Wednesday, November 19, 2014

What was the main cause of religious conversions in Bharat during past centuries?

1. Meaning and synonyms of Religious Conversions

A. Meaning : Renouncing one’s own religion and ritualistically embracing another religion is termed as Dharmantar(Conversion).
Merely studying another religion, inter-religious marriage or eating meat and fish does not amount to religious conversion. Practically, however, motivating to embrace a religion by offering various enticements or instilling fear is termed as religious conversion.
B. Synonyms : Dharmaparivartan (Changing religion), matantar (Change of opinion)

2. Common types of religious conversions

Religious conversions can generally be classified as follows -:
A. Knowingly embracing another religion
B. Doing so with greed for wealth and other materialistic gains
C. Getting converted forcibly or through torture against wish

3. History of conversions in Bharat

3.1 Pre-Islamic period

In the very first century after Christianity was founded (in the year 52 AD), Saint Thomas, a Christian missionary landed in Kerala in Bharat and began preaching Christianity.

3.2 The period of Islamic rule

Highest conversions of Hindus have taken place in this period. Along with the kingdoms of Kashmir, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi in Bharat, Hindus in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Cambodia and Burma, which were then a part of Bharat, bore the brunt of conversions the most. Names of a few responsible for these conversions and their misdeeds have been cited ahead.
A. Muhammad Qasim : Historian Mr. UT Thakur has described the acts of the first Islamic invader in the year 712 as a black period in the history of Sindh. During this period, anti-Hindu acts such as forcible conversions, demolition of temples, slaughter of cows and killing of Hindus to wipe the race, reached a pinnacle. All historians (whether the earlier ones or modern) agree that conversions of Hindus in the Sindh region were done forcibly.
B. Aurangzeb : After becoming the monarch of Delhi, he chalked out a political strategy for forcible conversions of Hindus into Muslims. He converted Netaji Palkar, Janojiraje Palkar and other sardars (Chiefs) of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. Till the very end, he also tried to convert Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj to Islam. However, due to the latter’s intense pride in Hindu Dharma, Aurangzeb was unsuccessful. Swatantryaveer Savarkar has written that, Aurangzeb tried all the possible means to convert Hindus. The ‘Royal Asiatic Society’ has published a list of day-to-day conversions of Hindus during the Aurangzeb regime recorded in ‘Maasir-i-Alamgiri’, his memoirs.
C. Tipu Sultan : ‘When this king from the South assumed power, he vowed that he would convert all kafirs (Infidels, meaning Hindus) to Islam. He wrote to Muslims in all villages that they should preach Islam to all Hindu women and men. If they refused to accept Islam willingly, then to convert them forcibly or kill the Hindu men and give the Hindu women to Muslims. Later, Tipu converted one lakh Hindus to Islam in the Malabar region. When he raided Karnataka, within a day he converted 50,000 Hindus to Islam. He formed a special group of fanatic Muslims to convert Hindus. Due to his determined spread of Islam, he was conferred the titles of ‘Sultan’, ‘Ghazi’, ‘Karmavir of Islam’ etc. by Muslims (in Bharat and abroad) and the ‘Khalifa of Turkey’. – Mr. Jayesh Mestri, Malad, Mumbai, Maharashtra
D. Sufi Saints : ‘Certain Muslim Saints behaving like Hindu sadhus (Monks) brought about large scale conversions among Hindus. Details of these conversions are found in ‘History of Sufism in India’ available in two volumes.’ – Gurudev Dr. Kateswamiji
E. Nizam of Hyderabad : ‘During his tyrannical rule, Hindu soldiers employed in his army had to undergo circumcision. Countless Hindus who refused to convert were killed. The slogan of ‘kill or throttle to death, but convert to Islam’ was experienced bitterly by the Hindus here.’ – Booklet ‘Hinduno vacha ani thanda basa (O Hindus, read and sit silent)’ (9.8.2004)

