical left's views on religion The anti-caste movement has a long tradition of challenging Hinduism. From Bhakti movement to Bahujan movement, anti-caste conscientisation has constantly been countering and rejecting the religious and spiritual justification of caste system within Hinduism. The cultural counter to Hinduism in the Bhakti movement from 14th century onwards, both in South and North India, was spearheaded by lowered-caste saints like Tukaram, Kabir, Nandanar Chokhamela, Bahenabai, Ravidas, Mirabai and many others. They challenged Hinduism through their devotional songs known as abhanags and dhohas. Gail Omvedt, in her book Seeking Begumpura, called this "the period of Indian enlightenment".
In the first half of the 20th century, Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, the Indian jurist, economist and social reformer who inspired the Dalit Buddist movement, waged an open and sustained war against Hinduism and the caste system. He once said the Indian history is nothing but a "history of mortal conflict between Buddhism and Brahmanism".
For Ambedkar, Hinduism is against the natural evolution of the individual and the society, and many converted Dalits share this position. However, neither Ambedkar nor majority of Dalits reject the importance of religion, and this is where they differentiate from the radical left. For most Dalits and Ambedkar, Hinduism's faults do not demonstrate the problems with religions at large, because they do not consider Hinduism to be a religion. Marxists, on the other hand, consider religion to be "the opium of the masses" and they reject the idea that any religion can be a tool for ending social injustices.
However, the Dalit conversions establish the fact that religion can be a potent tool for subverting and challenging hierarchies of caste, and therefore falsify the Marxian claim of religion being "the opium of masses".
Dalit conversions are not revolutionary enough in the eyes of Indian Marxists, since for them conversion is non- material - it is an action that does not bear any change in the material lives of Dalits.
But facts speak differently: according to an India Spend analysis of 2011 Census data, the converted Buddhist Dalits enjoy better literacy rates and better work participation/sex ratio than Scheduled Caste Hindus. Additionally, rejection of Hinduism through conversion is not merely about material mobility, it is more about the realisation and objection of the structurally enforced inferiority justified in Hinduism. For many Dalits, conversion into another religion is a humanitarian claim for equality and justice. The conversion of assassinated civil rights leader Malcolm X and many other black Americans into Islam can be read in a similar way - conversions made to demand equality and justice.
One may choose to see the act of conversion merely as a victim's passive and polite reaction to discrimination and violence. But one can also see the very same act of conversion as a challenge to the core of the oppressor's supremacy and an act of rebellion in the name of liberation. In this context, the recent mass conversion of Dalits in Uttar Pradesh are not victim play - they are acts of revolution against the caste supremacy that is being forced upon them by a Hindu-right wing state and society.
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial stance.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rahul Sonpimple is a PhD candidate in Sociology at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.
Why Buddhism invites Dalits
The conversion of 300 Dalits to Buddhism in Una, Gujarat, was not the first such instance. The Indian Express looks at previous mass conversions by Dalits and the pressures that have forced them to take the step.
Written by Amrith Lal | Updated: May 1, 2018
There have been numerous instances in recent years where Dalits, individually, families and in large groups, have embraced Buddhism. (Illustration: C R Sasikumar)
On Sunday, members of a Dalit family that had been targeted by cow vigilantes in Una, Gujarat, in July 2016, and nearly 300 other Dalits converted to Buddhism at Mota Samadhiyala village, where they had been allegedly beaten by the gaurakshaks. Pradip Parmar, a Dalit MLA from the BJP who attended the function, told The Indian Express: “I am a BJP worker, but had Babasaheb not given the Constitution and the provision of reservation, I would not have become an MLA.”
Is it common for Dalits to convert to Buddhism?
There have been numerous instances in recent years where Dalits, individually, families and in large groups, have embraced Buddhism. For instance, 30 Dalit youth converted to Buddhism at Sankalp Bhoomi in Vadodara, a place connected with B R Ambedkar, last October. Every year, people visit Deekshabhoomi in Nagpur where Ambedkar embraced Buddhism along with over 3 lakh followers on October 14, 1956, and take vows to follow the Buddha’s faith. Ambedkar’s “cremation ceremony in Bombay”, according to social historian Eleanor Zelliot, “was the occasion of another conversion, administered to a lakh of people by bhikku Anand Kausalyayan”. Zelliot writes that “on December 16, crowds gathered for prayer at the Diksha ground in Nagpur, and for conversion rites in Nasik and Bombay. Conversion ceremonies were held across the face of Maharashtra in the next two months”. The 1961 Census recorded 32.50 lakh Buddhists, with 27.89 lakh in Maharashtra; in 2011, these numbers were 84.43 lakh and over 65 lakh.
But why would Dalits want to convert to Buddhism?
Buddhism was the faith Ambedkar chose when he decided to leave Hinduism. On October 13, 1935, Babasaheb told a gathering of 10,000 people in Yeola that “I will not die a Hindu”. In the preceding years, he had hoped that Hinduism could be rid of untouchability and the caste system itself, and had supported reformist initiatives including temple entry movements. Zelliot recounts that in 1929 at Jalgaon, he stated that Untouchables should embrace other religions if their disabilities were not lifted, and within a month, 12 Mahars in the area had embraced Islam. Ambedkar’s own decision to convert “seems to have been made on intellectual and emotional grounds, a stab at the religion, which denied him equality and self-respect”, says Zelliot. “But it (also)… served as a threat, both to the reputation of Hinduism for tolerance and to Hindus as a political entity”.
Through the 1930s, Ambedkar stressed that conversion alone was the way for Dalit emancipation. Speaking at the All-Bombay District Mahar Conference in Dadar (May 30-31, 1936), he explained why he saw conversion as a political and spiritual act for Dalits. He identified sympathy, equality and liberty as the three factors required for the uplift of an individual in a religion, and said these were non-existent in Hinduism. “Conversion”, he said, “is necessary to the Untouchables as self-government is necessary to India. The ultimate object of both conversion and self-government is the same… This ultimate aim is to attain freedom.” Though he would convert to Buddhism only two decades later, Ambedkar concluded his speech by recalling a conversation between the Buddha and his disciple Ananda. He said, “I also take refuge in the words of the Buddha. Be your own guide. Take refuge in your own reason. Do not listen to the advice of others. Do not succumb to others. Be truthful. Take refuge in truth. Never surrender to anything.” To Ambedkar, self-respect and individual freedom were key categories, and Buddhism, he felt, was closest to his idea of a true religion.
