Before expressing my personal opinion, I want to share a news item. I don’t know how many national dailies featured this news. But it is this news that inspired me to write this post.
Mon, Sep 8 2008 :- Christian organizations have demanded action against activists of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal who misbehaved with two nuns at the Durg station on Friday. The two nuns, carrying three babies with them, were on their way to Bhopal on the Chhattisgarh Express when the activists forced them to get off the train at the station. The nuns, of the Mother Teresa Missionaries of Charity, were handed over to the railway police when they refused to answer questions on the babies. Later, the nuns told the railway police that they are carrying the babies after taking consent from their parents. The parents were very poor and could not take care of the infants properly, the nuns told the police. The babies were being taken to an ashram for children in Bhopal. Christian organisations have conveyed their dissent to Governor E.S.L. Narasimhan and have demanded action against the VHP, Bajrang Dal activists.
Please read the more detailed news here. Somehow there is no update available in local newspapers since that day.
Its obvious that this act was an after effect of riots and violence in Orissa. Otherwise my city is a very peaceful place with quite good religious harmony. We even have a place where there is a temple, a mosque and a church side by side. I understand that religious conversion is a very complex and sensitive social issue and everything is not black & white. There are shades of grey like those mentioned in this article. But the issue has managed to rear its ugly head from time to time in India as another political tool and yet another reason for violence in the name of religion. I also know that the Constitution of India gives the freedom of religion and the right to propagate faith to its people. And I do agree that the right to propagate one’s religion does not give a right to convert any other person to that religion with any fraud, intimidation and enticement. My post doesn’t discuss the righteousness of religious conversion. My question is that whatever be the reason, what gives these Hindu fundamentalists the right to manhandle two women just because they are nuns? Maybe I’m little biased in thinking (or maybe I’m not that skeptical) that Missionaries of Charities can’t be involved in anything illegal regarding taking orphans or illegitimate infants or poor children to their ashrams for better upbringing and a better life. And also I believe that there is no scam going on. Even if there is, I see no justification of the VHP and Bajrang Dal activists’ treatment of two women and the infants. I don’t see what is the big deal if the infants are “converted” and given food to eat and clothes to wear? Whatever principles and beliefs these Hindu fundamentalists stand for, doesn’t it include respect for women? Isn’t Shakti like one of core beliefs of Hinduism? Or do you think that women of other religion are not worth of our respect, Mr. Praveen Togadia and Mr. Prakash Sharma ? The Bajrang Dal’s slogan is “service, safety, and culture.” So isn’t treating another human with respect and dignity that he or she deserves; a part of our culture? Why is there differential treatment on the basis of religion? Oh sorry! I forgot that these guys harass Hindu women too.. for example on Valentine’s Day. I don’t care who is right or wrong but the behavior of these religious zealots is totally shameful and unjustified. I think the leaders of such groups should apologize to the wronged “women” on behalf of their uncontrolled herd of hypocrites.
Extra reading : An excellent write up on the topic of “Right to freedom of Religion vs Religious Conversion”