conversion of anger

Orissa is blithering and now Karnataka is boiling. Conversions are no more a peaceful social process by which a person after losing faith in his own socioreligious ethos is lured into another belief system. It is no more about the money or other benefits the converts gain. It is not even about the tools and tricks the converters use. It is now politics! Not just simple vote based politics, but a strong upsurge of intolerance. It is a social discomfort that irks and irritates the lords on the pedestal.

Conversion has its social, psychological, economic and political aspects. Here again one has to be clear about the real converts and the opportunistic converts. The real ones will believe that there is no God but the one they found out now. The opportunistic will try to adjust his previous pantheon and place his new god alongside. What does the opportunistic convert gain? Some fringe benefits like food and dress in extremely poor cases, and some indirect benefits like schooling and job training for their family are always there, but the real benefit which they all get in the process is the induction and initial warm acceptance in a new socio-religious group. Conversions are a topic of controversy always, but never for the converted or the converting. Who is bothered and why?

It is commonly alleged that conversions are made by luring with gifts or threatening the life.  Being the oldest in India, Hinduism apparently does not convert others, and it does not contain any prescribed rules for making one a hindu. So, the problem apparently occurs only when others try to convert hindus. Though Hinduism as a word and a concept with current rules and regulations, is not really as ancient as its roots- the original sanadhana dharma, or the tantric or the pagan worship styles of the olden days, it is essentially eclectic and embracing, till ofcourse it became political. It is only natural that the newer religions of the world try to enlist followers. Christianity and Islam had to lure or force people to follow what their religion professed as right since when they started, all the people of the time were practicing some other religion.

Let us assume that there are economic gains for the people who convert. Now, imagine somebody doing a job without passion or even basic interest, and just waiting every month for the salary day. If the converts are going to behave like this, who gains? The opportunistic convert gets the promised benefits- not the seat reserved in heaven, but socio-economic gifts. This would mean that those who are engaged in the business of converting are losing. Their purpose of bringing the black, brown and all the colored sheep back into the Lord’s fold, would have obviously failed if this is the real state of conversion. They are not incensed, their funding patrons are not upset, and the game goes on. In most cases the game is like this- in the name of conversion a person is able to get some food, some education; in the name of the same game one person is able to siphon the project funds for personal use. The passionate converter begins to convert his modest living into a modern and luxurious life. This is the most common situation in which everyone wins and the nice game also ensures a sense of pride for the donor who feels he has done his bit to better the natives! As everyone appears to get something, it is a simple business activity that should not have caused anger and social unrest.

The problem begins when there is a real conversion. In a real conversion, irrespective of the honesty and integrity of the converting person, the convert believes in the new order. He is no more a part of his previous belief system. He has had enough of the pain, disappointment and hurt in the old order. He believes his life is going to become better. He may not believe that his sons would get professional education, nor that his family would start living with better amenities.  He may not even really believe that his god is waiting with open arms in the heaven. What he believes is the fact that he is no more a marginalized member of the society. He believes that he has his own group wherein all are treated with equal respect. He believes that the socio-religious concepts of his original religion are not valid anymore. In simple words, he has thrown out the oppressing society from his mind.  This is the final irk. Conversion for gain would not create a furore as beggars are never the cause of concern for the establishment, but when it becomes conversion for a social change it is a slap on their superiority. They cannot tolerate, even in the name of the allegedly most tolerant religion. It is no more a problem of economics. It is a socio-psychological problem.

Thinking on the same lines,what is the psychological gambit of those who migrate? They do not want to live anymore in the land that was theirs. They want to move to not just greener pastures but to a land where they have apparently equal opportunities,apparent freedom and apparent comfort. This moving out is not looked at with distaste! Have you ever heard of a mob coming to bully a green card holder?

just a thought! Though there are a few rich guys who convert, the majority of those who get converted are poor. Among the poor, just think how many are dalits and how many are brahmins? Conversion is not just the yearning for material comforts; it is the oppressed society’s avenue for self- respect. It is their way of creating a social order in which they need not accept that they are lower than others.  Unless this problem is addressed, communal tension regarding conversion will continue.

The anger is not that christians are converting hindus; the real anger is that the marginalized hindus are walking away from hindusim.  A change in the established hierarchical society is the easiest spark for anger to break into rage.

Those who are beaten are poor, those who beat are poor. The rich have a way of adjusting and living in peaceful co-existence with convenient bouts of democratic and secular moods. The rich are not affected by this problem, except perhaps when there is a strike and they cannot drive out.The poor believe that they are superior because they are Hindus, or they are blessed because they are Christians. The angry member of the hindu mob knows that the stone he pelts is at a dalit’s head and not at the new cross on his chest. His anger is the social evil that chased the dalit away from his religious territory. Unless we address this problem we are going to witness more and more of unrest. A restless society does not think, and therefore does not grow.

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