Did this practice start with Ambedkar?
The modern use of conversion as a political tool started with Ambedkar, but the revolt against caste and the Brahminical order goes back to the Buddha himself. Islam, Christianity and Sikhism found converts among the oppressed Hindu castes. The Bhakti Movement posed a major challenge to Brahminism, and upheld anti-caste ideals and foregrounded the languages of ordinary people above Sanskrit. Basava, who established the Lingayat order as an egalitarian community in the 12th century for example, preferred Kannada as the language of communication.
In the 19th and 20th centuries, radical intellectuals, especially those from oppressed castes, started to challenge prevailing histories that privileged the rights of caste elites. For instance, Iyothee Thasar in the Tamil region imagined a Dravidian identity with roots in a Buddhist past for the Untouchable Pariah caste. Reformist leaders in Malayalam-speaking areas like Mitavadi Krishnan and Sahodaran Ayyappan proposed conversion out of Hinduism and as a political tool to negotiate the rights of the lower castes with the ruling elite. Several caste/ethnic/linguistic communities in the subcontinent produced similar leaders who rejected the social, political and religious leadership of Hindus who wished to replicate the caste hierarchy supported by Brahminical Hinduism. The threat of conversion played a seminal role in temple entry, right of way, anti-untouchability legislation and finally, the promotion of inter-dining and inter-caste marriages.
Is the conversion only to Buddhism?
No. In states like Tamil Nadu, Dalits see Islam and Christianity as options. In 1981, 150 Dalit families in Meenakshipuram, a village in southern Tamil Nadu, embraced Islam citing oppression by caste Hindus.
What is the political message in the Una conversions?
It undermines the BJP’s political project of building a Hindu vote encompassing all communities. The recent spate of atrocities against Dalits has exposed the contradictions in the Hindutva agenda, which valourises the past in uncritical terms and celebrates Brahminical values. The new Dalit, schooled in Ambedkarite thought, is unwilling to accept old hierarchies and value systems. The Sangh Parivar’s attempt to patronise and assume guardianship of Hinduism also has pitted Dalits against the religion. The Dalit revolt against Hindutva is increasingly being manifested as Dalits leaving Hinduism.
What drives the Dalits to Christianity?
DALIT THEOLOGY IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY — Discordant Voices, Discerning Pathways: Edited by Sathianathan Clarke, Deenbandhu Manchala, Philip Vinod Peacock; Oxford University Press, YMCA Library Building, Jai Singh Road, New Delhi-110001. Rs. 745.
Although Christian missionaries of various denominations have been active in India for several centuries, the 1941 Census placed the number of Christians in colonial India at just 1.6 per cent of the population. This clearly indicates that the main objective of the British rulers was colonial domination and economic exploitation, not religious conversion.
According to the 2001 Census, Christians constituted 2.3 per cent of India's population. This rise of 0.7 percentage point in their numbers over six decades has been a matter of debate. Starting with the Niyogi Commission (1956) down to a Supreme Court's 1977 ruling, conversion has been a highly contentious issue, sometimes inviting frowns from officialdom and the judiciary. Hence the interest in the question whether the Dalit converts to Christianity have indeed been seduced by proselytising missionaries to “change Gods.”
Urban artisans and people in the lower middle class have generally turned against their established faiths throughout history. Urbanisation gave these people a “greater access to religious preachers, to literacy, to education and books, to a great variety of personal relations, and to greater riches of urban culture,” says David Lorenzen in his introduction to Bhakti Religion in North India: Community Identity and Political Action (1995). A distinct feature of the Dalits who embraced Christianity is that a vast majority of them are from the poorest sections in villages, not urbanites.
According to John Webster ( Religion and Dalit Liberation:1999), changing the religion is one of the ‘strategies' the Dalit communities adopted in their struggle to secure social justice and equality. The other four were: acquiring political power; securing as much independence as possible from the dominant castes; initiating reformist measures to reduce prejudices among themselves; and deploying cultural modes of communication, like literature and theatre, for conscientisation. Dalit theology has grown out of this practice of changing religion. We have Christological reflections in M.E. Prabhakar-edited Toward a Dalit Theology (1989), and methodological formulations in Arvind Nirmal's Reader in Dalit Theology (1992), and biblical reinterpretations in V. Devashyam's Frontiers of Dalit Theology (1997).
This book presents, in three parts, 16 well-researched essays on different themes by theologians and teachers and is a mine of profound concepts and serious ideas on ecumenical social thought, myths of Dalit origins, and so on. Does the ‘Dalit Theology' have anything to do with ‘Liberation Theology'? Sadly, the points of convergence/divergence between the Dalit Theology and the South American Liberation Theology are not discussed in this book. One of the reasons could be that Sathianathan Clarke, an editor of this volume, has already authored a tome on the subject titled Dalits and Christianity: Subaltern Religion and Liberation Theology in India (1998). Yet, the omission is a real shortcoming.
From Punjab to Tamil Nadu, there have been a lot of conversions for well over a century. What leads the Dalits to Christianity? Does anything change for the better after conversion? It emerges that, despite conversion, the Dalit Christians continue to be denied “land, water and dignity.” And the women among them have to bear the double cross of ‘lowest caste' and ‘womanhood.' Sujatha, a woman tricked into unwed motherhood, is told: “The palm leaf is torn, whether it falls on a thorn or a thorn falls on it.”
The relevance of the book stands enhanced in the context of the spate of violent attacks by the Hindutva forces as a backlash to religious conversions in recent years. The worst of these were witnessed in 2007 and 2008 in Kandhamal (Orissa), the target being the meek Dalit Christians from the Pana caste. Dalit conversions are not a calamity but they throw up situations of “slippery identities and shrewd identifications,” say Clarke and Peacock epigrammatically.
