One of the oft-repeated theories in the wake of the general election this past May was that Prime Minister Narendra Modi assumed power by presenting a single-minded commitment to developing India’s economy. In truth, campaigns, in many parts of the country, were intensely divisive affairs. Many of those who canvassed for votes, and who have since been accorded important positions in the ruling party, often trod treacherously beyond communal boundaries. This dissonance, which was inherent in the attitude of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) towards the election, has now grown further, and it increasingly appears that the government is incapable of deviating from what is quite plausibly its real agenda.
As much as Mr. Modi would like us to believe that it is his plank of a developmental model that continues to hold the primary sway in his policies, his stark reticence in dealing with the acrimonious practices of the BJP’s allied groups seems to paint a different picture. The state, under the BJP, is slowly progressing towards more pervasive involvement in matters of ethical choice such as religion. And, the Sangh Parivar has only been emboldened by the attitude of the new regime. Week after week, its agenda of Hindutva has seen the imposition of new and stridently discordant measures. The latest salvo involves the organisation of programmes of “Ghar Vapsi,” for the conversion (or “reconversion” as the Hindu Right would have it) of Muslims and Christians to Hinduism.
The right wing and conversion
The Dharam Jagaran Samiti (DJS) — an offshoot of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Bajrang Dal — only recently announced that it aims to meet a target of converting one lakh Muslims and Christians into Hinduism every year. Earlier this month in Agra, the DJS reportedly converted some 200-odd Muslims to Hinduism. The event came to light after the supposed converts, many of who are among the most impoverished sections of the society, alleged that they had been misled into believing that they would be offered Below Poverty Line cards by consenting to the conversion. In spite of these contentions, the Sangh Parivar remains unmoved in its agenda. According to a report on the website Scroll.in, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) has already made plans to mark the 50th anniversary of the group’s founding on February 6 with a Ghar Vapsi in Faizabad next year. Making matters worse, the VHP has claimed, as The Hindu reported, that those Muslims or Christians who reconvert to Hinduism in such programmes would be allowed to choose a caste for themselves once the VHP has investigated the tradition, faith, and culture of the convert’s ancestors.