3.3 Portuguese rule

A. Christian missionaries followed Vasco-da-Gama to Bharat and brought about conversions through terror, force and conspiracy : ‘Portuguese set foot in Bharat in the year 1498 under the leadership of Vasco-da-Gama. With this began the political journey of imperialistic views of the Christians. The Christian missionaries immediately followed Vasco-da-Gama. Thereafter, the main objective of the Portuguese was to spread Christianity rather than expansion of their empire through trade. It is at this juncture that conversions began. Christian missionaries would throw bread into the wells behind the houses of Hindus at night, and when Hindus drank that water the next morning, these missionaries would proclaim ‘You have now become Christians’. The frightened Hindus would then realise that they had been deceived, and would adopt conducts of Christianity. In 1542, the Portuguese King John II sent a missionary, Saint Xavier, to Goa to convert Hindus. After his arrival in Goa to convert Hindus to Christianity, he resorted to brutal atrocities.
B. Saint Xavier’s modus operandi for conversions : When describing his method of conversion, Saint Xavier writes, ‘Within a month I managed to convert over 10,000 men, women and children in the kingdom of Travancore and changed their names to Portuguese names. After baptising these new Christians, I would order them to desecrate their Deities and altars at home. In this way, travelling from one village to another I converted people to Christianity.’ – Mr. Virag Shrikrushna Pachapor
This anti-Hindu Xavier has assumed the position of a Saint. It is very unfortunate that in Goa some Hindus who have no pride in their Dharma stand in queues to pay homage to the corpse, which performed countless atrocities on their ancestors. In fact, some think it is an honour to be educated from schools and colleges named after him.
C. A classic example of the atrocities committed by the Portuguese on Hindus in a bid to convert them : ‘In 1560, under Pope’s orders, the Portuguese army arrived in Goa to spread Christianity. This army committed brutal atrocities on Hindus and killed thousands of Hindus who refused to convert to Christianity. A classic example of their atrocities was making Hindus stand in a queue and breaking their teeth with a hammer.’ – Weekly ‘Sanskruti Jagruti’ (4th to 11th July 2004)
D. Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj thwarted the conspiracy to proselytize the Bardez Taluka in Goa : After taking the Bardez Taluka from Adil Shah, the Portuguese indulged in forceful conversions of the Hindus. The 3,000 Hindus who refused to convert were threatened by the Portuguese Viceroy in Goa that if they did not get converted within two months, they would be compelled to leave the place. When Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj learnt about this, two days before the completion of the two month period, on 20th November 1667, he attacked Bardez and replied to this order with his sword. Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj captured many Portuguese and asked four Catholic priests (who were conducting the conversions) to embrace Hindu Dharma. When they refused, he beheaded them and sent their heads to the Viceroy.
E. Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj’s blow to the Portuguese Catholic priests who were converting Hindus to Christianity by deception : ‘The battle waged by Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj against the Portuguese in Goa was political as well as religious. Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj paraded the Portuguese Catholic priests (stripping them of their cassocks with their hands tied behind their backs) who had tried to convert Hindus or threatened to burn them alive if they did not convert to Christianity.’ – Prof. SS Puranik (Ref. : ‘Marathyanche Swatantryasamar [Earlier Part]’)

3.4 British rule

A. Charles Grant, the father of the British plan to proselytize Hindus : ‘The rule of the East India Company was established in the State of Bengal in 1757. Thereafter, at the end of the 18th century, Charles Grant made a report on the propagation of Christianity in Bharat and sent it to William Wilberforce and other members in the British Parliament and the Bishop of Canterbury. After eight days of continuous deliberation in the Parliament on the proposition of Charles Grant, Christian missionaries were granted permission to propagate their religion.’ – Mr. Virag Shrikrushna Pachapor
B. ‘During the rule of East India Company before 1857, Hindus were forcibly converted to Christianity by the missionaries.’ – Mr. Shankar D Gokhale, President, Swatantryaveer Savarkar Sahitya Abhyas Mandal, Mumbai
C. Alliance between the Christian missionaries and the British empire for conversions after the 1857 mutiny : ‘After the war for Independence in 1857, Lord Palmerston told the Archbishop of Canterbury, ‘The sooner Christianity is propagated to maximum number of people in Bharat, the more beneficial it will be for our empire.’ – Mr. Virag Shrikrushna Pachapor
D. ‘During their regime, the British, who were shrewd, preached religion through the medium of administration, education and service and tried to convert people to Christianity.’ – H.H. Swami Govindadevgiri Maharaj (Earlier, P Kishorji Vyas)
E. Objective of the British educationist Lord Macaulay in anglicising schools in Bharat : ‘After the British set foot in Bharat, when contemplating on which language to use to educate people in Bharat, British educationist Macaulay wrote to his father (who was a staunch Christian missionary), ‘Hindus educated in the English medium never remain attached to their Dharma. Later on such non-Hindus only forcefully propagate how the Hindu Dharma is wrong and Christianity is great, and some of them even embrace Christianity.’
F. The pact between Chhatrapati Sambhaji and the British to stop conversions : ‘In 1684, there was a pact between the Marathas and the British in which Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj stated that British did not have permission to buy people from his region either to enslave or convert them to Christianity.’ – Dr. (Mrs.) Kamal Gokhale (Holy text : ‘Shivaputra Sambhaji’)