Conversion of religion: India (legal aspects)
Anti-conversion laws: Madhya Pradesh-1968, Odisha- 1969, Arunachal Pradesh- 1978, Chhattisgarh- 2000, Tamil Nadu- 2002, Gujarat- 2003, Rajasthan-2006 , Himachal Pradesh- 2007, Graphic courtesy: India Today
This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.
Introduction Lama Doboom Tulku
The Times of India, July 1, 2011
The Sanskrit term for conversion of religion is dharma parivartana. There is no established term for this subject in classical Tibetan texts. However,the concept of changing one’s religion voluntarily does figure in the Buddhist context. This means that when an adherent of a particular religion sees specific beneficial features in a religion other than the one he was brought up in, he may choose another religion out of his conscious will. A Tibetan word coined for this means to switch from one religion to another. The word is chos-lugs sgyur-ba.
The main purpose of religion is to reach salvation, not material gain. Hence, with the pure thought of benefiting to reach salvation or to help others find the path, if the need to change one’s religion is strongly felt, switching over is totally in conformity with recognised principles. In causing others to change the religion, it may be a situation of somebody doing so as a result of any act of another person. In this case, there is need for careful scrutiny. Find out:
1) Is the change of religion a result of religious discourse or preaching?
2) Is it a case of enticement to cause other people to change their religion?
3) Or is the change the result of the push and pull influence exerted?
4) The first situation prevails throughout the history of religion, and is an accepted practice today.
Many religious traditions have sent dharmadoots (faith messengers) to other lands to preach their dharma or religion, and in a way it is considered to be a pious act or their dharma (religious duty). If, however, the case is either of the second or the third, then there is a need for careful consideration. Social and economic considerations could be reasons for change. One religious system may give a person better status in society than the other. It may offer better chances of livelihood and education. In such cases, individuals should be given the freedom to change or not change their religion.
In this case, there should be a proper procedure and mechanism acceptable to the concerned parties and the community. Forcing change of religion and luring people into one's own religion by applying different methods and using means that do not conform to any accepted norms, is not acceptable. Dharma preaching should not only be done with honesty, but it should seem to be so.It is often said that to follow the religious culture in which one is brought up, is the safest and best way of religious practice.
With the exception of ascetic persons, normally the inspiration for religious people should be threefold: one, to be happy in life, two, to be comfortable at the time of death, and three, to have a feeling of safeguarding beyond life. These three, therefore, are the touchstones which can help one decide which religion to follow and whether to change one’s religion or not.
Constitutional position Conversions: pay heed to our founders The Times of India
Dec 21 2014
The Ghar Wapsi campaign flies in the face of the fundamental right to propagate one's religion as laid down by the founding fathers of the Constitution “Even under the present law, forcible conversion is an offence” Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel said so on April 22, 1947, as chairman of the “advisory committee on fundamental rights and minorities” to the Constituent Assembly. He was responding to a concern raised by Anglo-Indian representative Frank Anthony over how future legislatures might regard the issue of conversions.“You are leaving it to legislation,” Anthony said. “The legislature may say tomorrow that you have no right.” This exchange in the course of the advisory committee’s proceedings has acquired greater significance than ever before as the Narendra Modi government, which swears by Patel, called for anti-conversion laws across all the states and the Centre in the face of the Opposition’s indignation in Parliament over Ghar Wapsi in Agra. Far from seeking any safeguards in the Constitution against forcible conversions, Patel took the view that the existing law was sufficient to check such crimes. He was opposed to incorporating a clause recommended by a “sub-committee on minorities” appointed by the advisory committee. The clause laid down that conversion brought about by “coercion or undue influence shall not be recognised by law”. A majority in the sub-committee on minorities favoured it even after C Rajagopalachari had, according to the minutes, “questioned the necessity of this provision, when it was covered by the ordinary law of the land, eg the Indian Penal Code”.The clause was originally drafted by K M Munshi before a “sub-committee on fundamental rights”, which had also been appointed by the advisory committee.
Holding that it was “not a fundamental right”, Patel said on April 22, 1947 that the clause vetted by the two subcommittees was “unnecessary and may be deleted”.
The anti-conversion laws that have since been passed in half a dozen states — and are now sought to be extended to the rest of the country — are an amplification of the very clause that had been dismissed by Patel on more than one count. The clause did not make it to the Constitution despite the demand for it from leaders of both minority and majority communities. While Anthony maintained that the clause was “absolutely vital to the Christians”, Syama Prasad Mookerjee too said that the clause “should not be deleted”. Their reasons were different: Anthony saw the clause as an indirect recognition for voluntary conversions and Mookerjee regarded it as a check on the misuse of conversions. The clause had seen many twists and turns before it was eventually dropped from the draft of the Constitution.
To begin with, since a majority in the advisory committee leaned towards the clause, Patel could not help retaining it in the report he sent on April 23, 1947 to the president of the Constituent Assembly, Rajendra Prasad. But then, when it came up for discussion before the Constituent Assembly on May 1, 1947, Munshi moved an amendment adding two more grounds for derecognizing conversions: fraud and under-age. It triggered a debate all over again among Founding Fathers on conversions driven by extraneous considerations. Patel weighed in with the suggestion that the clause be referred back to the advisory committee. Once Prasad accepted his suggestion, Patel had his way this time in the advisory committee too. Ten days after Independence, Patel wrote to Prasad on behalf of the advisory committee saying, “It seems to us on further consideration that this clause enunciates a rather obvious doctrine which is unnecessary to include in the Constitution and we recommend that it be dropped altogether.” Though the clause citing grounds for de-recognition had been dropped accordingly, the Constituent Assembly witnessed a fresh debate on conversions on December 6, 1947. The bone of contention was whether the freedom of religion should extend to the right to “propagate” it as well. As it happened, this word had not figured in Munshi's original draft before the sub-committee on fundamental rights. It was inserted later at the instance of the sub-committee on minorities. According to the minutes of its April 17, 1947 meeting, “M Ruthnaswamy pointed out that certain religions, such as Christianity and Islam, were essentially proselytising religions and provision should be made to permit them to propagate their faith in accordance with their tenets.“ Recalling this “compromise with the minorities“ prompted by Ruthnaswamy's proposal, Munshi told the Constituent Assembly that “the word `propagate' should be maintained in this Article in order that the compromise so laudably achieved by the minorities committee should not be disturbed.“ In keeping with the freedom of speech endorsed by the same plenary body , Munshi said that it was anyway “open to any religious community to persuade other people to join their faith“. It was then that the Constituent Assembly , cementing the idea of a pluralist nation, rejected the amendments proposing the deletion of the word “propagate“.
