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Monday, September 01, 2008

Two articles on Conversion

Read two articles on conversion yesterday and today. The first one is from the tamil magazine Kalki where there is an interview with a person who goes about 're-converting' people to Hinduism, particularly Dalit workers in different parts of Tamilnadu. He claims to have already re-converted about 2000 people in different parts. (See  The Kalki Online). His major reason being that  those who get converted to Christianity find that this religion too is not democratic and the Dalit remains a Dalit first whether he is Hindu or Christian, hence they have been 're-converted' to Hinduism. He does confess that many of those re-convered perhaps may not understand the significance of their move. 
The second is an interview with the noted Dalit voice Prof. Kancha Ilaiah who prescribes converstion to Christianity, Islam or Buddhist as the only way in which the dalits in India can practice democratic spirituality (see section of interview below). He says that the social restructuring need to happen, however, the change in identity through religious conversion is a major first step. He is talking of about 800 million dalits getting coverted in this interview. 

I keep wondering why has conversion become such a major issue of debate in our country? How many countries in the world face such levels of conversions or re-conversions from one faith to another? Something must be wrong with the democratic system of governance that it needs a equally powerful 'democratic religion' (whatever that means, frankly, the existing  empirical evidence on all three religions do not validate the statements of Prof. Iliah) to make the society democratic? why is 'conversion' and 're-conversion' so easy for our people? if someone has recently converted for whatever reasons, how could the person just like that re-convert? I could not understand the re-conversion at all? what is the significance of such incidents anyway?

So, conversion to Christianity, Islam or Buddhism is a must for our people. Let these three religions and their followers work among our people in a democratic manner. There are some possibilities of resuscitating egalitarian trends in Dalit-Bahujan religious traditions, but this project has its limits. In today’s globalised world why should our people stop at our local Pocchamma or Elamma or other such village goddesses? In their search for empowerment and liberation they must join one of the three global spiritual cultures. 800 million Dalit-Bahujans are ready to hear the word of God as the democratic spiritual traditions understand it. They have been kept ignorant of spiritual democracy for over three thousand years.
Q: But is mere conversion enough?
A: It depends on what one means by conversion. Conversion of self-identities and cultures through religious conversion is a major step, but this is must be accompanied by conversion of oppressive social structures through peoples’ struggles. Preaching is just part of the process. It also involves living with, empathising with and struggling along with the Dalit-Bahujans for liberation and emancipation from Brahminism."

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