3.5 Independence and post-Independence Era

A. ‘The ‘agenda for a working day’ published by the ‘Muslim League’ included orders for forcible conversions of Hindus : On 16.8.1946, the Muslim league published a pamphlet that detailed the day-to-day activities for Muslims. Among many orders to the Muslims in this pamphlet, one was ‘rape Hindu women and girls, kidnap them and convert them to Islam.’
B. The political support received by the Christian missionaries for conversions during the Nehru regime
1. After Independence, Nehru gave Christian missionaries, the freedom to propagate Christianity : ‘After Independence, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru granted Christian missionaries the freedom to preach their religion as per Article 25A of the Bharatiya Constitution. Consequently, the pre-Independence percentage of Christians in Bharat, which was a mere 0.7%, is almost 6% today.’ – Mr. Virag Shrikrushna Pachapor
2. United States of America (USA), which imposed the Article to permit spread of Christianity in Bharat in return for wheat it supplied, and Nehru who agreed to it : ‘After Independence, Bharat experienced a severe scarcity of food-grains. Since the financial condition of the country was bad, Russia agreed to supply wheat to us under barter. However, USA (A Christian country) put certain conditions on Bharat before agreeing to supply wheat. One condition was to permit Christian missionaries to spread Christianity in Bharat. Since there was tremendous opposition to this condition, Nehru appointed a committee under the Chairmanship of Justice Bhawani Shankar Niyogi. Despite Niyogi’s advice that this was not just a question of propagation of religion; the conversions that will follow should also be taken into account. Yet, Nehru accepted their conditions and made changes in Article 480 of the law so as to be able to procure wheat. Ever since the process of spread of Christianity, conversions have been going on freely.’ – Mr. Vasant Gadre
3. Nehru completely ignored the report of the Government appointed committee, which stated with evidence that the Christian church and missionaries had political motives in the propagation of religion : ‘In 1955, under the Chairmanship of Justice Bhawani Shankar Niyogi, the Madhya Pradesh Government had constituted a committee to probe into the activities of Christian missionaries. In its report the committee had clearly put forth, with many examples and evidence, how the Christian church and missionaries had political motives in the propagation of their religion. The committee had also suggested putting a stop to the foreign aid they were receiving. The Nehru Government, however, chose to completely ignore this report.’
4. During Indira Gandhi’s regime, Christian missionaries from USA increased the pace of their mission of conversions : In the post-Independence period, with the 42nd amendment to the Constitution Indira Gandhi introduced the word ‘secular’. Ever since secularism was promoted at the Government level, many American organisations stepped up the pace of their process of propagating Christianity in Bharat and the conversions.
5. Since Sonia Gandhi occupies the highest position in the present day political setup, the process of conversions has gained momentum : ‘Since Sonia Gandhi (a Christian) is occupying the highest position in the political setup in Bharat, an extensive campaign has been launched by the Christians for converting Hindus. To achieve this, over 4,000 Christian missionaries in various States are active.’ – Mr. Francois Gautier, French Journalist
(Reference – ‘Religious conversions and Purifying the converted’ )