The “compromise with the minorities“ seemed to have been however disturbed two decades later when Orissa, a state with a relatively high percentage of Dalit and tribal population, came up with an anti-conversion law. The Orissa Freedom of Religion Act 1967 pro hibited conversion “by the use of force or by inducement or by any fraudulent means“. Its definition of the word “inducement“ was controversial as it included “the grant of any benefit, either pecuniary or otherwise“. This meant that if a Dalit were to leave Hinduism purely to gain a sense of dignity , his conversion was liable to be questioned on the ground of inducement. Unsurprisingly , the “vague“ definition of “inducement“ was one of the reasons cited by the Orissa high court in 1972 for declaring the 1967 law as unconstitutional.
Two years later, the Madhya Pradesh high court however upheld a similar state law. Subsequently , the Supreme Court clubbed together the appeals against the two high court verdicts. In 1977, the apex court upheld both the anti-conversion laws.But it steered clear of addressing the reasoning of the Orissa high court in striking down the 1967 law. It also glossed over the Constituent Assembly debates. The import of “propagate“, it said, “is not the right to convert another person to one's own religion“. Reason: “if a person purposely undertakes the conversion ...that would impinge on the freedom of conscience guaranteed to all the citizens“. Given the increasingly aggressive campaign to reconvert Muslims and Christians to Hinduism, there is an urgent need to revisit the Supreme Court verdict as well as the state laws.
Kerala HC/ 2018: Set up authority to approve conversions July 13, 2018: The Times of India
The Kerala high court asked the state government to frame rules for appointing an authority to grant approval for conversion to Islam in three months.
A division bench of Justices C T Ravikumar and A M Babu gave the directive on a petition filed by Thadevoos, aka Abu Thalib (50), of Ilahia Colony in Muvattupuzha.
The petitioner, who had converted to Islam from Christianity, produced in court a copy of a news report about a dispute over the last rites of a Thrissur man who had allegedly converted to Islam from Christianity in 2000. The petition, filed through advocate Sunil Nair Palakkat seeking the court’s intervention, said the man had no record to prove his conversion.
“The government though vested with the discretion, are having a duty/obligation to frame rules prescribing the authority before whom and the form in which declaration under the act shall be made (sic). When that be the position, the failure to make rules is really a matter of concern,” the judgment said.
Anti conversion laws: History
Faith fracas The Times of India 28/05/2006
2006: Pope Benedict XVI "Anti-conversion laws are unconstitutional and contrary to the highest ideals of India's founding fathers." Pope Benedict XVI chose his words carefully when he famously pulled up India's envoy to Vatican on May 18.
Much as it might have sounded like a platitude, the pope's statement was actually drawing attention to a little-known constitutional compromise made by the Supreme Court of India on the issue of religious conversions.
The Rev Stanislaus case The pope may be technically wrong in calling anti-conversion laws "unconstitutional". After all, way back in 1977, a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court did uphold the constitutionality of the first two anti-conversion laws, which had been enacted in Orissa and Madhya Pradesh.
It was on account of that judgment in the Rev Stanislaus case that five more states enacted anti-conversion laws - though the latest one in Rajasthan has been returned by governor Pratibha Patil for reconsideration.
But the pope can't be faulted for alleging all the same that anti-conversion laws were "contrary to the highest ideals of India's founding fathers".
Debates in India's Constituent Assembly This is because, contrary to the SC verdict in the Rev Stanislaus case, the Constituent Assembly saw the right to convert others to one's own religion as a logical extension of two fundamental rights: the right to 'propagate' religion (Article 25) and the larger freedom of speech and expression (Article 19).
The intention of the founding fathers is evident from the extensive debates they had before incorporating the term 'propagate' in Article 25. In fact, the initial draft of the provision related to freedom of religion was silent on the issue of conversions It was only after deliberations in forums such as Fundamental Rights Sub-Committee, Minorities Sub-Committee and the Advisory Committee that the Drafting Committee headed by B R Ambedkar deemed it fit to incorporate propagation as a part of the right to religion.
Given the fact that the nation in 1949 was still recovering from the trauma of a partition effected on religious grounds, some of the members of the Constituent Assembly vehemently opposed the idea of introducing any right to propagate religion.
They contended that a person should be entitled only to profess and practice religion, not to propagate it.
Those apprehensions about conversions were countered by, ironically enough, a right-wing member of the Drafting Committee, K M Munshi, who is to date revered by the Hindutva brigade for his initiative in restoring the Somnath temple.
In an authoritative pronouncement, Munshi explained that the word 'propagate' was inserted specifically at the instance of Christians, who he said "laid the greatest emphasis" on it "not because they wanted to convert people aggressively" but because it was "a fundamental part of their tenet".
Alternatively, Munshi said: "Even if the word were not there, I am sure, under the freedom of speech which the Constitution guarantees, it will be open to any religious community to persuade other people to join their faith."
Munshi went on to exhort the Constituent Assembly that whether it voted in favour of propagation or not, "conversion by free exercise of the conscience has to be recognised". In the event, the House retained the word "propagate" in Article 25, implying thereby that one has a fundamental right to convert others to one's own religion.
Supreme Court's interpretation of Article 25 But when the Supreme Court set out to interpret Article 25 in the Rev Stanislaus case, it departed from the tradition of looking up Constituent Assembly debates.
In a flagrant omission, the judgment delivered by then chief justice of India A N Ray made no reference whatsoever to the discussion in the Constituent Assembly on Article 25.
Instead, the bench took recourse to dictionaries and concluded that the word 'propagate' meant not a right to convert "but to transmit or spread one's religion by an exposition of its tenets".
