- kewal sethi
the religious freedom
the religious freedom
obama in his address at siri fort emphasized the point that india will progress only if there is religious tolerance. he said that every one should be free to follow has own religion. this remark has been interpreted as a rebuke to bjp government under which this issue of religious freedom has attracted discussions in the wake of ghar wapsi episode in agra.
it is not clear what provoked obama in making such remarks. they were not born out of any questions that were asked. yet he devoted five minutes out of 33 minutes to the subject of religious tolerance. be that as it may, what do they imply? which constituency he had in mind when making these remarks? is it the 'liberal' opinion in india that he had in mind or the constituency back home.
but the question that should be asked from those who are interpreting it as condemnation of ghar wapsi programme, is what is freedom to exercise religion. if a person wants to practice his religion, has any restriction been imposed by the new government? the trouble arises from the fact that certain religions include the right to convert people through any means as part of their religion. they also deny other religions to do the same. they also insist that hinduism cannot convert. any attempt by hindus to convert their co-religionists is infringement of their religious rights. this exclusivity to convert is the root cause of trouble. this has to be resisted. if the right to convert is granted, the right of reconversion should also be treated as sacrosanct. if religious freedom is to be granted, it should be universal, not partisan.
if we go by the spirit of the words, the ghar wapsi programme is as good as anything else. the only stipulation is that there should be no force, no allurements, no fraud if there is conversion or reconversion. it is totally wrong to say that hinduism does not permit conversion. the so called 'liberal' section would itself argue that the indigenous people of india (following the discarded version that aryans were invaders) were converted to hinduism. but it was not done with song or drama. it just happened. the practice went out of practicality due to certain reasons which need not be gone into now. but there is no reason why the practice cannot be revived. why should there be objection to that?
so let us follow the advice of obama and allow full freedom to all religions and the exercise of all rights including reconversion.