Reason: "If a person purposely undertakes the conversion of another person to his religion, as distinguished from his efforts to transmit or spread the tenets of his religion, that would impinge on the freedom of conscience guaranteed to all citizens of the country alike."
In other words, anybody engaged in conversion is automatically liable to be punished. The police do not have to take the trouble of proving that conversion was based on extraneous factors such as force, allurement, inducement and fraud.
Thus, the anti-conversion laws became even more draconian after going through the hands of the Supreme Court. Whatever the validity of its verdict, the Supreme Court should have displayed the rigour of taking into account the contrary view of the founding fathers.
Its judgment would have commanded greater credibility if it had deigned to acknowledge and explain why it disagreed with the founding fathers on such a sensitive issue. It's a pity that this monumental failure of the Supreme Court has remained unnoticed even after the pope pointed out that anti-conversion laws were "contrary to the highest ideals of India's founding fathers".
In the pseudo nationalist outrage that followed his statement, the government told Parliament that Vatican had been told in "no uncertain terms" of India's displeasure.
Certificate (from the government) for conversion
Government cannot insist on government-approved certification when citizen converts The government cannot insist on certification from government-approved institutions when a citizen declares that he/she has changed his/her religion, a single bench of the Kerala high court held.
Justice A Muhamed Mustaque gave the ruling on a petition filed by Aysha (67) — formerly Devaki — of Malappuram who converted to Islam with her son. She had filed an application with the directorate of printing to notify her change of name and religion after the conversion but she was asked to produce a certificate from a recognized institute or organisation.
The court said the government could not question a citizen’s decision to convert to another religion.
“The right to profess and practice a religion is a fundamental right. One has the liberty to choose his own faith… The liberty of an individual is a primordial right from time immemorial… The government, therefore, will have to act upon one’s declaration as to the change of his faith or conscience. Maturity of such decision cannot be subject to any examination by any authority,” it said.
The government can conduct an inquiry if it doubts the genuineness of the conversion claim but that does not mean it can insist on production of any certificate issued by certain authority or organisation, the court said. “The right to practice cannot be burdened, based on the certificate issued by an organization or an institution,” the HC said.
Conversion upon marriage
Uttarakhand HC expects Freedom of Religion Act in the state Vineet Upadhyay, Curb tendency of religion conversion for marriage, formulate Act: Uttarakhand HC, November 20, 2017:
The Times of India
The Uttarakhand high court while hearing a case of inter-religious marriage -- in which a Muslim boy and Hindu girl eloped to get married and the groom claimed to have changed his religion in order to marry -- had a spot of advice for the state government on Monday. While disposing of the petition, Justice Rajiv Sharma who heard the case said, "It needs to be mentioned that the court has come across a number of cases where inter-religion marriages are being organised. However, in few instances, the conversion from one religion to another religion is a sham conversion only to facilitate the process of marriage. In order to curb this tendency, the state government is expected to legislate the Freedom of Religion Act on the analogy of Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 1968 as well as Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2006, without hurting the religious sentiments of citizens."
The court specified that it was making a suggestion and not giving an order. "We are well aware that it is not the role of the court to give suggestions to the state government to legislate but due to fast changing social milieu, this suggestion is being made," the judge said.
The two legislations that the HC referred to pertain to religious conversions. As per the Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act 2006 passed by the state assembly on December 19, 2006, the state can "prevent forcible conversions which create resentment among several sections of the society and also inflame religious passions leading to communal clashes." Similar provisions are there in the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 1968 which "prohibits religious conversion by the use of force, allurement or fraudulent means."
The case which prompted the court to offer the suggestion dates to November 2 when the father of the girl filed a petition in the HC claiming that his daughter — who had turned 18 recently — had been missing since September 18 and the police had been unable to find her. The court thereafter ordered the senior superintendent of police of Udham Singh Nagar district (from where the family hailed) to locate the girl. On November 14, the girl was brought to the court by the police along with a 22-year-old man who claimed that he had converted himself to Hindu religion in order to marry her. However, the girl's family rejected the man's claims. The HC then ordered the girl to be kept for a few days in a secluded location where no one was allowed to meet her including her family. This was done so that being a major, she can decide on her own in the matter without any external influence. On Monday, the girl told the court that she intends to go with her parents after which the matter was dismissed.
Conversion and child’s custody
The Times of India, June 20, 2011
‘Conversion no ground to deny child’s custody’
Religious conversion of a woman cannot be a reason for disqualifying her custodial rights over a child from a previous marriage, a Delhi court has ruled. The court denied the custodial rights claim of a child's grandfather, who took the plea that since his widowed daughter-in-law had embraced Islam, she was not entitled to the child's custody. “That she has married a Muslim is not by itself a reason to take away the child,” guardian judge Gautam Manan said.
Conversion and inheritance of property
‘Woman convert to Islam can claim Hindu father’s property’ Shibu Thomas, March 7, 2018: The Times of India
‘Woman convert to Islam can claim Hindu dad’s property’
A Hindu woman who has converted to Islam is entitled to claim a share in her father’s property if he dies without leaving a will, the Bombay high court has ruled. Justice Mridula Bhatkar refused to overturn an order of a trial court that had restrained a 68-year-old Mumbai resident from selling off or creating third-party rights in his deceased father’s flat in Matunga, following a claim by his 54-year-old sister who lives in Andheri. The man claimed his sister had converted to Islam in 1954 and was therefore disqualified from inheriting the property of their father, who was a practising Hindu.
The judge said while the personal law of a person who has converted to Islam, Christianity and other religions will apply in matters of marriage and guardianship, while deciding inheritance the religion at the time of birth has to be taken into account. “The right to inheritance is not a choice but it is by birth and in some cases it is acquired by marriage. Therefore, renouncing a particular religion and to get converted is a matter of choice and cannot cease relationships which are established and exist by birth. A Hindu convert is entitled to his/ her father’s property, if father died intestate,” said Justice Bhatkar. The court pointed to Section 26 of the Hindu Succession Act, which says the law does not apply to children of converts.
But it is silent on the converts themselves, and thus they are not disqualified from staking claim to their deceased father’s property.
The judge cited the fundamental right to religion guaranteed by the Constitution and added “in our secular country, any person is free to embrace and follow any religion as his/her conscious choice.” The woman had filed a suit in 2010, after her father’s death, seeking her share in the Matunga flat. She claimed a shop owned by their father had already been sold by her brother. The sibling contested the petition and claimed that it was his self- acquired property. His lawyer said that the Hindu Succession Act was applicable to Hindus, Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs while it excluded Muslims, Christians, Parsis and Jews. Since his sister had left Hinduism and embraced Islam, she was not qualified to seek a share in the property, his lawyers argued. “A convert would otherwise get benefit from two laws which is not allowed,” the advocates representing the man said.
The HC held the objection of the brother was not sustainable as a Hindu person’s property devolves to his successors as per law. His successors include son, daughter, widow, mother and so on. “Suppose a widow embraces Christianity or Islam religion after death of her Hindu husband, the conversion shall not come in the way of devolution of property of her husband,” the HC said.
Reconversion to Hinduism and the law: India
Reconversion is conditional
The Times of India
Jan 04 2015
In 1981, around 600 dalits of Meenakshipuram in southern Tamil Nadu decided to convert en masse to Islam. Today their families live in harmony with their Hindu clansmen, at home both in temple and masjid Seventy-year-old S Kalimuthu's daughter Khaleema Bheevi is a Muslim. Kali muthu himself had organised her marriage with his brother's son, a neo-Muslim convert. The families meet often for weddings and functions, including the local Durga temple festival. s Umer Kaiyum, a 79-year-old retired Tamil pandit who converted to escape caste hatred, still maintains close ties with his father's brother, M Subramanian and brother, M Subramanian and his family .
These ties make Meenakshipuram a different conversion story. While some members of a family converted to Islam, many remained Hindus. But the village, which changed its name to Rehmat Nagar along with the mass conversions, remains a peaceful, communally integrated hamlet.
The harsh mid-day sun throws deep shadows on the lush mountain ranges of the Western Ghats. In narrow lanes, gaudily painted houses and dilapidated old homes alternate with tiny brick-andconcrete hovels. The overnight rain has left the path night rain has left the pathways slushy . In the heart of the hamlet, once known as Meenakshipuram, there is chatter and laughter under the white dome of the mas jid. At 1pm, silence falls for the `thozhugai' (afternoon prayers).
Islam is serious religion in this hamlet in Tirunelveli district in south Tamil Nadu. It is barely three decades since the headline-grab bing mass conversions took place here. But, it was nothing like the Sangh Parivar's controversial Ghar Wapsi programme in Uttar Pradesh last month. On February 20, the day after the symbolic conversion, 300 dalit fami lies -about 500 to 600 people -gathered in the village square and amid hushed silence and much trepidation, tonsured their heads and repeated the Shahada (Testimony of faith). They were formally initiated into Islam by the Ishadul Islam Sabha of South India, which had its offices in Tirunelveli.
“It was a yearning for dignity . We sought Islam to escape caste hatred and the atrocities inflicted on us by the Thevars (a most backward community , but higher in the caste hier archy than dalits),“ recalls Umer Kaiyum, who was once A Mookkan. A retired primary school teacher, he lives behind a small stone mound in the hamlet, with his three sons and their families. “I was a Tamil pundit. But, I was mocked for my name and forced to change it to Umadevan,“ says Kaiyum.
Horror stories of caste discrimination have been passed down over generations. “If any Thevar was murdered, the dalits were tied up and beaten black and blue,“ says Mohammed Saleem, 40. Only two buses plied in the village those days. One travelled to and from Kerala, ferrying workers. There was also a Tamil Nadu bus. “We may have been bathed and better dressed than them (Thevars), but we were never allowed to sit on the seats of the Tamil Nadu bus,“ says Saleem, recalling his childhood. The dalits had to sit on the bus floor or travel standing all the way .
There is a little known story of Mohammed Yusuf, the man who inspired the Meenakshipuram dalits to take the final step towards embracing Islam. In 1975, Yusuf, then T Thangaraj, fell in love with a Thevar woman, Sivanatha. It was a reckless and dangerous thing to do those days but he decided to elope with her. Six years before the rest of the village followed his lead, 31-year-old Thangaraj took his bride to Tirunelveli and converted to Islam.They took the names Yusuf and Sulehal Bheevi. Thangaraj's audacity shook the whole village.
“But, even today , we share a good rapport with my uncles (mother's brothers) Mariappan, Ayyappan and Sivapandui,“ says Mohammed Abu Haliba, 36, Yusuf 's son, who lives in Mekkarai village, 5km from Rehmat Nagar.Many of Meenakshipuram's neo converts own agricultural land in Mekkarai, a picturesque hamlet on the ghat foothills. Here, the Muslim converts grow paddy and tapioca and also rear cattle and poultry .
The Meenakshipuram conversions occurred during the AIADMK regime headed by MG Ramachandran, and it became a landmark event for the sheer numbers involved. The reason why it attracted so many dalits was a Thevar's murder that led to widespread brutal police action against the community , say locals.It provoked even those who were undecided on converting.
The conversions triggered a virtual political stampede in the village. Many national leaders descended on it; BJP leaders Atal Bihari Vajpayee, LK Advani and a host of Sangh Parivar leaders visited the village to investigate the reasons behind the conversion. The ruling Indira Gandhi government despatched its minister of state for home, Yogendra Makwana, to Meenakshipuram and MGR constituted the Justice Venugopal commission of inquiry .
The director of scheduled castescheduled tribe welfare of the Union government submitted a report of the findings that ruled out forceful conversions. The Arya Samaj built a school in the village. While the school continues to enroll students even today , the dilapidated building showcases a failed bid to get Muslims to return to Hinduism.
“An old dalit I met in Meenakshipuram told me how he once had to vacate his seat in a village bus for a 10-year-old Thevar boy , addressing him respectfully . But after he converted to Islam, he didn't have to do that and he is addressed respectfully as `bhai',“ says A Sivasubramanian, a Tamil teacher and writer of folklore based in Tuticorin. A chapter in his book `Pillaiyar Arasiyal' (politicizing the deity Vinayaka) is devoted to the Meenakshipuram conversions. “They may not have seen great economic change in their lives because they lost the right to reservation in education and jobs but, they are happy with their new social status and cultural freedom,“ says Sivasubramanian.
As the sun sets over Mekkarai, Sardar Mohammed, 70, sits proud in his stone and concrete home. He built it about two decades ago. As a dalit, he was permitted only to build a thatched hut.
In Rehmat Nagar, the dusk brings calls for evening prayers at the `pallivasal' (masjid), which was built soon after the mass conversion. Karuppiah Madasamy, 66, the local naataamai (village head) and leader of a local Hindu outfit, walks into the masjid and settles down on a bench to wait for his grandsons.They are all Muslims.
Madras HC accepts VHP ritual to reconvert/ 2018
Upholds Her SC Status & Selection For Post Of Teacher
Accepting a “shuddhi ceremony” conducted by Vishwa Hindu Parishad to reconvert a Christian woman to Hinduism, the Madras high court last Thursday upheld her selection and appointment as a junior graduate teacher under the Scheduled Caste category.
Justice R Suresh Kumar, pointing to the government order which allowed such reconversion and resultant benefits, said, “The Vishwa Hindu Parishad, one of the reputed and internationally acclaimed organisations for Hindu religion, which is constantly and steadfastly propagating the greatness and richness of Hinduism and Hindu rites and customs in this country, had performed the necessary pooja called ‘Shuddhi Satangu’ on November 1, 1998. The name of the petitioner, which was originally Daisy Flora, has been changed into A Megalai. On completion of the pooja by pandits of Vishwa Hindu Parishad, it has been declared that she had converted from Christianity to Hinduism.”
Justice Suresh Kumar also referred to the government order deciding to extend benefits available to SC candidates, to those who had converted from Christianity to Hinduism or those who reconverted to Hinduism, provided the community accepted such conversion/re-conversion.
Megalai was born into a Christian (Paraiyan) community and subsequently got married to a man named Vanavan who belonged to the Hindu (Paraiyan) community. Based on such conversion, she was given the SC community certificate as well. When she participated in the selection process for junior graduate assistant, she was not selected on the grounds that she was not entitled to the benefit as she was a reconvert. However, thanks to an interim order of the high court in March 2005, she was appointed to the post and later re-designated BT assistant (science).
When the case was taken up for hearing, state additional advocate general Narmadha Sampath argued that mere conversion could not get a person the status of member of an SC community, unless he/she was accepted by the community for all practical purposes.
Answering this apprehension, Justice Suresh Kumar said VHP was a reputed Hindu organisation, and that the woman’s conversion had been accepted by society as was evident from the fact that people in the locality had also given statements before revenue officials that she had been continuously following Hindu customs and that she belonged to the Hindu community.
“There can be no doubt that such claim made by the petitioner for being a Hindu Adi Dravidar community can very well be accepted,” ruled Justice Suresh Kumar.
Since the petitioner had already completed probation, her said selection and appointment shall not be disturbed for the reason of communal status, he added.
The VHP... which is... propagating the greatness and richness of Hinduism... had performed... ‘Shuddhi Satangu’ on November 1, 1998. On completion of the pooja by pandits of VHP, it has been declared that she (Megalai) had converted from Christianity to Hinduism
State-wise conversion statistics
Gujarat The Times of India, Mar 16, 2016
In Gujarat, 94.4% of those seeking to convert are Hindu
In five years, the state government received 1,838 applications from people of various religions to convert to another religion. Of them, 1,735 applications (94.4%) were filed by Hindus who wanted to renounce the religion of their birth to embrace some other creed. The state's anti-conversion law - Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act mandates that a citizen obtain prior approval from the district authority for conversion. The state government has not approved half of these applicants, only 878 persons got permission to convert. Apart from 1,735 Hindus, 57 Muslims, 42 Christians and 4 Parsis have applied for permission to convert. No one from the Sikh or Buddhist religions have sought such permission. Experts believe that marriage is the reason for some applicants, to convert to the religion of their spouse.
Applications received from Hindus were slightly higher than the proportion of the Hindu population in the state. These applications were received mainly from Surat, Rajkot, Porbandar, Ahmedabad, Jamnagar and Junagadh. Still, experts believe the administration does not take all applications on record. Gujarat Dalit Sangathan's president Jayant Mankandia said, "If government records reveal only 1,735 applications from Hindus, it is clear that the authorities do not take all applications on record. The figure of Hindu applicants would have been nearly 50,000, if the correct data was presented." He cited a programme in Junagadh a couple of years ago, where nearly one lakh persons from dalit communities took diksha into Buddhism.
Mankadia further said, "During such conversion programmes, we collect applications for conversion and submit them to the concerned district collector. Unfortunately, our volunteers do not follow up and ascertain if these applications are entertained by authorities."
For former national fellow of Indian Council of Social Science Research, Ghanshyam Shah, the question is "who among the Hindus want to convert?" He believes, "There is dissatisfaction among dalits and other suppressed classes and some of them convert to Buddhism. But Census data does not reveal this due to mistakes by enumerators. My hunch is that enumerators on their own mention 'Hindu' as the religion of such newly converted Buddhists. The government does not have any issue with conversion to Buddhism. But there will be a hue and cry, if people embrace Christianity."
According to Vishwa Hindu Parishad general secretary Ranchhod Bharwad, conversion activity is the handiwork of anti-national elements. "Such people don't have any right to live in this country because they convert people by temptation and pressure. Even Buddhists have lured Hindus to convert to their fold in Junagadh."
Kerala Jeemon Jacob , The Veiled threat “India Today” 17/8/2016
How to Become a Buddhist
Buddhism is the teaching of Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha) about the truth of life and universe that reveals the concepts such as the Four Noble Truths, Karma, and the cycle of rebirth (reincarnation). It is a whole school of teaching called dharma which is much older than the word "religion". Buddhism is still a popular "religion" nowadays, with millions of people all over the world who practice it. The first step to becoming a Buddhist is understanding basic Buddhist beliefs; this will help you decide if Buddhism is the religion for you. Then, you can practice Buddhism and take part in centuries-old traditions.
Part 1 Understanding Basic Buddhist Concepts
Learn basic Buddhist terminology. This will make it much easier to understand everything you will read, since many Buddhist terms can be very unfamiliar, especially to Westerners. The basic terms of Buddhism include but are not limited to:
Arhat: a being who has attained Nirvana.
Bodhisattva: a being who is on the way to enlightenment.
Buddha: an awakened being who has achieved perfect enlightenment.
Dharma: a complicated term that usually refers to the teachings of the Buddha.
Nirvana: spiritual bliss. Nirvana is the ultimate goal of Buddhism.
Sangha: the Buddhist community.
Sutra: a sacred Buddhist text.
Venerable: The title of an ordained monk or nun, seen wearing the specific colored robes of their tradition and sect.
Familiarize yourself with different Buddhist schools. The two most popular Buddhist schools today are Theravada and Mahayana. Though these two schools have the same basic beliefs, there are differences in the teachings they focus on: Mahayana focuses heavily on becoming a bodhisattva, Theravada focuses on practicing the dharma, and so on.
There are many other schools of Buddhism, such as Nichiren Shoshu, Zen Buddhism, Pure Land Buddhism, and Esoteric Buddhism.
Schools of Buddhism are far from being the same. There are similarities to a degree but many schools of Buddhism have gone off on tangents over time.
Because Buddhism is such an ancient religion, there are many intricate differences between all the schools that cannot be covered in detail here; spend time researching Buddhism to find out more.
Read about the life of Siddhartha Gautama. There are many books talking about the founder of Buddhism, and a simple online search will reveal many articles about his life as well. Siddhartha Gautama was a prince who left his palace and lavish lifestyle to seek enlightenment. Though he is not the only Buddha in existence, he is the historical founder of Buddhism.
Learn about the Four Noble Truths. One of the most foundational concepts of Buddhism is summarized a teaching called the Four Noble Truths: the truth of suffering, the truth of the cause of suffering, the truth of the end of suffering, and the truth of the path that leads to the end of suffering. In other words, suffering exists, it has a cause and an end, and there is a way to bring about the end of suffering.
Learn about reincarnation and nirvana. Buddhists believe beings live multiple lives. Once a being dies, they are born into a new life, and this cycle of living and dying continues eternally. A being can be reborn in in a variety of forms and conditions of life.
Understand karma. Karma is closely intertwined with reincarnation and nirvana because karma determines where and when a being will be reborn. Karma consists of the good or bad actions of previous lifetimes and this lifetime. Bad or good karma may affect a being right away, thousands of years from now, or in five lifetimes, depending on when the effects are meant to occur.
Negative karma results from bad actions or thoughts, like killing, stealing, or lying.
Positive karma results from good actions or thoughts, such as generosity, kindness, and spreading Buddhist teachings.
Neutral karma results from actions that have no real effect, such as breathing or sleeping.
Part 2 Taking Refuge
Find a temple you feel comfortable joining. Many major cities have a Buddhist temple, but each temple will stem from a different school (such as Theravada or Zen), and each will certainly offer different services, classes, and activities. The best way to learn about temples near you is to visit them and talk to a Venerable or lay devotee.
Ask about what services and activities the temple offers.
Explore the different shrines.
Attend a few services and see if you like the atmosphere.
Become a part of the community. Like most religions, Buddhism has a strong sense of community, and the devotees and monks are welcoming and informative. Begin attending classes and making friends at your temple.
Many Buddhist communities will travel together to different Buddhist temples across the world. This is a fun way to get involved.
If at first you feel shy or nervous, this is perfectly normal.
Buddhism is the most popular religion in many countries like Japan, Thailand, Myanmar, Nepal, Korea, Sri Lanka, China etc.
Inquire about taking refuge in the Triple Gem. The Triple Gem consists of the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. When you take refuge in the Triple Gem, you will likely undergo a ceremony in which you vow to uphold the Five Precepts, which are to not kill, not steal, not commit sexual misconduct, refrain from false speech, and not consume intoxicants.
The specific aspects of the ceremony will vary from temple to temple.
Do not feel obligated to take the Three Refuges, since upholding Buddhist morality is the most important part of this religion.
If you cannot take the Three Refuges because of cultural reasons, or if you cannot find a temple near you, you can still uphold the Five Precepts.
Once you take refuge in Buddhism, you are officially a Buddhist.
1 Keep connected to the Buddhist community. Attending classes at the temple where you took refuge is a great way to stay connected to the Buddhist community. A quick note upon visiting temples, don't sit with the bottoms of your feet towards altars, Buddha statues, or monks. Women may not touch monks in any way, even to shake hands, and men cannot do the same with nuns. A simple bow will do. Most temples offer lessons in yoga, meditation, or various sutra lessons. Spend time with friends and family members who are Buddhist, too.
Study Buddhism regularly. Many translated sutras are available online, your temple might have a library, or you can buy sutras. There are also many different Venerable monks and lay Buddhists who have written explanations of Buddhist sutras. Some of the most popular Buddhist sutras are: The Diamond Sutra, The Heart Sutra, and The Great Perfection of Wisdom Sutra.
Teach others what you have learned about Buddhism once you think you’ve mastered a concept.
There are hundreds of Buddhist concepts and teachings to study, but try not to feel overwhelmed or pressured to “get it” right away.
Attend classes taught by a Venerable or lay devotee at your temple.
3 Uphold the Five Precepts. When you took refuge in the Triple Gem, you vowed to uphold the Five Precepts, but this can be difficult at times. Do your best to not kill any living creature, be honest, not consume intoxicants, do not steal, and do not commit sexual misconduct. If you break the precepts, simply repent, and do your best to keep upholding them.
Practice the Middle Way. This is an important part of Buddhism which requires Buddhists to lead a balanced life that is not too lavish or too stringent. The Middle Way is also known as the “Noble Eightfold Path,” which teaches Buddhists to abide by eight elements. Spend time studying all eight: